Work colleagues can be the best of lifelong friends or acquaintances we knock about with from 9 to 5. However, it is often the ‘work’ that cements the relationship and without it the friendships can become very different. Little effort is needed to go for that informal drink after work whereas making and keeping to a more formal date might prove more difficult without that camaraderie and banter over a coffee in the office. I have found that in any group of friends there are organisers and followers so when it comes to maintaining the friendship group, the organisers organise and those that seem to do little in the way of keeping up but always turn up are often very grateful for the get together. If you are in the former group, you will no doubt find it easier to keep up with work colleagues as you’ll remember birthdays and arrange nights out etc. However, if you have always expected to be an invitee you may find yourself outside of the work group and thus not invited, not forgotten but the informal arrangements and the fact you are no longer ‘front and central’ at work may unfortunately preclude you. So, the ball is in your court. However, some of us find it difficult to pick up the phone and ‘cold call’ and risk the type of rejection one could pass off until tomorrow if seeing a colleague the next day, what if “I’ll call you back” doesn’t happen??
All relationships need regular maintenance and staying in touch is the only way to achieve this and remember that colleagues who do retire after many years with the same employer are often much missed by their workplace friends. A quick phone call, email or text message can soon lead to regular meetings with those wanting to know the inside story – ‘How is retirement REALLY?’ So think about starting and hosting a group on social media, WhatsApp etc. Invite and post – you’ll be surprised!
Arranging a lunch or dinner date once or twice a month is a great way to stay in touch with workplace friends. Most workplace friends will more than welcome the opportunity to provide all the workplace gossip with an impartial friend and it’s likely they too will retire or move on someday soon and would like to look forward to socialising with their ex-co-workers too!
Of course it’s best to think about this before leaving work and put something in place, however, this C-19 lockdown gives the perfect opportunity to ‘look people up’ – There are so many ways to connect nowadays that there really isn’t any excuse. A simple ‘With this C-19 pandemic, I was thinking of you, how’s tricks?” isn’t too intrusive and is likely to elicit a response that even if a simple “Good, thanks!” can be replied to and a conversation started…”How about meeting up on Tuesday when you’ve finished work” or “We are arranging to have some friends over a few times over the next month or so and we’d love for you to join us on the 4th/11th/25th…”
Many people are inhibited when it comes to party planning etc. but who doesn’t like an excuse to party? Maybe make it less about you and more about a charity etc. It really isn’t difficult to book the big table at a favourite restaurant and invite ex-colleagues along – you may be surprised and need an overflow table or another evening. (I’ve found giving options gets better attendance and most people don’t have an excessively full diary either!) You might even ‘infiltrate’ your old workplace and offer to arrange a surprise birthday party for an ex-co-worker and this gives an excuse to talk to many more colleagues too!
The transition from busy days filled with people to a quieter retirement life can seem a lonely possibility. Maintaining those friendships and organising to meet up with friends from our working days can help retirees adjust.
Take an interest in how your friend’s work life is going and reminiscing about notable events gone by may well fill many hours over a few glasses of wine etc. But also take the opportunity to talk about all those other things you might not have had a chance to when you were in the workplace due to your different responsibilities etc. You’ll be amazed at what you may learn about each other, how the workplace is very different and the opportunity to become an informal mentor or adviser may come up and this can be a very rewarding role.
Emails and texts are easy ways to stay in touch and only take a few seconds to send. Lunches or organising to go to regular social events, shared hobbies or exercise classes are a great way to maintain friendships. Evenings out to the theatre or the cinema will help maintain your circle of friends and if you’ve retired to the country or invested in a holiday property or park home, remember your work friends will absolutely love to visit.