6 Ways To Turn a Colleague Into a Work Friend

group of friends on laptops laughing together

Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k

There’s been a lot of focus on how the pandemic has made us feel isolated and lonely — and that’s certainly been the case. Humans crave connection, after all, and friendships are what keep us sane.

But even before the pandemic, one thing was clear and has always been clear: making friends as an adult is hard. We don’t have access to a pool of classmates. We’re not necessarily living in a dorm with people who are our age. So, one natural place to seek out connections is work.

Of course, the pandemic has made it more difficult to establish and build connections in the office since so many people are still working remotely. So, how do you turn your colleagues into real friends, regardless of where you work?

1. Tread lightly.

Start slow. Remember that you’re going to see this person regularly (every weekday in some cases), so you want to get to know this person and make sure they’re someone you actually, well, like! 

That means that even if you’re at a work happy hour and feel like you could absolutely be best friends on your third glass of Pinot Grigio, it’s still not time to divulge your personal secrets. Give it some time — you can’t be joined at the hip immediately. Spend time building your connection and finding out if you really do have things in common.

2. Establish common ground.

Speaking of things in common — establishing common ground is the best foundation for any type of relationship. Try to find out if you have shared interests: TV shows you love to binge, books you’ve both read, cuisines you enjoy, mutual friends or acquaintances, countries you’ve visited — you get the drill.

3. Share — and listen.

Once you’ve gotten a bit closer to your work acquaintance, you can begin sharing a little more about your personal life — just be careful not to overshare. But more importantly, listen. As you probably know, people love talking about themselves. Show that you’re really interested in what they have to say by actually paying attention to them and asking genuine follow-up questions. 

4. Make your workspace or background interesting and fun.

Showcasing your personality will help you draw people to you. If you’re working in a physical workplace you might have pictures of friends, family and pets in your workspace, and that’s a natural entry point for conversation. They might be a dog lover, too!

If you’re working remotely, this is a little more difficult, but it’s not impossible. Try switching up your background. Again, this helps showcase your personality.

5. Have their back.

As you know from the other friendships you have, relationships of any type depend on support. In order to build a friendship with a coworker, show that you have their back. If you see them struggling and know you can help, do it. Or, if they need to vent, let them. This is how you build trust — showing that you’re there for them. 

6. Suggest low-stakes activities to do outside of work.

Unfortunately, this is difficult to do if you work remotely and don’t live near your coworkers — but don’t forget that Zoom happy hour is always on the table! If you do work and live in the same vicinity as your coworkers, then suggest low-stakes activities outside of the office. Ask them to get coffee or lunch — maybe even a drink after work. This will help you get to know one another better and build a stronger relationship.

Like any relationship, these things take time to build. Moreover, don’t take it personally if your overtures are ignored or rebuffed — some people prefer to keep work and private life separate. Respect that, and work on solidifying a working relationship, while, perhaps, focusing on building friendships with others on your team.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

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