15 Jan How Socializing at Work Can Triple Your Teams Performance
I’ve often had converations with key people in Professional services firms that centre around their confusion for the need to have “social” spaces at work, believing that if you’re “socializing” at work then you’re not working. These conversations have also extended to a look of bewilderment as to why their employees would want to establish friendships with their coworkers, and why I would even be suggesting that this should be a factor for their consideration in the design of their new workplace.
The truth is that as humans we are hard wired with a desire for connection and a need to belong. We are by our very nature dependant on those around us from our earliest being. As babies we cannot survive without the care and attention of those in our family structures, instilling in us a need for belonging to survive.
By creating workplaces that encourage socialization we enable cross-collaboration which in turn can support us to develop more meaningful connections with those that we work with. These connections help us to establish trust, laying the foundations for building high performing teams. Spaces that influence these behaviours are not new to our workplaces. Once the water cooler was the place that people gathered to connect and share informal banter, today, the coffee machine has taken its place within the broader café/kitchen environment, where people are drawn together and engage in informal communication that cross’s departmental boundaries, breaking down invisible divides.
When we were first engaged by Livingstones they expressed their concern around the silos that existed between their internal departments, which prevented their teams from cross collaborating and using their shared skill sets to solve their clients problems. They identified that the physical space that they were occupying created barriers to them living true to the values of their organization and their desire to work collectively and with equality across the firm.
Following our strategic research into the organization we identified that the reason employees were coming to the office, was for very different reasons than what was previously thought, most were coming to the office to socialize in a professional capacity. It was identified that employees were either working in clients offices, attending court or working from home. When they did come into the office it was to connect with their colleagues, engage in brainstorming to solve complex problems and to connect with the organization. No truer is the saying “two heads are better than one” than in this instance.
Designing an environment that catered to this broader need of bringing people together to collaborate, solve problems and build relationships, along with connecting them back to the organization and its greater purpose, Livingstones have experienced a huge shift. They are seeing enhanced relationships built, increased communication and teams cross pollinating idea’s, and the result has been transformational to their business.
“In the 6mths following the completion of the project, Livingstones achieved their highest financial performance on record in their 35year history, which they have attributed to the way they are know able to interact in the new space.” Nadia Taylor, Executive Director | Livingstones
Gallup, have also produced research that further supports the idea of socialization at work and the establishment of relationships with colleagues, identifiying that when you have a best friend at work you are more engaged and less likely to leave.
By creating spaces that encourage collaboration and enabling employees to communicate easily, the foundations for these relationships are laid. Constructing spaces that signall to people that they are able to collaborate and that it is the desire of the organization for people to come together, to engage in conversation and share idea’s, to socialize, dismissing the beliefs that when people are socializing that they are not working.
Conciously funneling people into spaces at density aids in the creation of serendipitous and informal converations. By chanelling people in a central space, like the café and the coffee machine, we are seeing prople engage in conversations that they normally wouldn’t have, with people from different departments and floors. These converstions lead to the sparks of new ideas and result in innovation and creative thinking, a change in our aproach to problems. As a knowledge workforce this is our ultimate business value. These informal conversatins are not contrived or forced in structured meetings ,we’re actively bringing people together that normally wouldn’t interact and enabling them to have a creative converstaions.
With the continued evolution of technology and our ability to physically work from anywhere, I strongly believe that the role of our work environments will change. We no longer need to come to the office to work, as our technology enables us to work from anywhere. Our workplaces will become our central hubs for professional socialization, the place we come to establish deeper connections with our colleagues, to break open those tough problems where we need alternative viewpoints and to remind us of why we work for Company A and not their competitor down the road.
Whilst all of these principles make sense we are often confronted by the comments of, “it’s going to be too expensive to build a new office”, through to “isn’t it expensive to create a workplace that encourages collaboration due to the cost of the furniture I need?”. The converstation that we need to be having is “what is it going to cost you if you don’t?”. If you don’t embrace the changes that need to be made, what is the cost of lost opportunity? Where skill transfer between colleagues is non-existant and employees become singularly skilled. Lost revenue due to the inability to cross sell acors multiple diciplines or to build on existing relationships through your diverse products and services. The cost of staff turnover, resulting in recruitment, onboarding and training, which studies have shown to be 6x the salary of the individual, because your workplace doesn’t engage them, doesn’t establish relationships to connect them to colleagues, to build those strong relationships, so you ultimately cannot retain htem.
Establishing spaces in our work environments that draw people together and enables them to interact spontaneously, informally and collaborate across teams will see the sparks of innovation. We will begin to see skill transfer, cross selling and the strengthening of realtionships between individuals, instilling a sense of camaraderie and a collegiate nature, where we are all able to achieve. A place where we have got each others back, we’re invested in the success of our colleagues due to the strength of their relationships with us, and by human nature we all want to see each other succeed.