Working from home and finding it difficult to make friends? You'll want to read this.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic in late 2019, spending a lot of time at home has become the new normal. On any given day, about 42% of employed adults are working at home. With flexible remote-working options increasing and companies ending their office leases to downsize or go completely remote. Long gone are the days of tapping a co-worker on the shoulder to ask “want to grab a coffee?”. Businesses try to engage employees in the workplace socially to improve productivity and morale, but do you really want to limit your social options to those in your professional network - what’s the fun in that?
One-third of your life is spent at work. We rely on our workplaces to meet people outside of our family circles. Apart from getting work done, it's where we share ideas and our personal lives. Over lunches, and chats by the printer we build close relationships that can extend beyond the workplace. It’s easy to forget that humans are social beings too and need our regular dose of social interaction. However, remote and flexible working means we need to rethink how we navigate staying social and sane.
This post will discuss how to make friends when you work from home that you can try and incorporate into your life through your mindset, public events, and how to take advantage of social media platforms.
Let’s get into it!
One of the very first things you should focus on is being open-minded. This gives people a chance to be themselves first before passing judgement. It’s very easy to judge people based on their looks or the limited pieces of information we may know about them such as their job title or the company they work for. Put all of your assumptions and preconceived notions aside, otherwise, you’ll be sabotaging yourself and not giving yourself or the other person a fair chance of developing a potential friendship. You should approach friendship by being open to meeting new people and sharing new experiences.
Imagine the type of person you’d like to be friends with. What gender are they? How old are they? How do they approach life? What if I told you that none of these really matter? While they do factor into how well we get along with someone, all that really matters is finding people with similar interests that you are enthusiastic about will make your friendship stand the test of time. If you want to make friends, don’t assume that your future friends will have the same background, gender, or age as you. You might be surprised to see what happens when you expand your horizons.
Working from home, your mindset towards fostering friends should be different too. It means you’ll need to put a bit more effort into staying in touch online and planning when to meet. On the bright side, you’re probably used to this as a remote worker! Frequency and consistency in communication are required, especially in the early days. It can be as simple as having a conversation where you’re both online at the same time for a period of time. If each person's reply is days apart, it’s slower and difficult to build rapport and a deeper relationship.
If you are looking for friends while working from home, it may be ideal to find friends that live near you, however, don’t let this be a deal breaker for you. Proximity means it’s possible to plan spontaneous meetups more frequently than if your future friend lived across the other side of the country. If you don’t live so close, don’t lose hope. Try to organise regular monthly catch-ups in person or over video chat. During the times you’re limited to video chats, to make things more fun, you could get creative and incorporate some of your common interests. For example, you could play internet karaoke, cook recipes together, watch a movie, or play online games together.
We know that when forming new friendships, the more regular contact you have, the better. Activities are a great way to make friends, but to form friendships, regular contact is crucial. Think about what you could participate in on a regular basis. Sports leagues book clubs, and volunteering, are examples of great ways to meet people regularly enough to build those friendships. With a shared hobby or activity, you have common ground with strangers that you can use to start conversations that could lead to friendship. You can find these kinds of groups advertised in the community newspaper, maker studios, Facebook communities, and on apps like Meetup.
Co-working spaces are another great way to meet new people especially if you’re missing the in-person social connection of remote working. Take advantage of shared spaces like the kitchen area or pool table to make conversation with people about their interests, what they do for work and their favourite movies etc. If co-working spaces are out of your budget, regularly working from a public place like a cafe, library, or bar may be the next best option. Each time you’ll become more familiar with the workers and other remote workers. With this familiarity, you’ll increase your confidence making it easier to strike up a conversation, naturally going from strangers to acquaintances.
There are many social networking platforms that you can use to aid you in your journey to make friends as a remote worker, ranging from local events-based apps like Meetup, to AI-matched friendships like We3.
Here are some of my favourite online platforms for making friends:
Being the world’s biggest social networking app brings big opportunities to make friends. With 2.9 billion active users, and its super helpful Groups feature, just a quick search and you’ll find a Facebook group for virtually anything (if there isn’t, you can always create your own)! There are likely plenty of social groups in your city purely for making friends, or local interest-based groups where you can attend events doing activities you enjoy, so it’s super easy to find people with similar interests.
If you’ve ever used popular dating apps, you’ve probably swiped on a few people before. Bumble BFF brings the same quick and simple function to choosing your potential friends! You can filter who you see by age, distance, religion etc. The one issue with apps like this is the slow response times - how many people have you met that admit to swiping on dating apps all day compared to scrolling on TikTok or Instagram for hours?
Meetup is great if you just want to get out and meet people that are interested in the same things you are. Love sport? Board games? Entrepreneurship? There are many interest groups where you can expand your friendship and professional circle. Join groups and attend regular events to meet new people. One of the downsides is that, unlike Bumble BFF, you don’t get to see much information about who you’ll meet until you turn up which can be a bit nerve-wracking for some who need that extra peace of mind. With some meetup groups, it can feel cliquey and difficult to approach people because some groups’ are close-knit especially when they’ve been running for several years.
To conclude, just like any work project, forming a solid friendship is no overnight feat. It is understandably challenging, and doing it while working from home is pretty unfamiliar to most of us. Although being a remote worker brings some new challenges, there are many reasons why working from home is awesome: You have more time to do what you want with more flexibility in your day, you’re able to spend more time with your furry friends, and most importantly, you can turn up to meetings in PJs and no one will ever know!
Remember, building any relationship with anyone will take time, so don’t rush, and enjoy the process.