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Why are we all too Social to Socialise with our Colleagues?

I can almost already hear the comments about the spare time we have being precious, and should be used to spend time with family and friends – we see our colleagues enough, right?  To some extent I completely agree, our spare time is precious. But can we find the time to spend more social time with our colleagues? I think we can. And more so, I think it’s crucial.

But Why Bother?

I’m of the belief that spending time outside of the office/work environment, together with your team, is a fundamental ingredient required to build a happy environment, committed workforce, and great team culture. And it would appear that I’m not alone: “socializing with your co-workers is essential for your career,” says international author Alexander Kjerulf in ‘How Much Coworker Socializing Is Good For Your Career?’ In the same article, Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach, Dr. Maynard Brusman adds, “People can further develop their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills by socializing with others.” So it seems socialising in the workplace is good for your career progression and good for the development of your social intelligence. We should be doing more of it. However, it seems we are doing it less-and-less. An older trend of colleague get-togethers and work-based friendships is declining. Some people will say: “that’s just the reality of life these days” and “how are we supposed to find the time in our busy schedules?”

Have we actually become any busier though?

Well…

I don’t think so. And, I think it’s quite easy to fit more social time with our colleagues in. With the majority of Social Networks being just that – social. I think we can trim a few extra minutes from many parts of the day spent snapping or friend-requesting, to free up time elsewhere. More time to spend with colleagues; more time for real-life socialising. It’s not only industry authors and psychologists I mentioned earlier expressing these sentiments theoretically. We see evidence of the benefits in ‘real-life’ too. The Marketing Society reports that business pioneer Richard Branson “loves to spend time with his people, whether at work or at a party with them” and in Cult of Mac, Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services for Apple, recalls memories of working alongside Steve Jobs: “Working with him, I always felt that there was a personal connection. It wasn’t just work. And in a way, sometimes he was a brother; sometimes he was a father figure, depending on what it was. But it was a family member nonetheless.” Unfortunately, not many of us have the luxury of owning an island like Branson, and few have the magnetism of Jobs, but spending time with colleagues is certainly something we can all do.

The next objections to this?  I can already hear the new comments about Extrovertism vs. Introvertism… and “it’s easier for some than others” to socialise with our teams, well, of course it is. But whilst that may be the case, it is also easier for some to write a Business Plan, or to conduct an effective Appraisal, or to hit targets – that’s life. That’s business. To be successful, you adapt.

“Work’s not supposed to be fun though”

There is also an argument that “too much” socialising can affect performance and productivity. In a study in the European Management Journal, it was found that “the relationship between group performance and social cohesion peaked at a certain point, and went downhill from there.”

In other words, too much social resulted in productivity decrease. I get this. There has to be an appropriate level, but even this study, which highlights the danger of too much socialising, acknowledges that little social ties often correlated with underperforming teams – so again, it seems socialising has it’s benefits.

I’m not suggesting we should all be going to picnics together every weekend, and of course, there must be an appropriate balance, but regardless of where your job appears on ‘The Happiest And Unhappiest Jobs in 2015’, the odd coffee shop trip, drink after work, or evening out, could go a long way. Try it – you don’t have to go all the time or stay the longest – but make an effort. I’m sure we can all make time, especially if Branson and Jobs fit it in.

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