Here are two true statements. One: Making friends as an adult is hard. Two: Working in an office environment can kind of suck sometimes.
They’re both pretty obvious statements, too. You know that friendships require maintenance, and you know that maintenance means free time, and you know that free time is something that shrinks as the demands of work and home life expand. And as for the office — well, take a second and think about all the frustrating parts of the workday: the commute that takes forever, that one annoyingly loud co-worker, the overactive air conditioner, the subpar snack situation. Ponder any one of them long enough, and the work-from-home life starts to sound pretty good.
But within your noisy, chilly, snackless workplace is a major perk that you may have overlooked: the possibility for real friendship. Or, as Catherine Baab-Muguira called it in a recent Quartz column, “the hang.”
“There was always someone who wanted to go out for lunch or grab a coffee or tell me about a book I should read,” Baab-Muguira recalled of the office friend group she developed during a training program several years ago. “The program itself was interesting and worthwhile — a deep dive into stock-market analysis — but the reason I loved it was the hang … Going to work was, for the most part, fun.”
Really, this is a two-birds-one-stone situation. For one thing, office friendships can actually help you to be better at your job — research has shown that people learn more when they have fun at work, and the day’s going to be a lot more fun when you’re spending it with your pals, even if you’d rather be spending it somewhere else.
For another, forging real, fulfilling relationships with your colleagues is one of the easiest ways to make room for those relationships in a busy life. “Forty hours a week is more than I see any one of my best friends,” one career consultant told Baab-Muguira, “so if you’re lucky enough to work with people you really care about, that’s a wonderful situation.” Yes, it can be weird to transition a workplace friendship into a real-life one; the first time you make plans that don’t involve a company-sponsored happy hour will probably feel a little awkward and a little nerve-wracking. But awkwardness dissipates and nervousness fades, and then, if you’re lucky, you’re left with something that makes the soul-sucking commute feel worth your while.