Connecting with your coworkers or expanding your work social circle can yield big professional advantages. On an individual level, employees that feel connected are more productive and innovative. For employers, it pays to cultivate a positive, team-oriented environment as happier and more engaged employees do better work and help a company’s bottom line. But only 25% of leaders have a strategy to engage their employees.
According to a study by consulting firm Hay Group, companies with engaged employees make 2.5 times the revenue, and happy employees say they are three times more creative than their less engaged counterparts. Workers who feel they belong are also more loyal, and less likely to leave the company.
Additionally, 60% say their friends at work will be helpful later in their career for sharing job opportunities or giving a referral for another opportunity, according to a study by LinkedIn.
In order to build your network, LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele says making friends at work is not much different than making friends outside of the office.
“It is easy to get lost in our to do lists, but it’s important to find time to build relationships at work,” she says. “Celebrate milestone moments like a promotion or a birthday—that’s a great way to make sure you feel supported by each other.”
Decembrele also says coworkers should make time outside of the office to get to know each other: grab a work friend for workout class or a manicure to find common ground and shared interests.
If you’re not into networking or want to keep work activities to office hours only, Decembrele says it’s OK to say no to activities like work happy hours or events that may encourage socializing. However, it’s important to compromise if you want to reap the benefits of work friendships.
“It’s OK to sit these activities out, but try to find another opportunity to ensure that your professional community at work are people you know and trust and that you can lean on,” she says.
If you’re looking for a supportive work community, look at the types of qualities you bring to the office culture. Ask yourself: Are you a good listener? Are you supportive? Are you competitive? Are you introverted? Try a workplace personality quiz to see where your personality aligns.
Then, put effort and time on your calendar to find like-minded people to build your social community at the office and nurture those relationships like you would with those outside of work, Decembrele says.
Feeling isolated at work is more commonplace than we hear about. So it can also be worthwhile to recommend some team building events to your managers, in an effort to strengthen relationships across your entire group.
“Work friends aren’t just a transactional one-way relationship,” she says. “You want to help each other, so while it’s important to remember they’re colleagues first, you can reap the benefits of having someone in your corner.”