Everyone has a desire to belong and it’s this desire that drives us to pursue friendships with the people in our lives. We were made for friendship and community, in our homes, in our workplaces, and elsewhere. For now, we will take a closer look at building friendships at work, which is so integral to our mission at Tepeyac Leadership Initiative.

The American Time Use Survey found that employed persons between the ages of 25 and 54 spend an average of 8.8 hours working or in work-related activities every day. (https://www.bls.gov/tus/charts/chart1.pdf) If we are spending so much of our time at work, it’s important that we enjoy it! There are many ways to make work enjoyable- a clean desk, a decorated cubicle, a comfy chair, or breaks throughout the day. But one of the best ways to create this type of work environment is by developing friendships with our coworkers. Many of us will agree that it’s easier to be happy and more motivated at work when we feel a sense of belonging, surrounded by people we enjoy.

So what does friendship at work look like?

American author and lecturer, Dale Carnegie, said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” There is so much wisdom in this, especially since we live in an attention-seeking culture. What if we approached others with interest about who they are? No ulterior motives. Just a human-to-human experience. This breeds authentic love, the love that Jesus shared with everyone He encountered, the love that we are called to embody. We so easily do this in our friendships outside the office. Why not do the same in the office?

I’d love to share how I experienced this. My coworker, Catherine, worked in the office four months before we ever spoke a word to each other. One day, our boss asked us to work on a storytelling project together that we had to begin immediately. Our mutual passion for writing and storytelling was a little known fact until we collaborated. It became the foundation of an authentic friendship. Because we were spending so much time together, we had lots of time to talk. Instead of only talking about work-related things, we asked about one another, and shared about our lives. We became great friends in the office as well as outside of it, and I believe it has made us even better coworkers. This friendship and our recognized shared passions are even instigating other projects! There is a joy we experience when coming to the office each day, along with a sense of being noticed, supported, belonging, and setting our hearts on fire to do other good things for the community around us.

Each day, we have opportunities to notice, support, and welcome others into our lives, just as Catherine and I did. Catholics and non-Catholics alike can learn so much about this kind of authentic love and friendship from the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. It states: “Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.” This “apostolate” refers to all activities of the Mystical Body (the Church) directed towards spreading the kingdom of Christ. This call to love and to be loved in the Body of Christ is also a call within the workplace and among coworkers. It can be as simple as asking a coworker to join you for lunch or walking up to someone’s cubicle and checking in on them. These acts of love lift up society, transform it, and make it better, just as “leaven” causes dough to rise and be transformed into something greater.

The Tepeyac Leadership Initiative (TLI) plays an important role in the apostolate by equipping lay Catholic professionals to support the Church and its mission through influencing culture and serving the common good. One of the ways we can do that is by being a friend to the people we work with or others in our circles. TLI is designed to foster authentic friendships by bringing together a group of 30 working professionals to network, grow, and learn together over the span of 5 months. Everything about the program, especially the small group weekly discussions, monthly recollection days and the iconic retreat, encourages community and a sense of belonging. TLI teaches and supports the role of Catholic working professionals as they strive for greatness in every aspect of their lives.

We want to belong. We want to be encountered. We want to share our story. Fostering friendships within our communities allows us to do just that. St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.” Let us go forth in our workplaces loving others and letting ourselves be loved by them, for it is the key that will lead us to true happiness, health and success.