From Water Cooler to Wine Cooler: Taking an Office Friendship from Daytime to Quittin’ Time

By Kate Kupferer

Women friends at work make the day seem brighter and the time move faster. But why not enjoy time with your office buddy after-hours too?

No matter what word you’d use to describe your work life—rewarding or so-so, stimulating or a grind—any environment is better when you share it with a friend. We typically spend at least one-third of each weekday at our jobs, so it’s natural to develop camaraderie with the people there. Many women find that having gal pals at work makes their jobs more satisfying and fun. And while some would argue that the office is where you accomplish what you’re paid to do, there is substantial proof that women with a good friend in the office are more engaged and successful in their jobs. In fact, there are many well-known companies that actively encourage workplace bonding; among them are Google, Zappos and Dropbox. These companies and others understand that a strong social network on the job is not just enjoyable, but can also contribute to a shared sense of purpose and a spirit of community. New research confirms that employees who have friends at work stay longer and are more productive. So how do you take a friendship with an office buddy to the next level?

Try Some Teamwork
She’s in sales; you’re in marketing—so of course you’re used to collaborating together on company goals. Why not take those skills and that bond one step further? Take baby steps at first. Perhaps you admire her sense of style. Work up to a shopping date by complimenting her on her look and asking her which labels, stores or websites she prefers. She may surprise you by initiating a meeting at the mall.
Do you enjoy her sense of humor? Tell her how much fun you had at a comedy club over the weekend—maybe she’ll ask to join you next time. But making new women friends can be tough if one of you is shy. You may need to send your office friend a link to the club’s event schedule and ask if there’s a performer she’d like to see or a date that works for her. She may be thrilled to receive an invitation to something other than a jewelry or kitchenware party, as well as by the notion that you’ve thought of something you both may truly enjoy.

Offer Positive Feedback

Don’t you just love it when someone notices what you do well? Even better is when they pipe up in public. Think about your work buddy’s recent accomplishments on the job. Has she landed recent sales or clients for your firm? Maybe she volunteered for the more difficult portion of a project? Perhaps you’ve noticed she is kind to her co-workers or just simply shows up every day with enthusiasm? Let her know and let the boss know as well. Better yet, offer up your positive feedback at the next staff meeting. And the next time you meet at the water cooler, you may wind up making plans for that celebratory wine cooler after work.

Making Friends In a Virtual Office

Many of us with virtual offices may struggle with how to make new friends. While it may be most convenient to work from your home office, it can also get a bit lonely. If you have virtual co-workers or if you work digitally with consultants who are in the same town, consider scheduling lunch meetings or happy hours together once a month. Another way to create office relationships is by joining a co-working group, which shares office space by appointment. And of course, make it a point to join the relevant professional organizations in your area. 

It’s perfectly natural to develop a friendship with folks you don’t physically work with. After all, the elements of a successful friendship—mutual support, similar values, common interests, trust, respect, the ability to collaborate—are equally important in a professional relationship.

Give Her a Promotion

There can be downsides to having office friends become off-site friends. If you find your trust tested by a work pal who gossips about co-workers, reveals your confidential information to other employees, or who uses your efforts to her advantage; you should definitely re-think this particular relationship. But a woman friend who treats you and others with respect, who supports your goals within and outside of your job, and whose company you enjoy no matter the time of day—she is a friend indeed. 

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