How to Make Friends At Work (and Live Longer in the Process)

Last Updated Aug 25, 2011 5:00 PM EDT

Do you have office pals? If so, salud to you. Recent research says you may live longer because of that friendly fact. People who had no or low levels of social support at work were 2.4 times as likely to die during a 20-year study done at Tel Aviv University as people who had work confidantes.

While stressful economic times lead us to put our heads down so they don't end up on the chopping block, it still makes good business sense to develop a real rapport with co-workers, and it could improve our health. "The fact is we spend most of our waking hours working and therefore tend to develop our most significant relationships with those we work with," says Mike "Dr. Woody" Woodward, author of The You Plan. "Just as you need support from your family and friends, so, too, do you need support from your coworkers."

Not so comfortable with your co-workers? Here are some ways to start getting friendly with your colleagues:

1. Play Softball Or shuffleboard or poker or charades. Bottom line: say "yes" to activities that naturally lead to friendships. These opportunities may or may not be company-sponsored, so keep your ears and eyes open. "Get involved. If your co-workers are participating in work-related sports leagues, book clubs, or community service projects, find out how you can sign up," says career consultant Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career.

2. Be a Good Sport When you're working on a team, be supportive. It's simple, but good career karma is very valuable. "In today's economy, people often step on toes in order to try and get ahead. You won't win friends by backstabbing or glory mongering. Instead, be inclusive, supportive, and show some humility," says career expert Debra B. Davenport, President of The Davenport Institute.

3. Don't Lay Low During Lunch Catching up with friends on Facebook during your lunch break? Instead invest in friendships with the people right in front of you. "Take your breaks in the break room where people are hanging out, or invite new folks to go to lunch with you," suggests career coach Steve Piazzale.

4. Get on the Social Committee Not only can being on the party and event planing committee at work help you show initiative to management, but you'll naturally meet others in a relaxed, social environment. "This will raise your visibility within the organization and give you greater opportunities to meet like-minded people," says executive coach Cheryl Palmer.

5. Institute an Off-Site If your office already has an off-site day, make sure you go. But if there isn't one scheduled, try to organize one, suggests Woodward: "I'm a big believer in extracting teams from their work environment and allowing them the opportunity to actually get to know each other." He adds that your company needn't splurge on an expensive day on a ropes course. Simple, away-from-your-cube conversations can serve the same purpose. "Most people don't take the time to stop and actually talk about their work and how their role impacts others," says Woodward.

Do you make an effort to make friends at work? How? Please sign in below and share.
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Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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