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5 Ways to Make Work Friends When Working Remotely

It's possible to find community even when working from home.

Key points

  • Feeling connected at work is linked to our satisfaction and productivity at work.
  • To make work friends, schedule an informal meeting just to chat.
  • Don't just talk about work; share more of yourself.
Marcus Aurelius/Pexels
Source: Marcus Aurelius/Pexels

Working from home has its advantages, but a sense of community is not one of them. Still, feeling connected at work is necessary for our fulfillment in our jobs and lives. Research finds, for example, that people with friends at work are more satisfied with and perform better at their jobs. Lonely employees, in contrast, are less productive and more likely to leave their jobs.

So what does it take to make friends at work? Here are some tips:

1. Schedule an informal meeting just to chat.

You can’t build a friendship if you only ever talk about work. One study found that while people feel closer the more time they spend together, this wasn’t true at work. In fact, the more time people spent together at work, the less close they felt. This is likely because when we only focus on work, we don’t reveal anything about ourselves. If you want to make friends at work, stop talking about work.

2. Make informal meetings consistent.

Friendship is not built from one interaction; it grows gradually. According to the mere exposure effect, we unconsciously like those we are more exposed to. Scheduling an informal chat is great, but this chat needs to be repeated for a friendship to develop. The best way to do this is to put a standing meeting on your calendar,  perhaps once a week or once a month, depending on preference.

3. Share more of yourself.

Now that you have stopped talking about work, start sharing stories. According to a meta-analysis (which combines data from multiple studies), people like people who disclose details about themselves. Another study found that when people answered a series of intimate questions, they felt closer afterward.

Use interesting questions to get to know your co-workers. Some good options are: What do you do for fun? What were you like in high school? What is something you unlearned recently? What’s on your bucket list? When’s the last time you were fascinated?

4. Express praise.

We often think likable people are funny or smart or charismatic, but the secret to being likable is actually to like people. According to the theory of inferred attraction, people like people who they think like them. Co-workers will be more likely to want to be your friend if you show them you like them by doing things like greeting them warmly, speaking highly of them, and celebrating their success.

5. Repot friendships.

“Repotting,” according to Ryan Hubbard, founder of the Kitestring Project, means varying the settings in which you interact. The more friends we repot, according to one study, the deeper the friendships. That means if you only ever interact at work, it’ll be hard to strengthen your bond. Instead, go to the museum or happy hour or have your co-worker over for dinner. You can even ask remote colleagues who live in your area to co-work with you. Repotting will elevate the friendship from work bae to full-fledged bud.

Note: This post is cross-posted on my blog.

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