How to Turn Work Friends into Real Friends

How to Turn Work Friends into Real Friends


What’s a work friend?

We used to live in a world with only two categories of people: friends and enemies. But times have changed. We’ve evolved. And so too has our ability to fill our lives with different categories of people.

We now have friends, enemies, acquaintances, colleagues, peers, subordinates, that person you met that one time whose name you can’t quite remember, and many more. But right now, we’re talking about work friends—the strangest category of friendship you can have in your life.

Because no other friendship comes with a disclaimer in front of it. And no other disclaimer can do more to get in the way of those who simply want to fill their lives with friends.

Becoming work friends

Like many friendships, work friends are often the result of chance and circumstance. You may start a job with a deskmate who smells like stinky cheese. Tough. Or you may find yourself surrounded by co-workers whose company makes you actually enjoy the good ol’ 9-5.

Either way, work friends sometimes just…happen. Hiring managers don’t always make for great matchmakers, but hey, sometimes they nail it. So, if you find yourself with a friend at work, count yourself lucky.

And if you’re ready to take that work friendship to the next level, start with some food.

Friendships and meal time

The University of British Columbia has written about four reasons you should eat meals with friends. But in addition to fostering healthier eating habits, better social support and connection, better professional performance, and lower risk of substance abuse, the real reason to share meal time with a friend is because it’s personal.

All friendships have a tendency to coalesce around common ground. For work friends, that common ground is, well…work. So, if you want to break out of the office bubble and try to see if this friendship is for real, go to lunch.

And while you’re there, try to talk about something that isn’t work-related. That won’t be easy. But you can do it. We believe in you.

The truth is, once you’re having regular meals with someone, that person is a friend. You may still categorize them in your mind as a work friend, but we don’t choose to spend leisure time with people we don’t like.

The next question you have to ask yourself is this: how much time (and what kind of time), do I spend with this person next?

Breaking down the anti-friendship barrier

Part of you is going to want to keep your work friends as just that—your work friends. And the thing that’s keeping that title around your friendship are the four walls that surround you and your work friends for eight hours a day.

To turn work friends into real friends, you have to invite them in to see a different side of your life. They know what your desk looks like. They’ve seen every work outfit you own. But they haven’t seen the inside of your home. Once you’ve crossed that threshold, you’re in.

Actual friends know what each other’s homes look like.

Normally, this is the part where the list would continue with other ways to turn work friends into real friends. But in reality, it’s not that complicated. Invite them over. If they see your home, they’re seeing a part of you that the rest of your co-workers don’t know about.

That’s intimate. That’s vulnerable. And those two things are the basis for true friendships.

So, if you want to know how to turn work friends into real friends, that’s the whole thing: invite them into your home. Sure, you should tidy up a bit before they get over (let’s not get too vulnerable just yet), but that’s the leap that turns a work friend into a real friend.

And take it from us. It’s worth it.