I recently had the experience of visiting with my sister's best friend, a woman who has been like a sister to me as long as I can remember. I'd not seen her for about a dozen years, but we'd exchanged news through formal and informal channels, and being with her this week was like I'd seen her yesterday. Amazing how ties that bind - deep, longstanding relationships - are easy to step back into, as if time has not passed.
In my recent transition into retirement, it's been interesting observing and following up on friendships from work, spanning the distance of everyday life now that we don't have the opportunity to see each other in the office. It's been easy in most cases - we picked up where we left off, sharing news about spouses, kids, life events, work. I have no shortage of lunch dates, seeing some of my work-based friends more often now than I did when we were all working at the same site!
It begs the question, however - are these real friends? Will these relationships fade with increasing time spanning the distance? My darling husband has a theory that you can't make friends at work - it's a false pretense, a fleeting commonality that ends once the work relationship ends; he's had some experiences in the workplace that may have helped formulated this belief. But I have contrary experiences - friendships that I made more than 20 years ago that remain today, wherein we are in touch and supportive of each other, regardless of time or distance.
Consider the most effective and product teams you've worked on - the best teams in your experiences - do you consider some of those team members your friends? Can you differentiate the relationships during times of high accomplishment?
It just makes sense to me - friendships are formed based on shared experiences, common interests, and shared perspective resulting from time together, sharing experiences and pursuing common goals - sounds like the description of a positive work environment, a collaborative culture. I'm not suggesting that you are life-long friends with every person in your work group, but a positive and collaborative environment is founded on teamwork and breeds - more specifically, encourages - friendships.
I look forward to my ongoing relationships with my WFFs - Work Friends Forever- at work and beyond!