I have often been the type of person who has many friends, many co-workers, gets along well with many people, but sets rather clear boundaries. It is rare that co-workers cross the boundary into my non work social life or other areas of my life. I have never worked with people who were my friends before work. I have never worked with family. Friends from church do not work with me, nor do they participate in my family life. I could go on.
While I am still mostly the same in this regard, in the past month or so, I and several people who work in my department have met for lunch outside of work. Two weeks ago we met for lunch at a place that sold tacos for $1 each. Today it was a place that had an all you can eat buffet of Chinese food for a reasonable price. In prior years, we had attended once a year cookouts or helped move furniture for one another, but now it seems that we are socializing outside of work a lot more often than before.
The result of this seems to be an easing of tensions and hostilities at work. We seem to work better as a team at work. We make it a point to invite as many people from our department as we can to these gatherings. Of course work related subjects are discussed and I admit there is gossip and opinions exchanged, but there is just as much non-work related discussion. The most noticeable difference I've seen at work is the fact that we tend to view one another as human beings instead of machines. We do not have a perfect working relationship, but it seems to help our departmental morale if nothing else.
I still have my well defined boundaries. Work is work and my life outside of work is still that, but investing a little time every now and then seems to be worth it. I'm sure too much of it would not be a good thing, but it seems we have found the right balance for now.