Is there a place for socialisation at work?

Is there a place for socialisation at work?

The more an industry is disrupted by digital technologies, the more its workers value “social competencies” such as collaboration, empathy and entrepreneurial skills.

SEAN GALLAGHER,
‘LEARNING-INTERGRATED WORK’ – LEARNING REIMAGINED FOR THE DIGITAL AGE

 

Healthy relationships at work have many advantages for both the employee and the employer. They lead to effective collaboration and increased employee engagement, wellbeing, and retention.

That’s why socialisation is a very important factor in the design of a workplace. When we shape spaces, we think about how they can spark conversations and enable the community to thrive, encouraging people to interact and connect at a personal level.

Socialisation before work collaboration.

Collaboration spaces are great to bring people together to brainstorm, ideate and contribute to a larger discussion, but what good are they if they’re not creating successful outcomes? Before collaboration can happen, people in your organization, firstly need to know their colleagues⁠—who they are and what their skills and abilities are.

When you know the people you work with, you know who you can bring to the table. Who can help you come up with solutions? Who are the key people for your project?

Without first socialising, there is no opportunity for effective collaboration. Idea’s come from everywhere and this means that innovative ideas leading to innovative solutions are potentially being lost.

It’s also easier to ask for help and guidance from someone you regularly talk to.

Knowing your colleagues on a personal level increases employee engagement, wellbeing and retention.

In some organisations, this kind of workplace relationship is discouraged, and possibly even frowned upon, due to a belief that it lowers productivity by wasting time on idle chit chat.  However it is actually through these connections that you can increase your employee engagement and retention.

Research by Gallup shows that having a best friend at work increases employee engagement, with these employees putting more effort into their work than those who don’t have a best friend in the office. In the same report they said that:

When employees possess a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they are driven to take positive actions that benefit the business—actions they may not otherwise even consider if they did not have strong relationships with their coworkers.

Aside from increasing performance, strong social connections and therefore friendships make a person happier and healthier. These genuine relationships fill a basic human need, the need to belong, and our work relationships have an immense impact because we spend a huge chunk of our day with our colleagues.

This level of socialisation helps reduce stress, loneliness, and other mental health issues, which are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society.

And to top all that off, people think twice about leaving a company because of the friendships that they have already built, establishing a strong support system within the organization.  Why lose that?

Employees today are placing greater importance on company culture, and one that stimulates strong social relationships would be hard to leave.  It’s a huge win for your people and for your business, as happy, healthy employees are more productive and engaged. 

Designing workplaces for socialisation

So how do we do it?

Steve Jobs was extremely particular about it.  Before his time at Apple, Steve was reimaging the workplace at Pixar, believing that chance encounters would lead to cross-pollination of idea’s.  With one basic function that humans all share, he placed the bathrooms at the center of the workplace, ensuring people from across the floor had an opportunity to interact. 

At COMUNiTI, we consider the flow: how the layout of the workplace brings people together through and create chance encounters and positively influence behavior. We create distinct socialisation points in the movement through the office; entry areas, café spaces, stairways, print zones, tea points, bathrooms and breakout areas. These spaces enable spontaneous interactions that open up opportunities for people to meet and connect without an agenda.

A technique that we often employ to channel people from various departments together is having a singular kitchen or café space. People from different teams come together at this social spot and start conversations whilst preparing and sharing a meal, that break down barriers and silos, often unintentionally created by departmental structures or multiple floor tenancies. 

Singular print zones are also perfect spots for people “bumping” into colleagues. Work-related tasks encourage people to move around and engage in unplanned conversations.  These social areas bring people together and promote deeper work relationships.

As an employer, there is an opportunity to create a workplace environment that takes care of your people’s health and wellbeing, and one avenue to achieving this is by making the office a hub for good friends and strong support systems.

Socialisation may not solve a particular work problem at this particular point in time, but it will later lead to strong outcomes and creative solutions through collaboration.

So, does your workplace encourage people to socialise at work?

Create an environment where interactions naturally happen and enable friendships in the workplace­ and see how this works for your business. Everyone wins!

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