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Does Co-worker Friendships outside of Work Boosts Work Productivity?

According to an interesting article in the New York Times, “a new report shows that the solution to work stress may be found in the cubicle next door. Employees who feel social support at work are far less likely to suffer serious depression problems, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center studied data collected from more than 24,000 Canadian workers in 2002. They found that 5 percent of the workers suffered from serious bouts of depression.

Due to stressful work or just a busy schedule often times we miss out on communicating with our co-workers on anything other than “employee talk”. We do get our work done but miss out on really knowing the person we work with 25 hours a week!
Also when working in a multi-cultural environment, the lunch hour interaction also gets “culturally segregated” with many employees seeking out their own community co-workers to team up for lunch rather than the colleague next cube.

Do company outings and get-togethers foster better teamwork? Also what do you feel about friendships among co-workers outside of work?

I have seen in my friend circle that even though some of the co-workers are in a healthy social relationship but the spouses oppose strongly to the get-togethers mainly because even though they try their best to avoid the work related issues and criticizing their bosses and other small office talk or keep it to the minimum, it often does creep in always. When it does, they unintentionally create a social dialogue barrier between the few of them and the rest of the crowd. I have seen this happening quite often when this group of co-workers inadvertently moves away into a corner with their drinks and just end up talking about the office issues or common projects they are in.

The spouses feel segregated from the discussions and often oppose the infiltration of office talk in social gatherings. But it is certainly remarkable to see the ease and quickness with which the birds of a feather flock together!

So would it work the best if co-workers met together in a group (comprised of people from same company) and not in a diverse group?

In my previous experience working for a smaller start-up company, the co-worker camaraderie was much enhanced by regular once a month weekend activities which involved family outing together, either for a bowling game, picnic or going boating together. These activities gave the co-workers good time to unwind, to be with their families during the weekend and also getting to know each other better. The same goes for the annual company picnics – it offers a chance to the spouse and kids to meet mom/dad’s co-workers and bosses.

In my opinion if co-workers planned on going in for sports, picnics or other outing activities together it might foster healthier relationships and also understanding within the group rather than just drinking parties where there spouses feel left out of the discussion.
Also companies should encourage and organize frequent community social service events which involve the employees and the families. It is a great way to foster goodwill for the company and a happy feeling for being part of a community giving event which we all feel we should be doing but hardly find time to.
Working in today’s multi-cultural environment, it is also important for companies to be respectful towards the values and culture of the diverse workforce.

In a Business Week magazine question on the Analyze This columns, someone had a related query: “I dread off-site company get-togethers“. This person was quite apprehensive on a beach get-together where everyone was expected to wear swim suits, which she was not so comfortable with and also for another get-together didn’t want to be the one noticed for getting bad scores at the bowling alley.
Kerry Sulkowicz, who gives advice on this section says, “Companies need to be sensitive to the awkwardness they can create in the name of having good time or providing bonding opportunities. In my view, the trend toward merging life and work is neither good not bad. But for employers and employees alike, it demands a new level of self-awareness.”


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