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Get More Done With a Work Buddy

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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

24 Responses to “Get More Done With a Work Buddy”

  1. I’m certainly open to helping anyone I can with their job search. I’m no expert, but I’ll be honest and provide candid feedback on what I think might work and not work. I’d expect the same in return.

  2. Phillip Rubino

    I think this is a great idea. Having someone who is experiencing similar issues in their job search, and be able to give you ideas you may not have thought of yet, would be a beneficial resource to have.

  3. Abraham Svinkelstin

    I am a senior IT project manager with over 20 years experience and would be very interested to work with someone similar to myself in background. I think it would be a way to help my own job search and contribute to someone else’s as well. It is a great idea.

  4. Lilly Mayo

    Yes! A “work buddy” is exactly what I have been lacking in my new job. My previous employment supplied a great “work buddy” but I did not recognize it until now. Thank you!

    Now to find new motivation and support in a retirement focus environment- wish me luck…

  5. Work budddy? for NO PAY? no way (methinks)
    Or…danger of learning all your stuff and taking your job away.

    my best/only work buddy was my assistant / secretary, Catalan, the best! I was more productive, motivated, she did paper work, junk phone calls in/out, but returned to Spain to become a stellar flamenco dancer.

    Sree, you are my work buddy with your valuable INPUT…keep it coming…saludos, pancho

    • A colleague/work buddy stealing your ideas and clients from you is a valid concern; however, this also happens even with paid employees or contractors. This can be addressed by formal written agreements.

      Also, monetary incentives (such as profit-sharing) for your work buddy may not be a bad idea, but only as a secondary consideration. I feel that paying someone to be your work buddy is more like employing someone to be an assistant, and that defeats the concept of a “work buddy”, who is a person you trust and respect, and with whom you share your interests and passion for work. (Your employee may eventually become your work buddy, but because of your mutual love for the work, not solely because of the pay.)

    • Kristin

      Hi Ashley,

      You mentioned a little while ago that you were after a work buddy and I’m looking for one too. Nope, not a psycho or a guy looking for a date. I’m a marketing/comms professional who’s finally about to get off her butt and start her own practice after 15 years of managing other people’s.

      I had a look at your site and we might complement each other without some of the issues that two people with similar business skills (altho I’m not a designer) might face – I’m geographically safe as I’m based in Sydney, Australia and pretty much only work in Asia Pacific.

      Anyway, thought I’d drop you a line and see what you thought.


  6. amiyumi

    i really appreciate this and i am very happy because i already found my work buddy!for about a 1year and half ago and we actually called each other as “buddy” ans i was really surprise when i saw and read this article. i never thought that there also people thinking the way we think. -thanks Buddy!

  7. Along a similar line, at Think Productive, we have a daily phone call each day at 1.10pm. the call lasts no more than 15 mins, but is a great way to get people to commit to what they have to work on that day, and allows everyone the chance to tell the whole team where they’re stuck and look for solutions. I very effective time management tool indeed!

  8. Scott Staples

    I no expert, but I have gained some learnings in my job search market over the last couple of months. Sites that have yielded more opportunities, people that have helped, ways to make Linkedin work for you, better than average recruiters, etc. If you are interested in learning more from my experiences, let me know. [email protected] NO FEES, NO COSTS, just me willing to help.

  9. ron thornton

    I would like to try a work buddy.I do have a Linkedin profile
    but to be honest I haven’t had any hits at all.Any interviews that I have had I found on company websites or indeed.
    I have also found some jobs on careerbuilder and monster.
    There has to be a better way.
    Greig Wells did help me on his Befound but I am still struggling.
    Ron Thornton

  10. Yes! A solitary job search can be so discouraging AND less effective. Another set of (honest and constructive) eyes to look at your resume, help rehearse interviewing, etc. is exponentially more helpful than a solitary job search.

    An excellent place to meet other job seekers is a local job search support group – find these groups through your local places of worship (usually all are welcome, so check all the ones in your area), local public library, city hall, state employment office/Career One Stop location, etc.

    Don’t allow much time for “pity-party” commiserating. Focus on expanding your networks and moving ahead with your job search.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. dollabill

    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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

    • 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.