Work friends being real friends was a conversation I had with my boyfriend recently. I always had a positive experience with making friends at work and at times, these often became really close friends.
But my boyfriend had other opinions, and once explained, I could see the reasoning behind those thoughts. Thus, it has led to this blog post and getting those thoughts out on paper (the digital kind).
Can work friends really be good friends? What happens when there’s only one spot for promotion? What happens when you make a huge mistake or vice versa? Will they have your back?
Like I said above, my experience with work friends has been mostly positive. I’ll say there has been a definite shift since the pandemic brought forward flexible working and less time in the office.
Back when I was in an office environment Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, it was much easier to form close relationships with those around you as you spent more time with them than your immediate family and in turn, they became your ‘work family’.
Those that I worked with pre-pandemic are people I would consider myself very close with and a few of them even, best friends. But since the pandemic? I’ve definitely noticed a shift in my work relationships and feel myself much more introverted in work spaces due to not having the face-to-face time anymore.
Gone are the days of ‘Shall we go for a drink after work,’ or, ‘want to grab lunch together?’ Or, ‘let’s go make a cuppa’. Instead, it’s blocks of Zoom meetings and getting straight to business after two minutes of small-talk.
I do miss the days of being in the office full-time and chatting about last night’s episode of Love Island or what’s in the news headlines that day. I didn’t expect myself to say that, but it’s definitely been a negative effect of work life after the pandemic.
My boyfriend’s take on it
When chatting to my boyfriend about work friends, he had a rather different take on it. Before we get into his side, I need to caveat that he comes from a financial/sales background, where I’ve always worked in public relations/influencer marketing. So we can assume office dynamics may be a little different.
According to himself, it’s better to be cautious around those you work with. After all, you’re all there to do a job and be paid for it. There will be opportunities for promotions, development, job offers, projects etc. And what happens when you’re pitted against your work best friend, or they’re given the promotion that you really wanted?
Also, it’s very likely (especially in today’s climate) that they won’t be your colleague forever. People leave companies and it’s likely that your office friends will also leave to go on to a new work venture and find themselves some new work friends.
You’ll promise to stay in touch and still meet up for after work drinks, but really they’re just interested in hearing the old office gossip than staying in touch for personal reasons.
I can see where he’s coming from for some of the above points, but maybe if he had worked in a chatty PR office and discussed Love Island every morning, he’d feel a little differently?
Is there anything wrong with making friends at work?
I can see the pros and cons of making close friends at work. Personally, I’m very close to those I work with and consider them great friends outside of work too.
However, I can see the issue with these close relationships. For example, what if one of you was to be made redundant and at the same time, the other promoted. Wouldn’t there be some resentment there? And how would you even go about navigating this new dynamic?
What if your friend makes a major mistake at work and asks you to keep it a secret? Would you risk your job for your friend?
Work friends can become friends for life
The above are some quite far-fetched scenarios, but I can tell you that the one about promotion/redundancy did in fact happen.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a decline in work relationships with the new remote working/flexible working in place as you’re unable to form those close relationships sitting behind a computer at home.
However, I have made friends for life along the way in many of the jobs I’ve had (yes, I’m only 26 but have had many jobs) and these are people I still meet up with today and chat to regularly.
Personally, I think if you can make great friends at work then the work becomes even more enjoyable and a place you look forward to going to. Just be sure to know who’s a real friend and who’s someone that is going to step on you to get ahead.