We asked 540 people whether they got involved in work socials and despite all the research that confirms socials are good for business, only 15% of respondents said they regularly engaged in a range of activities with colleagues from work. A further 29% said they socialised with colleagues but mainly for post-work drinks (we’ll come to that later), and an overwhelming 56% said no, or at least not beyond the Christmas party. (In fact, some people felt very strongly about not spending time with colleagues – take a look at our Twitter if you wish to read their comments!)
Socials are good for Business
There’s lots of research to back the benefits of colleagues spending time with each other in an informal context. A study by Kenexa Institute shows that “50% of the positive changes in communication patterns within the workplace can be accredited to social interaction outside of the workplace” and relationships with co-workers were identified “as the top driver of employee engagement, with 77% of participants listing these connections as a priority” according to a report for The Society for Human Resource Management.
The inspirational Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos says:
“We believe the best teams are those that not only work with each other, but also interact with each other outside the office environment. Many of the company’s best ideas have been the direct result of informal interactions outside the office”.
Read more about Zappos’ amazing company culture in our book review of Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.)
Get the Most from Work Socials
We were surprised at how many people keep their work-life firmly in the office and saddened by the passionate comments indicating how some people feel about spending time with colleagues.
There are many studies, including this one from Gallup that show that “forming friendships with co-workers increases levels of happiness and makes an employee a more engaged worker”. If there are issues with team cohesion, you should know about it. There are survey tools out there that are free to use and can collect data anonymously. Find out what people want and how they feel, so you can respond accordingly.
Almost 30% of respondents to our poll indicated that post-work drinks were the main focus of out-of-office socials. Whilst this is fun for some, it’s not inclusive for those who don’t drink alcohol, or for colleagues who need to head straight home after work. Mix it up.
Here at RightTrack, we’ve enjoyed nights out; we’ve signed up for physical challenges like The Great Birmingham Run, the infamous Trailwalker event and most recently, WolfRun; and our quarterly Book Club has been hosted over Afternoon Tea, with pancakes on Pancake Day and even at a team breakfast.
It is also worth remembering that some people, no matter what activity you choose, just don’t want to socialise with their colleagues. For example, people who are neurodivergent may not feel comfortable in social settings. No matter what the reason, be conscious of sharing ideas or decisions that come from out-of-hour get-togethers.
Remember Workplace Etiquette.
Spending time outside of the official place of work has benefits as we’ve discussed; however, we recommend reinforcing the fact that company policies still apply. We have worked with lots of organisations who have come to us to help them retrospectively address issues that have occurred as a result of inappropriate behaviour or comments at work socials, on WhatsApp groups or social media platforms. Being clear on where the boundaries are from the beginning ensures socials add benefits not rifts.