We spend most of our waking hours at work but due to stressful work or just a busy schedule we often miss out on getting to really know our colleagues. Most of the communication is professional, as it should be, but are there any benefits to knowing our co-workers at a deeper level?



Workplace Socializing Increases Employee Productivity

In an interesting study by Dr. Pentland, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT and the faculty director of MIT’s Digital Life consortium, and Benjamin Waber, a doctoral candidate at the MIT Media Lab, finds that workplace chatter, even the idle kind, increases productivity.

Quoting the article:

“perhaps it’s a mistake for managers to send workers scurrying back to their desks. In fact, as he relates, it might be a good idea for managers to encourage workers to spread out and talk to others, to make friends, and to build networks — even ones based on basketball scores. Read on for a fascinating look at, and justification for, one of the greatest guilty pleasures of work — idle chit-chat.”

Socializing keeps Employees Healthy

According to researchers at Tel Aviv University. Work-Based Predictors of Mortality: A 20-Year Follow-Up of Healthy Employees, “Working in a very unfriendly and non-supportive environment takes its toll,” the survey said. Peer social support is a protective factor, reducing the risk of mortality, while perceived control reduces the risk of mortality among men but increases it among women.

New Hires Get up-to-speed Faster

Russell F. Korte, a professor of human retarget education in the College of Education at Illinois, discovered that co-workers exert far more influence on a new hire’s socialization in an organization than previously thought: About 65 percent of what employees learn comes from their co-workers, while only 15 percent came from interactions with managers.

“Co-workers are major players in socializing a new employee,” he said. “I think it’s important that managers realize the power that the work group has to make or break the new hire coming in, because if people have bad experiences, they’ll likely leave.”

With a constant stream of diverse employees joining in our workplace, the importance of socialization at the workplace cannot be underestimated. Different cultures, working styles and expectations might be intimidating to young new hires. Peer support and encouraging socialization might assist in helping the new hire find a good fit into the company culture faster and find the right mentor to get him/her up to speed at the new work.

Emotions Drive Performance

Sigal Barsade, a Wharton management professor who studies the influence of emotions on the workplace, says: Employees’ moods, emotions, and overall dispositions have an impact on job performance, decision making, creativity, turnover, teamwork, negotiations and leadership.

Finding camaraderie at the workplace helps employee share emotions to some extent, though not all would be willing to do so but if you could get the monkey off your back and up your spirits and performance, there’s a benefit for all.

Encourages Teamwork

There’s no doubt that better relations between employees adds to a positive teamwork atmosphere at work. Amanet.org has some good tips on this topic:
“Unfortunately, in a time when most employees feel the need to belong in order to perform their best, many organizations do not value or encourage informal networks. Encouraging your employees to develop relationships within the organization will not only go a long way in creating a social, fun atmosphere…but, more important, make your employees feel as if they belong to something more than 9 to 5 job.

As a manager, here’s what you can do:

  • Make the initial effort. When you bring an employee on board, make it a point to integrate him or her into your organization. Introduce the new hire to others within and outside your department. It will also help to have the person sit in on as many meeting as possible.
  • Make meetings more relaxed. Meetings should not be ultra formal and/or protocol-driven, but instead, a way for individuals to get together share ideas and hopefully come to an understanding. You want your meetings to serve as a forum for employee interaction, collaboration, and innovation.
  • The little things go a long way. As a manager, you have the ability to set the tone. Organize after-hours activities like happy hours, dinners, and lunches. The little things will go a very long way in making your employees genuinely relax and feel as if they can act like themselves.
  • Making the workplace conducive for collaborations and growth is a responsibility of the company, adding the beneficial element of socialization support at workplace can result in a more positive work experience and thereby an increase in employee retention.”

Summarizing Benefits of Social Get-togethers with Colleagues

  • Getting to know the people you work with makes the job enjoyable.
  • It stimulates a healthy work culture and cultivates trust within the group. People enjoy working with those who are familiar or comfortable to work with. The productivity and performance level increases in a friendly workplace.
  • Generates better networking opportunities for employees and accelerates the understanding of work dynamics within different divisions of the company.

Even though the cubicle workplace is seeing the shift toward an open concept, socializing on a regular basis must be encouraged by all companies.  Here are a few tips on how companies can introduce socializing hours and activities at work:

Some Workplace Socializing Tips for Companies

  • Though most companies usually have regular social gatherings and parties to encourage informal meetings within colleagues, group sports activities and outings must also be encouraged. These outings and participating in sports together helps employees to connect and communicate better.
  • Management or HR personnel can put forward a few proposals on social outings and get-togethers to the employees and see which activities they enjoy the most. With cultural diversity increasing in all workplaces it is important to be sensitive to the employees’ culture and liking.
  • Put up a poll to get consensus on which days work best for the employees for social gatherings whether with families or those limited only to the co-workers. Being sensitive to the needs of employees shows the company’s respect towards those who matter most towards the company’s success – its people.

Some Tips on Online Socializing

For the remote workforce, it is even more important to feel connected when they do not get to meet their colleagues in person. Consider these ideas:

  • Virtual team-building activities: Companies can organize virtual events such as game nights, happy hours, or fitness classes for employees to participate in.
  • Virtual coffee breaks: Employees can schedule regular virtual coffee breaks to chat with each other informally.
  • Virtual team lunches: Employees can have virtual team lunches to discuss non-work related topics.
  • Virtual team-building retreats: Companies can organize virtual retreats for employees to bond and connect with each other in a more relaxed environment.
  • Online communities: Companies can create online communities for employees to share interests, discuss topics, and connect with each other.
  • Social media groups: Companies can create social media groups for employees to connect and interact with each other. Often employees can come up with brilliant ideas on how they can connect over an online cooking challenge or be part of a walking group!