Work friendships: Here’s how to get them and what you’ll gain

Those casual, everyday conversations we once enjoyed as we started our workday or ran into each other in the breakroom largely ended during the pandemic. For some, particularly those who work remotely or on a hybrid schedule, these conversations and workplace friendships never resumed.

A recent survey of 3,000 U.S. employees revealed 69% felt unsatisfied with their workplace interactions; 43% didn’t feel a sense of connection to their coworkers; and 38% didn’t trust their coworkers.

If the above fits you, consider what you might gain by investing effort in developing workplace friendships. If you work as much as 40 hours weekly, you may spend more time with coworkers than with family or nonwork friends. By establishing workplace friendships, you gain allies who can support you when you face difficulties; let you know about opportunities in other areas of your company; and challenge you when you lock into tunnel-thinking. Those who feel connected with colleagues report less loneliness, anxiety, burnout and stress, a 91% increase in personal growth and a 101% increase in professional growth.

If you’d like more workplace friendships, do the following:

— Be someone others want as a friend by owning your own role and maintaining a high level of performance and accountability.

— Strike up conversations with those you don’t know well when you run into them on your way into the office or at the coffee pot. Acknowledge shared interests. As you learn more about your coworkers, compliment them on what they do well and congratulate them on their achievements.

— Leverage opportunities to connect with coworkers when you work together on projects.


— Invest in your colleagues by providing support when they grapple with a difficult project.

— Reach out to those who give you tough feedback and push you to improve, and let them know you appreciate it.

Because workplace friendships occasionally carry risks, keep your friendships healthy by observing the following guardrails:

— Set boundaries. For example, limit conversations to less than three minutes unless you’re at lunch, so you and your friend can focus on and excel at your jobs. Similarly, don’t fall into the well of incessant instant messages.

— Enjoy those with whom you click without cliquing. Invite others outside of your friend group into conversations or when you head out to lunch.

— Avoid oversharing, particularly of information you don’t want repeated.

— Maintain discretion over anything shared with you.

— Speak positively about others and avoid gossip. If you have an issue with someone other than your friend, raise your concern with that person, rather than your friend.

— Show up as the real you, so you’ll know your friend is choosing you, rather than your façade, as their friend.

— If you and your friend have different levels of status, carefully navigate the boss-friend gap. It’s critical that the higher-status individual avoid the reality or perception of favoritism and biased decision-making. For example, a manager who invites their friend to lunch needs to extend the same invitation to others.

Have your workplace friendships gone by the wayside? Consider reviving them.

Lynne Curry | Alaska Workplace

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Navigating Conflict,” “Managing for Accountability,” “Beating the Workplace Bully" and “Solutions,” and Submit questions at or follow her on, or @lynnecurry10 on X/Twitter.