Here is How to Balance Working with Friends in an Academic Environment

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The job of an academic is often full of long hours, making it difficult to land that just right work/life balance. This imbalance makes it easy to become a victim of burnout if you’re not careful. Having a friend in the work environment reduces the disconnect between work and personal living, giving you something to look forward to when the stress of your job gets to be too much. Simply having someone to eat lunch with or review notes after a meeting goes a long way toward better mental health.

But sometimes, that friendship can add to your work stress. In an environment as close-quarters as the academic institution, it’s hard to have an ideal relationship all day, every day. That’s why it’s important to set boundaries in your workplace friendships, particularly when they’re in a research situation.

The Perks of Working With Friends

Studies show that there are significant benefits to working with a friend. These findings have become more conclusive since the COVID-19 pandemic when mental health across every industry plummeted due to forced isolation and at-home work requirements.

Humans are social creatures by nature, no matter how reclusive we are. We all long for that one friend that we can feel safe with, and this same theory applies in the work environment. When you work with a friend, you tend to have less job stress and more loyalty to the business. Diversity grows because you get to know other people and their cultures and norms, and you respect them.

When you need to vent, you have a safe ear and sound advice to listen to before you react without thinking. And your work and personal life balance become a little less skewed.

Strategies to Balance Your Work and Life in the Office

These perks are important in every career, but more so in those like research, where the job can leave you isolated, even without COVID restrictions. The thing to be careful of is that workplace friendships can also become imbalanced, and when they do, there’s nowhere to hide.

How you handle your friendships, setting boundaries ahead, reducing this potential issue. These strategies can help keep that ideal balance:

●      Stay friendly, but professional. Save any possibly destructive gossip for your inner circle, such as your spouse or your lifetime best friend. It’s possible that your new work buddy is friends with the person you’re gossiping about, or they’re not as close-lipped as they swear to you they are. Especially don’t talk poorly about your superiors, even if they start the conversation. This can ruin your reputation if it gets out to other people that you’re a gossip.

●      Keep a lid on your personal life. Feel free to talk about your children, your spouse, your in-laws, your pets, and your education, as long as you’re not giving secrets or sensitive information out. You can still share a bond between these topics without being overly personal.

●      Keep a separation between your personal life and your social media feed. Chances are, your new friend is going to want to follow you on Insta or Facebook, and you’re going to agree because you don’t want to offend them. However, be mindful of what you post and how it reflects on you as an employee of your institution. It’s easy for other people to take a picture or video of something you post, then later regret and take down. By then, it could be too late.

●      Don’t take sides or offer too much advice. Your friend may want to come to you and vent, and ask your opinion on what they should do. Stay as neutral as possible while still being supportive. If you attempt to push them in a certain direction, and they choose to go the other way, they may hold that against you later. 

Boundaries are essential when you work with a friend. In the academic environment, choosing the “wrong” friend can cost you your scholarly reputation, and possibly your job. It’s better to be cautious and build up to a close friendship gradually than to jump right in and gossip with someone who isn’t as loyal to you as you are to them. 

Make New “Friends” With Impactio’s Scientific Network

If you want to expand your network outside of your work community, sign up for Impactio. The number one scientific networking platform in America, Impactio connects members with like-minded experts worldwide and provides the tools you need to increase your scholarly reputation.

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