Workmates Over Cheese & Other Wisdoms
Lukáš Vilkus
Lukáš Vilkus
October 6, 2023
Workmates Over Cheese & Other Wisdoms

I’ve reached a point in my life where I believe my work and life experiences could make for an interesting read. So I’m here to share some takeaways on staying motivated and loving my job, even after 8 years.

Build relationships at work

As a Senior UI designer in a SaaS product development company, I work in a team of over 20 talented individuals–colleagues and workmates alike. Why make the distinction, you ask? Let me explain.

A colleague is someone you work and share a mutual respect with, and maybe with whom you exchange pleasantries in the office or kitchen. But beyond that, a colleague relationship is purely professional.

A workmate, on the other hand, is someone with whom you enjoy a closer relationship within the team–one that is based on mutual trust, reliability, and going the extra mile for each other.

To quote one of my workmates (thank you, Anna!):

“When your car is stuck in the mud, a colleague will be there to offer advice or suggestions to get your car out again, or simply tell you how to avoid getting stuck again. A workmate is in the mud with you. Your problem is theirs, and they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and dive into the mess.”

How to go from colleague to workmate? I believe it starts with simply bonding over anything you might have in common, like an interest, hobby, or sense of humor. Even while toeing the line between friendly and professional, I have found that sharing aspects of our personal selves can enhance trust and create a positive working atmosphere.

If you have workmates in your team, consider yourself lucky. Plus, it’s a win-win situation for both you and the company you work for, since having close teammates makes employees think twice about outside offers.As I like to say, “workmates over cheese”–in other words, relationships at work are more important than any material perks.

Building relationships means talking and spending time together, and getting to know each other a bit better. But it’s not about mass team-building events, where people who already have a natural rapport will gravitate toward each other and leave others out.

The pudding is in the micro team-building activities where people have an opportunity to meet between four eyes, have fun in smaller groups, and form personal connections. If any manager or HR specialist is reading this, I suggest prioritizing this approach over huge events.

Swallow that ego!

Realizing that not everything I do is the best and more correct solution was an exciting turning point for me. But it wasn’t easy. Transforming my mindset took a lot of emotional strength.

When I first started out, I used to design essentially on my own and create whatever I believed to be the absolute top-notch solution to the problem in the brief. Then I would show it to other stakeholders who, within minutes, found all the leaks in the solution I loved so much. I ended up feeling angry and frustrated, and I even started to hate going to work.

Fortunately, I persisted and eventually learned to accept criticism. I did this in the most logical way possible: by consciously tossing the tunnel vision I had aside. Instead of sticking to a single design, I began to create multiple variations every time. This made it easier to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff, producing much more refined results that I could confidently stand behind and defend.

So tl:dr; put your ego aside and you will breathe easier at work.

Keep up the enthusiasm

Some time ago, I had a conversation with someone who was happy to simply receive their monthly paycheck and coast through the month. Personally, this mindset frustrates me. Yes, there are people who walk the walk with minimal effort, but what’s fulfilling about that?

I think this apathetic mindset comes down to time spent in the same position for a long time, suffering from burnout syndrome, and/or losing interest in self-improvement.

If you find yourself experiencing this unfortunate combination of symptoms, I recommend you do something about your situation. If you don’t care about putting effort into your current work, it’s probably time to leave and look for new challenges elsewhere.

I say that because when you do put in the time, effort and passion into your work, you’re the one who will reap the rewards. When you strive to be helpful and visible and want to see yourself being appreciated by others in the team for what you do for them or the company, it’s a truly priceless feeling.

Ask to be evaluated

Recently, I created a short survey and sent it to everyone I work with. I asked them about what bothers them personally about me, whether they mind if I sometimes swear, how I behave in meetings, and what aspects of our current cooperation they would criticize or highlight.

Why did I do this? For one, receiving personal evaluations from colleagues is another form of relationship-building. But it’s also a way for me to remain aware of how others perceive me. After all, how do you know how others perceive you without asking?

From the results I received, I identified the most helpful critical feedback and worked on fixing those areas. Fortunately, there were not many of them. Wonder why? Because if I’m happy, so are those who have to work with me!

Embrace the bad days

As the famous philosopher Ryan Reynolds said, “Any kind of crisis can be good. It wakes you up.” And yes, a bad day can be a great wake-up call.

But it’s also fair to say that bad days pretty much suck. The important thing to remember (and as the image below so clearly puts it) is that one bad day is just that — one bad day.

Well, I’m still trying to apply this mindset myself, though I admit I’m not very good at it yet. I do believe that if I can master the technique of not getting hung up on short-term downturns and instead focus on my accomplishments, I will be the most well-adjusted person under the sun. Let’s see how that goes. For now, my moods oscillate like a sin function curve. But that’s all part of the process.

Before I go, let me point out that this is not a how-to manual. I don’t take that for granted that I happen to work with such exceptional people who I appreciate greatly. But I think that we all need to play our own role towards maintaining happiness in the workplace, and the few actionable steps I listed can hopefully help achieve that.

If my messages have resonated with you and you find yourself thinking, “I want that, too,” check out and meet our team. Whether you choose to join us is up to you!