Humans are social creatures, and that doesn’t change when we step into the office. It’s not unusual for people to enjoy friendly relationships with work colleagues—and in fact, socializing with coworkers can offer a lot of benefits.
Workplace socializing can lead to great learning opportunities, as colleagues may be able to pass along special knowledge or updates you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Solid, supportive relationships can also make it easier to tackle tough projects when you need to work as a team. And most importantly, enjoying the company of colleagues can make you happier while you’re in the office—which, in turn, can make you more productive.
But you’re not at work to socialize. And there’s a fine line between being friendly and socializing excessively. So how do you find a balance between enjoying your coworkers’ company and getting the job done?
Don’t hesitate to socialize during “downtime”
If you’re not sure how much is too much, play it safe by hanging out with coworkers only when there’s a clear boundary between work time and downtime. Coffee or lunch breaks, office birthday parties, and water cooler talk can be great opportunities to build easy camaraderie with those you work with. Of course, just be sure not to let these activities cut into your productive work time.
You can (and should) also socialize during company-sponsored events like a company picnic or end-of-year party. These events are a great way to relax and laugh with your colleagues in clearly appropriate settings, and to continue building a supportive network for yourself in the office.
Think twice about what you share (and hear)
Most types of workplace socialization are great, but there are certain social interactions you should never let yourself get involved with. From time to time, everyone needs to blow off steam during a hard day in the office—but if your colleagues’ conversations regularly turn into opportunities to gossip, complain about your workplace, and air dirty laundry, it’s probably not the best idea to join in. While you’re in the office, your behavior shapes others’ perception of you, and those perceptions help shape your future career.
A great way to avoid this type of situation is to stick with people who are passionate about their job and engaged in what they do at work. Socializing with these types of work friends is more likely to help you learn and grow on the job, and their support can be invaluable as your career develops in the future. In addition, hanging around these people tends to boost your productivity, meaning that it isn’t such an issue if you socialize with them more often than not.
If you’re still worried about how much or how little to socialize at work, here’s a good rule of thumb: as long as you’re in the office, your downtime and relationships should help to enhance your productivity, or at least not to sabotage it. Stay self-aware, seek out supportive relationships, and socialize—but don’t forget to get the job done.