The rise in remote work brought a lot of convenience for workers, but one of the few downsides is the lack of social connections. While an open office could be a distraction, the ability to talk with coworkers and partake in “water cooler” chat was a perk of going to work.

Those relationships are much harder to form in remote positions, especially if you never meet your coworkers in person. Having a friend at work is good for both your personal morale and for the company itself. Business News Daily cited a 2021 Workplace Friendship & Happiness survey that found the following:

“57% of people say having a best friend in the workplace makes work more enjoyable, 22% feel more productive with friends, and 21% say friendship makes them more creative.”

Just because you’re not working in the same office doesn’t mean you can’t find a work BFF, however. Online communities are common on message boards, in video games, and in fantasy sports. You can form meaningful work friendships, too. It may take a little extra effort, but if you follow these tips, you can make workplace friends with ease!

Why are virtual relationships more difficult?

Harvard Business Review found that many workers view the virtual connection as a barrier to forming real friendships. When you aren’t spending time directly interacting with someone, you may miss out on visual clues that are often vital in interpersonal relationships. The researchers at HBR state that coworkers need to build cadence with one another, essentially a good back-and-forth based on being able to predict behavior. You can build that cadence virtually, it just takes a little more time and effort than it would in person.

See what the company can do

Hopefully, your organization has adapted to the remote atmosphere and can provide a welcoming remote onboarding. A good onboarding not only gives you valuable insight into the company’s culture but can fill you in on any virtual events. Your company or department may do virtual get-togethers, or maybe even after-work virtual happy hours.

Employers Advantage believes a savvy workplace can take even more steps to provide an atmosphere conducive to friendship. Employers can arrange all sorts of remote gatherings without the bosses being present to provide a safe space for employees to bond and discuss without an authority figure nearby. If your workplace uses Microsoft Teams or Slack, employers can create channels for similar interests, like sports talk or running.

Find a buddy

If you’re in luck, your company may provide you with a work buddy. If not, don’t be afraid to ask for one. If you’re new to the company, having an experienced coworker that isn’t your direct supervisor can be a great way to learn the ins and outs of the organization, and they could become your first friend.

Career coach Octavia Goredema suggests looking through your employee handbook or company website to find resource groups, mentorship programs, or volunteer opportunities. She also thinks one of the best options is to ask for other recent hires as a buddy.

“Someone who is just a few months ahead of you has a perspective that will be so helpful,” –Octavia Goredema

Take initiative

Maybe you don’t work for a large company with a lot of resources dedicated to these types of group activities. That’s okay! You can still make friends. You’ll just need to take initiative.

Ask your supervisor if there are people they think would be good connections for you. Go out of your way to strike up conversations. When you’re finishing a meeting or discussion, ask personal questions or try to learn about shared interests. It may be awkward at first, especially without physical interaction, but these same principles apply to in-person conversations as well. Someone needs to be the first one to dig a bit deeper, it may as well be you.

If you need initial ice breakers, Employers Advantage suggests asking a coworker simple questions rather than a supervisor. For example, asking about dress code expectations. These innocent questions allow you to build a dialogue, and the person being asked feels valued. This can lead to other informal chatting down the road.

The Muse suggests if your team doesn’t have planned virtual activities or communication channels to be the one to plan them. These virtual events can be one-on-one or with a larger group and don’t need a specific purpose other than general chitchat and a place to set work aside for a moment. These conversations will not only allow you to get to know your coworkers but can increase team morale.

Finally, Psychology Today believes being open to sharing more of yourself and offering praise will go a long way. If you’re willing to share, others will feel more comfortable sharing, and sharing and offering praise will make them feel more human. The smallest bits of effort can make a fellow employee feel more appreciated.

Wrap up

Just because you don’t work in the same building doesn’t mean you can’t find a work bestie to chat with, support, and help each other get through the day. Many companies offer resources to help you form relationships, and you may even find a dedicated work buddy. But you always have the power to take initiative and create a space for friendships to blossom. Even the smallest bits of effort will be noticed.

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