You spend 8 hours a day, 40 hour a week, 2,000 hours a year at work (and probably more than that).

It would be miserable not to form some casual workplace friendships. Socializing with coworkers makes the time go by faster, can make you more productive and facilitates communication and teamwork. But there is a point where workplace socializing can cross the line.

Here are four tips to help you navigate the sometimes murky waters of coworker interactions.

Choose Work Friends Wisely
Developing friendships with your coworkers is virtually inevitable. Many of your coworkers are probably around your age and share some of your interests. But be careful who you get close to at work. The office gossip might be fun to hang out with, but you don’t want to be the subject of their whispers. Before you share personal and private information about yourself with coworkers, make sure you can trust them.

Know Your Boundaries
No matter how friendly you are with you coworkers, there are some topics that you should avoid at work. Steer clear of topics that make people uncomfortable like race, religion, sexual habits, physical appearance and money. Offensive jokes have no place at work. If you feel like a conversation is going into dangerous territory, politely steer in another direction. A well-placed, “No comment,” can always save the day.

Keep Your Guard Up

Don’t get too comfortable in non-work areas like the bathroom, break room or elevator. Just because you are not at your desk or in the conference room doesn’t mean you’re not at work. Anything you do or say at work can affect your reputation and your career future, so don’t relax your behavior just because you’re in a more relaxing environment. That goes double for emails. Emails to coworkers or from your work computer should be written like someone else is reading them, because someone might be.

Keep Hierarchies in Mind
Getting promoted into positions above your work friends is very common. It’s important to keep your position in mind, however, when you socialize with those below you. An inappropriate conversation with a subordinate is even worse than one with a coworker. You should always keep a degree of professional detachment between yourself and those you manage.

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