I'm reading
An ode to work friends
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
An ode to work friends
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
An ode to work friends
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
3 September 2019

An ode to work friends

Exploring the unique intimacy of relationships forged across work desks.

Written by Jane Hone

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

I adore the freedom of working for myself and from home. I love that I can start work at 6am or 12pm; that I can peer out the window while working at my desk and then, when the mood strikes, relocate with my laptop to the floor and later, the couch; that I can cook my lunch in my own kitchen; take a walk on the beach to clear my head when necessary; and generally satisfy my mostly introverted tendencies. It feels to me like a much more natural, instinctive way to work and to flow.

But this situation has been punctuated, over the last few years, with various stints working in-house. Every time, this has been a curious pleasure. Not the commute, not the having to show up by 9am, not the battle to be organised enough to bring my lunch in Tupperware, not the struggle to dress myself in clothes that are simultaneously comfortable, professional and somehow expressive of my personality. It’s the team. The banter. The opportunities to share the comedy of errors that unfolded on my way to work, or debrief about Game of Thrones, or hear about the new podcast someone is listening to. The creative spit-balling and exposure to things I mightn’t have come across in my day otherwise.

And it’s the way that the threads that bind these relationships become more tightly woven over time — although it doesn’t take long. Sitting next to the same person for eight hours a day fast tracks you to a certain kind of intimacy (and how could it not, when we spend more time with our workmates than our romantic partners?) Pretty soon you become invested in each other’s lives. You arrive at your desk in the morning and have to know how your colleague’s dinner with the in-laws went last night.

Of course, most of us have loved ones with whom we share the details of our lives. But as we get older and busier and spend less face-to-face time with our friends, these details are often of the big, important variety rather than the minutiae. We dish up the highlights and lowlights of our lives to our non-work friends, but not necessarily the vast richness in between.

It’s our work friends who know the facts of our bout of food poisoning, remember that it’s the anniversary of our grandmother’s passing, suspect our pregnancy early on, recall our dietary requirements, delight with us in childish running jokes. It’s our work friends who understand the politics peculiar to our workplace, who can empathise with our professional losses and celebrate our professional triumphs.

It’s our work friends who shout us our favourite treat from the café next door when it’s one of those days. It’s our work friends to whom we might confide when we don’t have the energy to keep our guard up; who notice when something’s not quite right with us; who we have to face even on the days when we don’t feel like leaving the house.Owing to the sheer amount of time spent side-by-side, our work relationships can start to become an important safety net; an inadvertent kind of daily check-in. Our colleagues see us at our highest and lowest; our best, worst, and most vulnerable. In short: they see us. And it’s in this space that an unshakeable bond is born.

Thanks to our shared career path, at least part of this bond is probably owing to our like-mindedness. Yet even in my younger years of odd and gruelling jobs, meaningful friendships were forged on the floors of retail outlets, fortified in the drudgery of call centres, and crystallised amid the putrid air of deep fryers. These friendships, too, occupy a special place in my heart. Some persist. Others have been relegated to the domain of Facebook or Instagram friendship, where I smile at the news of babies or career development or their coming out.

Being a freelancer means I’ve traded stability and security for freedom and flexibility; it means I spend my life collecting friends and contacts all over the place. It also means I’ve had to kiss goodbye, time and again, to kindred spirits and unlikely comrades with whom I might stay in touch, but will never again share the same degree of closeness. It’s a closeness that can be neither replicated nor properly explained, and it always leaves in its place both emptiness and warmth.

Jane Hone

Jane Hone is a writer and yoga teacher based on the Mornington Peninsula. She’s passionate about helping people to slow down and realise the magic of the every day. 

Photo by Henry McIntosh on Unsplash

I want more things that inspire me to...

Dumbo Feather Newsletter

Let’s be friends. We'll tell you all the good stuff.