Are you a Fox or a Hedgehog?

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus wrote a now-lost parable with the following moral: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The general gist of the line is this: Some people see the details in everything they do, like the fox, while others are great at having one singular vision, like the hedgehog. This animal-centric adage is at the heart of a lesson in “On Grand Strategy,” an instruction manual for would-be leaders based on popular seminars by Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis. Taking a cue from a 1953 essay by British-American philosopher Isaiah Berlin, Gaddis discusses how great leaders and thinkers can be categorized as either hedgehogs or foxes. Berlin went so far as to say that this split is “one of the deepest differences [that] divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general.”


Typically, a generalist is someone who has a broad range of knowledge and skills across multiple fields, while a specialist is someone who has deep knowledge and expertise in a specific field or area. Generalists tend to have a wider range of job opportunities and can adapt to new situations and changing circumstances more easily than specialists. They also tend to have a better understanding of how different fields and disciplines are interconnected and can often see connections and opportunities that specialists might miss. Specialists, on the other hand, tend to have a more in-depth understanding of their field of expertise and can contribute more to projects and teams that require specialized knowledge and skills. They also tend to be more sought after and command higher salaries in their field of expertise. Generalists can understand and see connections between different subjects, while specialists can focus on and solve complex problems within their area of expertise. Generalists are often more adaptable and can work on a wider range of tasks, while specialists have a deeper understanding of their field and can contribute significantly to its advancement.

While a specialist systematically hones skills related to their domain, a generalist seeks to sharpen a wide range of related skills that will prove useful in multiple domains. The proliferation of startups and small businesses has surged the demand for generalists who come with a vast spectrum of knowledge and experience. However, when the requirement is for deep technical knowledge in critical fields, the skills of a specialist are much more marketable. When a company is looking at upscaling operations within its domain, the specialist is more progressive when it comes to creative ideas. Generalists are progressive when it comes to accepting a varied number of clients with different needs and expectations. Owing to their interpersonal skills and a broad-based learning curve, generalists can handle uncertainties efficiently. In terms of transferability, generalists fare better than specialists as their wide range of specialities is easily transferable to different domains. Specialists aren’t able to transfer their domain-related expertise to another field or even to another discipline within the same domain.

Both generalists and specialists have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the particular situation and the needs of the employer or organization. It’s also worth mentioning that, while some people may naturally lean towards being a generalist or a specialist, it is also possible to develop skills in both areas through continuous learning and development.

Specialists have expertise in their area of specialisation because they are focused on one domain, which attracts high-paying clients since subject-specific expertise gaps are more difficult to fill. The ability to undertake extensive targeted research and a quality understanding of the domain earn specialists attractive remuneration. Specialists are also more equipped to handle any new technological complexity in the field as they dedicate years to exploring the different facets of the domain. On the other hand, because they are focused on one area of expertise, the lack of diversity within the job profile hinders growth. A specialized portfolio has limited scope for independent expansion. With rapid technological advancements, specialists risk falling behind if they don’t update their skill sets frequently. Specialists usually perform within a narrower domain than generalists. As they dive deeper into their domain, the relevant working fields surrounding them gradually shrink.

Generalists cover several domains and envision the bigger picture as they combine multiple perspectives from different departments. A direct result of being open to a lot of unique challenges is acquiring strong critical thinking skills and this enables generalists to offer actionable insights into their areas of expertise. Their ability to explore various domains and a high multitasking quotient make generalists excel in leadership roles. A large number of skills arm generalists with the capacity to diversify their services which helps them swap career paths easily and give their clients a lot of alternatives to work with. But a lack of specific expertise in any domain puts them on a back foot as they aren’t that competent in niche projects. A high percentage of generalists work across multiple teams and tackle a host of responsibilities, especially if they are in leadership roles. This often leads to psychological burnout. Generalists are also easier to replace owing to their overlapping or vaguely defined work responsibilities and so these positions are prone to lower pay scales as compared to a specialist.

Whether it is better to be a generalist or a specialist depends on the individual’s goals, interests, and circumstances. For some careers, such as medicine or law, specialisation is required to achieve a high level of expertise and be successful in the field. In other fields, a generalist approach can be beneficial, as it allows individuals to have a wider range of skills and knowledge, making them more versatile and adaptable in the face of changing circumstances. In many cases, a combination of both generalist and specialist skills can be advantageous, allowing individuals to understand the broader context of their area of expertise and effectively communicate and apply their knowledge. Ultimately, the choice between being a generalist or a specialist is a personal one and should be based on individual strengths, interests, and career goals.

Some of the questions one needs to ask themselves are if one seeks a diverse breadth of knowledge or if one prefers deep research on any specific topic. Do they change their career perspective often and prefer taking time to find the niche they are interested in? Or have they already determined their career trajectory? One also needs to work out what kind of work ignites their interests and passions and if it requires them to hone different skills or demands specific subject-matter expertise. The ideal workforce of today is a carefully balanced group of specialised generalists who recognise their varied strengths but rely on others’ domain-specific expertise, and generalised specialists who are people with core competencies who also delve into other related areas.

So would you rather be a fox or a hedgehog? I am going to ask BB and GG this question after making them read this article.

Quiet Quitting: Good or Bad?

In 2022, we all heard millennials speak of quiet quitting. So what exactly is this phenomenon sweeping the world? A phenomenon that spread on TikTok, quiet quitting refers to doing the minimum requirements of one’s job and putting in no more time, effort, or enthusiasm than is necessary. As such, it is something of a misnomer, since the worker doesn’t leave their position and continues to collect a salary. In some places, soft quitting is used interchangeably with quiet quitting.

A 2022 Gallup survey suggested that at least half of the U.S. workforce, particularly those under 35, where this percentage is higher consists of quiet quitters, but these numbers are questioned and even if quiet quitting is a new trend or simply a trendy new name for worker dissatisfaction. In September 2022, a Harvard Business Review article observed that quiet quitters continue to fulfil their primary responsibilities, but they’re less willing to engage in activities known as citizenship behaviours like not staying late, showing up early, or attending non-mandatory meetings.

Beyond the workplace, the term quiet quitting is now being applied to nonwork aspects of people’s lives, such as marriages and relationships. The hashtag #QuietQuitting has now racked up more than 17 million views on TikTok and articles in print and online media worldwide have used the term and the noise has spread to Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Adult Gen Zers are big influencers on social media and about 60% say they post content they hope will change the world, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. Those aged 18-26 are the most worried about security, health, finances, social connections and keeping up with change, the Edelman survey of 36,000 people found. But workforce studies on the changing world of work support the rise of quiet quitting – and suggest it’s more than just a social media hashtag.

Quiet quitting is a way of dealing with burnout according to organisational behaviour experts. Burnout is a big risk in the workplace, especially amongst younger Gen Z professionals aged in their 20s, research shows. A survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft showed 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting their job. In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks youth disillusionment as eighth of 10 immediate risks. Findings include deteriorating mental health since the start of the pandemic, leaving 80% of young people worldwide vulnerable to depression, anxiety and disappointment.

COVID-19 has changed the world of work – and how seriously we take it. Twenty-something Gen Z workers, in particular, may have joined the world of work during the pandemic with all of its dislocating effects – especially remote working. This generation has also come of age amidst rising activism. More people are quitting 9 to 5 jobs to start their businesses or try non-traditional work like temporary work, gig or part-time roles. It also shows some are quitting to take a break or care for family, as remote working has removed boundaries for working or living overseas. Gen Z workers aged 18-24 years most value flexibility and meaningful work, while Millennials and Gen Xers aged between about 25 and 45 years are largely the ones trying self-employment and new types of work. Experts say the passion economy where people do more of what they love has heralded a new era of side hustles, in everything from craft to campaigning.

Does quiet quitting just affect young people? Workforce data from major organizations including McKinsey & Company suggests 40% of the global workforce is looking to quit their jobs in the next three to six months. The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise that job satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, can significantly affect your life according to McKinsey. The 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work. Living for the weekend, watching the clock tick and work is just a paycheck are the mantras of most global workers, according to Gallup. People are realising that work is not life and that one’s worth as a person is not defined by their job.

The reaction of managers to the phenomenon has been mixed. Some have been tolerant, in part because the tight labour market of recent years makes replacing quiet quitters difficult, at least for the time being. Others have responded to quiet quitting by quietly, or loudly, firing employees whom they see as slacking off. Quiet firing has become a buzz phrase in its own right, generally defined as making a job so unrewarding that the employee will feel compelled to resign.

Some experts have suggested that bosses should get tough on quiet quitting while others say they need to lighten up. Some experts advise managers to first examine their behaviour and check if this trend is a reflection of their leadership abilities rather than the person quiet quitting.

Quiet quitting may or may not be a bona fide trend or recent phenomenon. But it has called attention to what appears to be fairly widespread dissatisfaction that employers might need to address. Quiet quitting is not a life philosophy or policy proposal that needs logical scrutiny. It’s also not a political weapon to be wielded to prove how much more woke or conservative one is than everyone else. It’s both more incoherent and essential than all of that. Figuring out how work fits into a life well lived is hard, but it’s an evolution that has to happen. Quiet quitting is the messy starting gun of a new generation embarking on this challenge.

So what are your views on quiet quitting? I know it’s been around and many of us are also guilty of quiet quitting at some point or the other.

Productivity Hacks for the New Year

As we start preparing for the new year, a common resolution is to be more productive and I am always on the lookout for productivity hacks that I can use.

Productivity is more than doing more things or ticking tasks off your to-do list. Productivity means only focusing on accomplishing important things. It is the ratio between the output of goods and services and the input of resources consumed in the process of production. Productivity is the ratio between the output of wealth and the input of resources used in production processes.

The ability to be productive is one of the critical determinants of professional success and personal happiness. Those who can consistently produce good quality output at a sustainable rate can advance in work and life. Being productive boosts morale and creates excellence.

Personal productivity impacts the quality and quantity of results produced. Thus, it’s crucial to improve productivity because higher levels of productivity translate to a better personal and professional life and allows to achieve much more in a given period. Being productive can help one prioritise tasks, manage time and resources efficiently, and frees up time for more rewarding activities.

So in no particular order, here are some of my favourite productivity hacks and some which are new to me and that I plan to use next year.

Plan Ahead: One of the best tools for being productive is to plan, be it a day, a week, a month, or even a year. I prefer to do a very broad plan for the year and refine it as I plan for a month and week and then a detailed plan for a day. I like to use Trello and create to-lists with cards per week. Within that card, I plan my week which helps me. The best part is ticking off a task which gives one a sense of satisfaction. A good schedule allows one to note down all tasks and not miss anything important. This also allows you to focus on what is important and should be completed first before focusing on the next important task. It would also help to note the tasks in the order of importance and start the day with the most important task, followed by the next and so on.

Break Down Goals: Any goal when broken down into its parts becomes easier to achieve. If a task is large or something that does not seem easily achievable, then when it is broken down into easily achievable parts, as each part gets ticked off, it becomes easier to accomplish and checking them off makes you feel you are in sight of the goal and seeing the progress also shows you are doing something to get to the end.

Don’t Obsess with Emails: A big drag on productivity is checking emails and other messages as soon as you hear the ding. Research shows that when people were limited to checking their email just three times per day, their stress levels decreased significantly. Those who limited their email checking also felt that they were more able to complete their most important work and felt a greater sense of accomplishment at work.

Learn to Say No: It is hard to say no, especially when the request comes from someone who has authority over you but saying no shifts the way our brain thinks and reacts to situations, allowing us more ability to make decisions for ourselves which affects our mental health. Saying no helps to prioritise leading to new opportunities that wouldn’t have been achievable by saying yes at the same time setting boundaries.

Use Website Blockers: This is something I started doing a few months back and it is a godsend when I am focusing on something. Website blockers help us stop popping over to distracting and unnecessary websites that stop us from being productive.

The Two-Minute Rule: When you start your day, there will be numerous small tasks that crop up. The rule of thumb is should be this – if a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it and get on with your other tasks, otherwise, add the task to your To-Do list and do it later.

Group Similar Tasks: Batch similar tasks so you can complete them with the same frame of mind. This will make your work process flow smoothly and help you do more in less time.

Avoid Multitasking: I am guilty of this, as I am sure many of you reading this post. Though it may be tempting to do two or more things simultaneously, multitasking does more harm than good. Research shows that about 98% of people are less productive when they multitask as they are not focusing on a single task. Our brains cannot perform multiple tasks at the same time and in moments where we think we’re multitasking, we’re likely just switching quickly from task to task. Focusing on a single task is a much more effective approach.

Start the Day with either a Tough or Easy Task: This is a tough one and a personal hack. The way one starts the day dictates the flow of the rest of the day. You can either start by doing the most demanding task first, so everything else feels more effortless, or do the easiest thing first to gain valuable momentum. When the easiest tasks are completed first, ticking some items off the To-Do list is a good boost to the rest of the day. On the other hand, when a difficult task is finished first, it takes a huge load off your shoulders and the rest of the day becomes easier without the task hanging over your head.

Take Regular Breaks: Breaks are very important to be productive. Breaks give the mind a much-needed chance to recover from intense focus, prevent decision fatigue, relieve stress, increase creativity and help improve memory and focus. Learning to meditate during a mental break helps to relax the mind and body.

Use the Pomodoro Technique: A great technique to boost productivity is the Pomodoro technique which is tomato in Italian. Here, one works in short bursts for say 25 minutes and then takes a 5-minute break. This is one Pomodoro. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break. This technique works because the human mind can concentrate on the same thing for a short span. I prefer to work for 50 minutes and take a 10-minute break, but you could use any time frame that works for you.

Work Near Natural Light: This is a simple but potent productivity hack. Working near natural light improves sleep quality, improves mental health, helps in the circadian rhythm, and physically improves Vitamin D levels in the body which is essential for several core bodily functions, including regulating the immune system, maintaining body weight, and ensuring healthy cognitive function.
A simple productivity hack is to create your workspace near natural light. Exposure to sunlight is believed to improve sleep, thereby contributing to your well-being and productivity levels.

Detach from Work after you are Done: Once you finish work for the day, detach from it and if possible, mute email and phone notifications until the next morning. This allows you to return the next morning with a fresh mind and perspective. If you can, separate your workspace from your personal space and this is even more important when you work from home.

Schedule Time for Self-Care: To be productive daily, self-care is essential. Self-care activities allow us to recharge ourselves to prevent burnout. Self-care can be anything that helps us relax and unwind. Reading, watching television, a relaxing bedtime ritual, a 10-minute walk, meditating, painting, or anything else.

What’s your favourite productivity hack? If I have missed any that you swear by, please share them so all of us can benefit from it.

The Future of Work in a post-COVID World

When COVID hit in early 2020, the world was in shock, especially with the lockdowns and cities shut down. Workplaces became empty and many city centres which were dominated by towering skyscrapers filled with office spaces became ghost towns. COVID has dramatically changed the way we live and work and affected virtually every element of life.

COVID has been the most significant, and perhaps the most traumatic, experience of our lives. It will have a huge impact on us as individuals, as a society and as a workforce. And even when this crisis ends, things will never be back to normal. We will live in a completely different world and that will be the new normal.

The abrupt closure of many offices and workplaces ushered in a new era of remote work for millions and has shown a significant shift in the way a large segment of the workforce operates in the future. Most of those who say their work responsibilities can mainly be done from home say that, before the pandemic, they rarely or never teleworked. Very few could work from home all or most of the time, but today more than half of such people are doing their job from home all or most of the time. And more than half say, given a choice, they would want to keep working from home even after the pandemic.

While not seamless, the transition to working from home has been relatively easy for many with most of them saying it has been easy to instal the technology and get hold of the equipment to do the job. Most also say it’s been easy for them to meet deadlines and complete projects on time, get their work done without interruptions and feel motivated to do their work.

Many of us, especially those of us who are technologically challenged, had to adjust to new technologies and learn new ways of interacting with colleagues and friends. Zoom and other video conferencing apps became part of our lexicon and we learnt to find those corners at home which would not reveal the mess behind.

The idea of working at home in itself is not a new concept with many, especially those in the IT sector working from home is an old concept. I read somewhere that working from home or telecommuting has grown by as much as 173% since 2005 due to improvements in technology, innovation and communication. As a result, more than half of employees have a job where at least some of what they do can be done from home.  A 2019 Owl Labs report found that as many as 80% of employees wanted to work from home at least some of the time, before the crisis. Flexibility is one of the top-ranked work benefits amongst the millennial workforce and pre-crisis, more than a third of employees would go so far as to change jobs if they had the chance to work from home, whilst over a third would take a pay cut of up to 5% to work at home some of the time. Today, these figures will most likely have gone up.

Remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue, albeit less intensely than at the pandemic’s peak. Many companies have transitioned to hybrid work culture and many organisations have decided to reduce their office space. As a result of this demand for restaurants and retail in downtown areas and areas with a concentration of office spaces as well as for public transportation may decline as a result. And while working on this post, I decided to check on job sites and saw that now there are many full-time remote opportunities in sectors that traditionally did not offer it like IT. This means that in countries with smaller cities and rural areas, when people can work anywhere, reverse migration can and is taking place. I have heard of people moving out of the big Indian cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru and going back to their hometowns so they can be with family and yet earn the income they were already earning. I remember reading an article about professionals renting large apartments in places like the seaside and the hills and with access to high-speed internet, they were able to have a much better lifestyle and standard of living.

Remote work has also put a dent in business travel as its extensive use of videoconferencing during the pandemic has ushered in a new acceptance of virtual meetings and other aspects of work. While leisure travel and tourism are rebounding, and are likely to rebound after the crisis, McKinsey’s travel practice estimates that about 20% of business travel, the most lucrative segment for airlines, may not return. This would have significant knock-on effects on employment in commercial aerospace, airports, hospitality, and food service. E-commerce and other virtual transactions are booming.

Many consumers discovered the convenience of e-commerce and other online activities during the pandemic. In 2020, the share of e-commerce grew at two to five times the rate before COVID-19. Roughly three-quarters of people using digital channels for the first time during the pandemic say they will continue using them when things return to normal, according to McKinsey Consumer Pulse surveys conducted around the world. Other kinds of virtual transactions such as telemedicine, online banking, and streaming entertainment have also taken off including online doctor consultations. This shift to digital transactions has propelled growth in delivery, transportation, and warehouse jobs. In China, e-commerce, delivery, and social media jobs grew by more than 5.1 million during the first half of 2020.

Many companies deployed automation and AI to reduce workplace density and cope with surges in demand. Research finds the work arenas with high levels of human interaction are likely to see the greatest acceleration in the adoption of automation and AI. Hiring has also changed. Today, the default way of interviewing potential candidates is by video call when only a few months ago the default was face-to-face interviewing.

So what does this mean moving forward? It means that for employees, the chance to balance work and home will be important. Now that the world has shown that regular remote and flexible work can be productive without disrupting or undermining established ways of working, it will be the new normal going forward. A lot of people, especially introverts who do not need to showcase their gregariousness and be extroverts, can showcase their productivity and prove their mettle. There are already reports of the positive impact that more frequent, structured and focused communication is resulting in increased collaboration, teamwork and support. Now that more people have had a taste of it and proven their productivity, it will be hard for companies to take it away from their talent. A Gallup survey revealed that 54% of U.S. workers would leave their current job for one that allowed them to work remotely. And while professionals were celebrating their 30-second commute, it became clear to companies that the huge line item on their spreadsheets for real estate may not be the best way to spend their money. Having people work from home, even if it’s not everyone all the time, is proving to be profitable.

Flexibility will be the new mantra—where people will be given more freedom to choose to work from home. Some people missed the commute and cherished their in-person connections, so the new normal will be increased flexibility. Conference rooms, meeting spaces and video studios will take up a lot of office space with the workplace becoming a far more social environment, not a lock myself in the office scenario. It will be designed to foster and promote interaction and community engagement, taking advantage of the times talent is collocated in one place.

Many professionals found working from home a challenge not because of isolation, but because they didn’t have the ideal space or a dedicated home office. They didn’t have a Zoom-ready spot for video meetings. A study reports that the majority of survey respondents cited a lack of proper technology for remote work that hindered their success and productivity. One of the biggest challenges people experienced while working fom home was internet performance. According to a survery by WhistleOut, a company that provides information about mobile phone and internet services, 35% of adults who transitioned to working from home said that weak Internet has prevented them from doing their work at some point during the coronavirus crisis and 43% said they have had to use their phone as a hotspot during the crisis. Internet in homes will improve, and home offices and even home video studios will become a priority. As new homes are built or existing ones are remodelled, a home office will be the top priority for

Post COVID-19, e-learning will become a bigger part of ongoing learning. In-person learning won’t go away, but it’ll be reserved for certain functions and certain populations within the company. Face-to-face learning will likely be just a small element of a learning curriculum. Ramping up their e-learning platforms, companies moved quickly to ensure that their people were still building important skills and developing professionally.

Video is at the heart of many of the changes above. The developers behind Zoom, WebEx, Hangouts, Skype and other video communications tools made the grand work-from-home experiment possible. The video became fully integrated into the work experience in an astonishing variety of ways. As supervisors and staffers have gotten used to seeing each other in their natural habitats, the line that separates work life and personal life has faded. Ironically, technology has made this transition possible, but it has also led to a decidedly low-tech reality: this new corporate world has made us value our organic, non-robotic humanity more than ever before.

The shift to remote work led to the complete collapse of the work-home boundary, especially for parents juggling child care and homeschooling with job demands. Poorly timed or endless Zoom meetings interfered with people’s ability to get work done and sometimes harmed relationships with colleagues. At the same time, people, especially those with comfortable home offices and few parental responsibilities, found benefits in working remotely. Being on their own gave them greater control with fewer distractions. The absence of commuting gave people more time and energy while saving them money. People who had been working in unpleasant or hostile workplaces were now free from disrespectful encounters.

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen a sharp rise in mental health issues. While this is in no way a positive outcome, it has resulted in businesses focusing more closely on employee’s mental wellbeing. Companies are doing more than ever to protect and promote positive mental wellbeing among teams; a trend that will continue even as the world returns to normal. People burn out because their employers have not successfully managed chronic job stressors.

The pandemic has taught many people that the job does not have to be the way it was. This realisation may be one reason that many are not going back to their old jobs. The workplace must change. So as we transition to a new normal of working, it is with the hope that many of these positive work outcomes such as a greater focus on mental health and wellbeing, more freedom and flexibility for employees and outstanding innovations will keep workforces happy and healthy while businesses will remain creative, responsive and successful.

Friends in the workplace – Yes or No

Friendships are beautiful and a good friend with whom you can vent and share problems and who listens without judging is invaluable. A workplace on the other hand is one which for many is fraught with pitfalls and because it’s a place where we spend the majority of our time, having a friend there may be good. But is having a work buddy something that one cultivates? Given the time we spend at work, it is inevitable that some sort of friendships at work will be formed.

It’s very natural to look for friends at work, and it’s necessary for professional success. Since we spend most of our time at work, and if we don’t like the people we work with, getting through the day becomes even more difficult. Happier and more productive days will happen if we enjoy the company of our colleagues. Workplace friends improve the good days and make the poor ones bearable. While being social at work will help raise morale and satisfaction, one must also set limits with friendly colleagues.

There’s a lot of evidence that workplace friendships fulfil a basic human need for companionship, and are necessary to some degree. Research has found that it can even fuel greater job satisfaction: In a survey of more than 195,600 employees in the U.S., Gallup found that 20% of them said they had a best friend at work. This was also the group that reported being most engaged and committed to their jobs. But workplace friendships can be tricky, especially between managers and employees, or senior and junior employees. In that scenario, there’s always going to be a power dynamic in play.

While being social can help boost morale and happiness on the job, one needs to set boundaries. Instead of striving for friendships at work, it’s better to be friendly with coworkers, according to some experts who say that ith professional relationships, one can grab coffee or lunch, but not necessarily invite them home for a barbecue or special family events.

Today’s workplace is different from a few years ago with remote work and social distancing making workplace interactions more difficult. Without meeting colleagues and co-working face-to-face, having close friendships will be slim and making work friends will mean an extra effort.

Having a good friend at work one can confide in and commiserate with can be a blessing and while work friendships can be a boon, they can also be a bust. The truth is that many of the work friends we have will end when the job ends. You may keep in touch for a couple of years or so, but over time, you tend to drift apart, because the biggest binder between the two, the company or organisation no longer exists. But there may be a few work friends who transcend the organisation to become true friends, but this is rare and quite far between.

A 2014 Globoforce survey found that people with workplace friendships are nearly three times more likely to say that they love their companies and two times less likely to be poached by another company. But in the throes of a new work friendship, sometimes it’s easier to forget that a work friend is a colleague first and a friend second. So one has to be a bit more careful about what is shared with them as it may come to bite you from behind.

So if you are making work friends or have friends in the workplace, here are some tips on how to deal with them.

Be mindful of oversharing – You may have to share personal information to make friends at work, but you should proceed with more caution than you would for non-work friendships. Remember to always keep it professional and respectful. Share on a need to know basis and be vague. Don’t be dismissive also but keep it professional. Sharing needs to be very nuanced and balanced because on one hand, forging deeper, more intimate relationships requires self-disclosure and vulnerability; on the other hand, if a work friendship spirals downward, the person can use personal or sensitive information against you. Whatever one shares with work friends, make sure you never dislose information that can create animosity, that is stigmatized, or that could get you fired.

Be mindful of the office hierarchy – Be very careful and know that at the end of the day, your boss or your manager is still in charge. Even if your workplace is very laid-back and your manager your age or even younger, they are still the boss and enforce workplace standards. You can be friendly with your manager or someone who manages but be careful about how your friendship affects your professional relationship and how it may be perceived by coworkers. Make sure that others don’t worry that there’s favouritism at play no matter how equitable things are.

Be mindful about confidentiality – You need to be careful about sharing anything with work friends that you’d like to keep secret from your boss. Even if a colleague assures you of their confidentiality, they may and in most cases will reveal your information if someone asks them or if they have a bone to pick with you at a later stage. Before sharing something with a coworker, ask yourself how much would you want others to know and only share what can be freely shared with everyone. And don’t ever write down anything that you don’t want to be saved for posterity. Remember, what happens on the internet, stays in the internet.

Be mindful about resolving disagreements – In every friendship, disagreements happen, but one should not let personal disagreement mess up professional relationships. Having negative relationships with co-workers is a huge predictor of quitting a job and these relationships can be distracting and de-motivating. So if a work friendship is on the rocks, handle it as calmly and professionally as possible, so you can either salvage the friendship or move on calmly, so it doesn’t impact your work life. Identify the source of the conflict and resolve it professionally. Do not spread gossip or rumors, do not try to get coworkers on your side, or cast your friend in a negative light with a supervisor.

Now that we’ve established how to deal with workplace friendships, let’s see what are their benefits. The benefits of work friends go far beyond having someone who is always willing to loan you their stapler. Research shows that employees who get super close with their co-workers are happier at work, more engaged, better with clients, do better work, and are less injury-prone. A Gallup reports that those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1-in-12 chance of being engaged. When you find the right balance between personal and professional, you reap the rewards of friendships at work.

Finding a colleague you can be close with means having a go-to person to ask for advice and help. It can be less intimidating to ask a colleague for assistance than to run to your boss every time a minor issue crops up. This is an easy way to reduce the learning curve and get up to speed quickly in a new role. It also means having someone to chat with during the day. Companionship makes the work day pass faster. Having a friend you can gab with means you’ll even look forward to coming to the office. A work friend also increases a greater knowledge of the business and opportunities. If either of you leaves your job, you can be a reference to the other. Also, when both of you move on to different roles, your friendship can progress like a natural friendship, and/or you can keep an eye out for opportunities for one another.

Having friends at work can increase job satisfaction, performance, and productivity, research shows. But it should be treated with care and not become too close with colleagues. According to Gallup, getting a job BFF is one of the most significant factors in employee engagement and satisfaction. There is a concrete link between having a best friend at work, and the effort employees expend in their job. Those who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job. Women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged compared with the women who say otherwise.

According to Gallup, women who firmly believe they have a best friend at work are less likely to be actively searching for or monitoring job openings, are more associated with their colleagues, respect what is expected of them, and trust their honesty and ethics and are less likely to record a negative daytime experience, such as workplace stress or feeling tired.

Linkedin said having a friend at work boosts employee satisfaction, employee motivation, and productivity, particularly among your younger employees the ages between 18 and 24 as socialising and friendships are critical for moving up the career ladder, according to 1/3 of Millennials. They also found out that 51% of staff maintain contact with former coworkers, resulting in boomerang employees or increased turnover in poor environments.

When you form friendships with colleagues outside of your immediate teams or department, it pens up to sides of the business you wouldn’t normally be able to access. This can help create a more comprehensive understanding of what the company is working towards, and how other departments operate, reveal some of the organisation’s pain points, and help an organisation’s people grow by learning about and appreciating each other’s experiences.

Unfortunately, not everyone wants to be friends with their coworkers, especially in super-competitive work environments. Some people will use even the slightest tidbit of information to get ahead, so before you begin to share important or personal details with someone, make sure you trust them implicitly. Similarly, social media is not an aspect of your life that you should share with everyone. While in the beginning stages of any work relationship or collaboration, you may not want to give a person access to your Facebook or Twitter pages. You should connect with colleagues on LinkedIn, however. The site was built for professional affiliations, so it would be more than wise to add a colleague, but hold off on giving colleagues access to any site that may house personal or social information. Oversharing details of your personal life and finances can come back to haunt you. Sharing personal details with a colleague who you thought had your back can also damage your career prospects if those details are used against you. Many companies are hierarchical, and when it comes to promotions or project assignments, close friendships can sometimes cause friction.

Friendships at work get even trickier for managers and their subordinates. Managers would not want to make it seem like they are giving one person an advantage or a pass for bad behaviour. Being considered too close with a coworker can reflect negatively on you if your friend isn’t viewed in high regard. You may be tarred by association and hurt assignment and project prospects, or prevent you from being included in confidential news if your peers fear it might be leaked to an untrusted colleague. When a work friend starts venting out too much, you run the risk of getting stuck in a negative cycle. Co-ruminating is the process by which friends repeatedly go over a difficult event or emotion. It brings us together and increases friendship satisfaction, but also decreases well being, kicks up a level of depression and anxiety. You need to watch out for that.”

Employee retention is more critical than ever. Another pandemic side effect has been what analysts call the Great Resignation, which in August 2021 saw 4.3 million workers quit their jobs. Even as the unemployment rate starts to even out, worker attitudes have shifted, and money isn’t enough to keep employees anymore.

Having friends at work can be the bright spot of your workday—as long as you take the proper precautions. Making friends at work is easy, and mostly good for you. Compartmentalising life into work and not-work is stressful and potentially unhealthy in the long term. By managing friendships in a professional setting properly, one can have more fun at work, learn to relax a little, and begin to learn things about themselves and the organisation they’re a part of.

What are your thoughts on having friends at work? Is it a yay or a nay? I’d love to hear from you, so please comment below.