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Feeling Lonely at Work?

How to build a cohort of friends

Do you have any friends at work? I'm not just talking about acquaintances or colleagues you treat with professional courtesy. Do you have real friends among your professional colleagues?

Eating—and working—all alone

Despite there being more women in the workplace now than ever before, I've noticed that many of us still eat our lunches alone. While the guys might have their little clubs that hold meetings during their lunch breaks, many of us women still eat by ourselves at our desks. We don't go out for golf or happy hour after work either.

Despite there being more women in the workplace now than ever before, I've noticed that many of us still eat our lunches alone.

Why are we so isolated? Part of the reason is that many of us don't have the luxury of hours outside of the office to go hang out. Often we have kids to pick up, dinner to make, homework to help with, and laundry to fold. We prioritize our families, and our lives outside the office often trump the desire to socialize with colleagues.

But just because we can't hang out like the guys might doesn't mean we can't form friendships with other professional women. We just need to do it on our own terms and in our own timetables.

Take the initiative

So how can you go about building those friendships? Start by taking a look around your office. Rather than waiting for someone to befriend you, can you take the initiative to start or deepen a relationship with a coworker? Is there someone who's always in the break room around the same time that you eat lunch? Instead of taking yours back to your desk, ask her to share a table and eat with you.

You might have to get a little creative to grow friendships with your colleagues. Is there a common interest you could build upon to strengthen your connections with coworkers? Consider my friend Amy who started a daily walking club at her office. She found a couple of other women in her department who wanted to start being a little healthier and the three of them now go for a brief walk every afternoon. It's a triple bonus: They get a "brain break," some exercise, and the chance to get to know each other better. You might want to try something similar at your workplace.

Another great place to look for like-minded female friends is to join a professional association related to your career or area of expertise. Many of these associations have local chapters that hold regular events. Not only do you get a chance to stay up to date on what's happening in your field, but it's also a chance to form lasting friendships with other women like you.

Diane Paddison

Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.

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August 19, 2015
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