Finding new friends is hard. Keeping them is harder.

In India, Friendship Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of August. The United Nations has declared July 30 as International Friendship Day. In other countries, there are other days – for instance, Mexico, Finland, and Venezuela celebrate it on February 14th, and in Singapore and South Africa, April is when friendship day is celebrated. Regardless of the date, the idea of Friendship Day is to strengthen and celebrate the beautiful bonds of friendship that light up our lives.

I was reminded of friendship day when I came across a bunch of very cool cards in the office that the HR team was handing out to people. “Pick any three that you like and share them with a personalised message…”. To which my retort was “Am I only allowed to have three good friends at work?”. I think if all of us had three good friends at work, the world would be a better place.

Having worked in one organisation for 15 years, I made many good friends there. Then I shifted into a new role and it was lonely. Just about when I started feeling I had made some friends, once again change was thrust upon me and I found a new work family two and a half years ago. Joining a new gig in the middle of a pandemic did not make it easy to make friends. There were many days when I felt lonely at work and all this chatter about friendship day reminded me how important it is to have friends in the workplace. Some many studies and surveys have data to substantiate the importance of work friends. For instance, a recent study by JobSage had these key findings related to the impact of the Pandemic on friendships at work.

  • Fully remote workers report 33% fewer friends at work.
  • 66% of remote workers have not made a work friend.
  • Millennials (39%) and Gen Z (21%) are the generations most likely to have no friends at work.

The same study went on to say “Our results also revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic had a heavy impact on workplace friendships. 48% of our respondents have fewer work friends than before the pandemic started, and 33% report feeling lonelier at work than before the pandemic.”

Friends with benefits: In my experience, work friends mainly work with the benefits they provide of being a support system. Having shifted jobs twice in the last few years I am surprised at how few of my “close work friends” remain close when I have moved on from an organisation or a role. The support system these friends provided was powerful and useful and fun. However, once we were no longer strung together in a necklace that was the company we worked for the company we provided each other seems to have fallen by the wayside. Some exceptions stand out but for the large part once we parted from the organisation that bound us together the friendship withered. The good news is that I now really know who my “good” friends are.

Work friends are wonderful. Sometimes a shared vision or purpose is what binds and connects. In others shared pain is what builds the connection. It could be the pain of dealing with a difficult situation together and coming through it victorious. Or it could simply be a good old-fashioned crib fest where we both complain and sulk for a bit together and somehow feel lighter and better knowing that we are not alone.

Sometimes friendships have an expiry date. Outside of work some of my closest friends are from childhood. School and college bonds especially those made in hostel or boarding are super strong. But even the strong ties of childhood friendships do not always last the test of time. It is even harder when there is no apparent reason for the break in the relationship. I have now come to accept the reality that I won’t always know why or how a friendship was lost and the only explanation I can give myself is that the “best to consume before” date suddenly crept up on the relationship and when the expired date is passed it’s best to move on. The exception to the rule seems to be work friends from my first job and a handful from the others

The Pandemic seems to have had other impacts on friendships in my life. Bonds with family have strengthened and got stressed at the same time. Online friends have been a fantastic ecosystem of support. New friends with no strings attached have emerged from this online world, and now a few are converting into real-world relationships. Hobby friends like my tennis buddies seem to be defined by proximity, level of skill, and availability. When it comes to friendship it’s a two-way street. What do I get? What do I give? As long as this balances out, the friendship seems to do fine. If the scales tilt too much to either side, the equilibrium gets disrupted, and often so does the friendship.

When all is said and done, the world and the workplace seem to be a much better place with friends in it. Enjoy joy. Be grateful for that friendship you have. One, three, or ten. Functional or from childhood. A good friend is a joy. Enjoy a good friend. More importantly, be a good friend.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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