For the past month, I’ve been working with a “work buddy”. She helps me stay on track with projects, keeps me focused when I’m not feeling motivated and gives me professional advice. She has become my go-to person for almost every concern I have with work.

For the past month, I’ve been working with a “work buddy”. She helps me stay on track with my projects, keeps me focused when I’m not feeling motivated, and gives me professional advice. She has become my go-to person for almost every concern I have with work, and I try to pay it back by doing the same things for her.

I find that since we’ve started this new working relationship, my output has become more consistent, and I’ve also had the time to work on side projects that I was “too busy” to try before. On her end, she tells me that my encouragement helped her start work on a stagnant project. Apart from improving productivity, here are the other benefits we’ve experienced as “work buddies”:

  • More creative problem-solving. When you’re too close to a problem, it’s hard to find outside-the-box solutions. This is no surprise since you need some amount of psychological distance to see the problem in a new light. Your work buddy might have the right amount of distance from the problem to help you find new solutions you wouldn’t have been able to think of yourself.
  • Obstacles seem easier. Even the biggest project can seem easier to achieve with the right work buddy. According to one study, social support from a friend can make hills seem less steep. So don’t be surprised if your to-do list seems shorter with the right person supporting you.
  • Collaboration. Apart from providing you with emotional support, your work buddy can also give you more opportunities to collaborate on exciting projects – no matter how informal they may be.

If you’re going through a rough time professionally, or if you simply need your own personal support group, finding a work buddy might be a good solution for you. It’s just a matter of finding the right person. Ideally, your work buddy should be:

  • Someone you respect. For me, this is the most important criterion for choosing a work buddy. By choosing someone you respect, both professionally and personally, you are less likely to waste their time and more likely to make the most out of the relationship.
  • Someone who understands your work. As Dawn pointed out in a previous post, explaining most web working jobs to the uninitiated can be difficult. Your work buddy should understand enough of your work to give you constructive feedback, make suggestions, listen to your complaints and recognize your accomplishments. Someone who knows your work well is more likely to engage you in more meaningful exchanges, rather than just blank stares or insincere one-liners.
  • Someone who knows how to deal with you. Your work buddy should also be someone who knows the right things to say or do that will motivate you to keep working. He or she should know how to push you when others are telling you to take it easy.
  • Someone who also needs your help. For this to work, the two of you have to need each other, or else the relationship is going to feel one-sided. This could be someone who needs your skills, experience, network or even just your unique insight.

Other, more specific traits may depend on what you need. For example, you might need someone who works as a logo designer or has experience in leading a team. Be aware of these specifics so that you can come up with a clearer picture of who your ideal work buddy should be like.

Have you ever had a friend or colleague who helped you become more productive? What was your experience like with that kind of relationship?

Photo by flickr user vek

  1. I really appreciate the concept of a “work-buddy” but I’ve found that it’s really hard to meet someone with similar interest, drive, and work ethic. Can you recommend a way to do this?

    1. If you have a blog or are active in social networking sites, it’s relatively easier to spot someone you’d have similar interests with. They’ll be commenting on your posts or sharing items that you’ll find interesting. It’s not that different from finding friends in real life, except it’s relatively easier to initiate things online (it only takes a few clicks, inhibitions and reservations are lowered, etc.)

      You can also look for a community (online or otherwise) in your field and be active in it. It’s likely you’ll find someone you could work with as you form these new connections and feel them out.

  2. Your post just proves that we are humans – ergo: we are social animals. Throughout human evolution, our species survival depends on the idea of teamwork – which is lacking in freelance work. I love the idea of getting a work buddy, even if Google is my new freelancing best friend. As they say, two set of brains are better than one.

  3. Good post and you’ve got me thinking about seeking a work buddy now.

  4. Nice post Celine. I’ve had work buddies in the past, and they have been very helpful. When I was reading this article I couldn’t help thinking of parody videos of E-harmony where people are matched with a work buddy instead of their significant other.

  5. I’ve assembled a good faction of “work buddies” using http://www.stanfordwhoswho.com it’s free to register there, and they are all professionals.

  6. This was a very interesting read. I find that it’s more effective and applicable to my life if I replace the word ‘work’ with a different adjective. I chose the F-bomb, but feel free to use others.

  7. There’s quite a lot of literature about the effectiveness of pair programming approach – the idea is similar, but more intense.
    Much of the same arguments apply, but there they are reviewed in detail and tried out in practice in quite a few companies.

  8. [...] Get More Done With a Work Buddy [WebWorkerDaily] Tagged:office culture [...]

  9. [...] Get More Done With a Work Buddy (tags: work psych business) [...]

  10. This reminds me of the “loose-pairing” I’ve often done with members of my distributed team, when we both have different but related tasks to work on. We’ll leave a Skype channel open and just speak up when we have a question or need to vent some frustration. It’s a terrific way to keep morale up while working remotely, and you’re absolutely right – there’s no requirement for that person to actually be “on the team” for it to be effective.


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