by Diane Gage Lofgren
We all know research shows that having friends at work improves our job satisfaction—and to that I would add performance. Having colleagues we want to be around, and in whom we trust certain confidences, gives us an escape valve at work. It helps us relieve tension and gain perspective. After all, no one knows better what your work life is like than those who share it with you!
Some of my closest friends are those I met at or through work. I find it easier to move into a friendship with a woman colleague after I’ve left an organization or am no longer working closely with her as a consultant. But it’s the experiences and values we shared during that common experience that have kept us connected for the long haul.
Today, some of my dearest friends are three women who 20 years ago worked for my boutique PR agency. We were young and eager to prove ourselves. And what memories we made as we moved forward in our profession. Today, we get together a few times a year for lunch, even though we live in different parts of the state. Last year we even held a slumber party!
I also have women from organizations I’ve worked for whom I now count as close friends. We had a daily bond and multi-year history that time can’t elapse. We shared trying, tense, and sometimes embarrassing moments that looking back, elicit great memories and heart-felt laughs.
There are consultants I’ve hired who served me so well that after their engagement, we continued our connection on a personal level. Our values aligned around work, why not outside of work?
And then there are those dear women I work with now who I am growing closer to over time. We may not get together on weekends outside of a work event, but I know that they have my back. Like any friend, they will tell me the truth, point out the pot holes in a path I’m considering, and take me aside to offer their wisdom, counsel, and consolation.
Like all friends, these are women with whom I can share feelings and emotions—from strategic visioning, to daily deadlines, to the silliness that comes from sheer exhaustion. They are women who I break bread with when I travel and who see me bleary eyed in my sweats on the hotel treadmill.A few weeks ago when a meeting got cancelled and my work colleagues and I had time before a train, my work friends and I walked the Highline in New York. (OK two male colleagues joined us.) We’re fortunate our organization values walks and talks. We got a lot done while treating our minds and bodies to open spaces. But the best outcome was the fun memory we can call on when times get tense. And they do!
And recently, two friends from work and I who were awaiting a Sunday evening work event in Washington, DC, went to cheer on other work friends volunteering at a half-marathon in support of our brand. Afterwards, when blocked traffic made taking a taxi a nightmare, we rented bikes and rode from the White House to Georgetown. We walked, noshed, and shopped as we as we spent a Sunday away from friends and loved ones at home. There’s comfort being around people we know in a city we don’t know.
Will these individuals become closer friends once we no longer share a workplace? I hope so. They are just the kind of women I want to grow old with! For now, they are my friends at work who guide my path, invest in my success (and I theirs), relieve my stress, and make work more fun!
I can’t thank them enough!