Two Friends Walk Into An Office…
The Power Of Meaningful Relationships In The Workplace.
By Chris Eddy, Founder and CEO of Blipic
This may be the start of a bad joke. Or perhaps, just maybe, a magical cure to many of our workplace challenges.
It’s easy for many of us to look back to days when the majority of offices were broken into 6’x6’ walled off squares that we drudged ourselves into 5 days a week, spending over half of our waking hours surrounded by a family photo or two, a bit of office humor, and that infamous red stapler. Our only escape would be a short walk to refill our mugs with whatever liquid would power us through the day. If we got lucky, we may stumble into a momentary chance to socialize by the water cooler, before retreating back to our tiny office homes.
Then some designer or tech giant started a trend. Open floor plans. Everyone was free! And the days of the cubicle were behind us. Flexible spaces led to flexible hours, which led to remote working, office ping pong tables, onsite yoga classes, then… what? What we were actually trying to achieve?
Businesses suggested employees were healthier when they were let off the leash. Studies claimed more work got done. More creative ideas were generated. Profits increased. And all was well in the corporate environment. Then why did over 2 million data points in the UK based study “Mappyness” reveal our two least happy moments in life to be when we are ill and when we are at work?
I recently visited a high-tech corporate office in Austin, TX. They clearly had the “culture” thing down. Wildly designed interiors. Ping Pong and foosball tables. A cafeteria serving 3 FREE meals a day. And not a cubicle in sight.
They even had a Smoothie Bike. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
My best analogy to describe it would be a college campus. Yet this business was wildly profitable. These were certainly not the unhappy employees Mappyness identified. Looking past this playground like landscape, there was something more happening here. These employees were having consistent social interactions throughout their day. They were creating real human connection.
We spend on average, 56% percent of our waking hours with co-workers. It would make sense that maintaining positive relationships with them would improve our mental state and therefore our performance in the workplace.
A Gallup study among woman recently illustrated the importance of friendship and inclusion in the workplace. They concluded that those who have a BEST friend at work are twice as engaged (63%) as those who do not (29%). With higher levels of employee engagement leading to lower turnover, more collaboration, greater innovation, higher levels of job satisfaction, and decreased stress and fatigue among teams, it’s safe to say fostering this would be a sound investment.
What about the hours outside the 9-5 grind? Surely, 5:00pm hits and we all run straight to Happy Hour with good friends, a pickup soccer game in the park, or a casual dinner with our significant other almost every day… No? The reality is that in a world more connected than ever, Social Isolation has become a serious concern. Bouts of depression, anxiety, and the recently dubbed FOMO (fear of missing out), can all be attributed to lack of real world social connection.
Our brains require other humans.
We thrive on the opportunity to interact, share our ideas, or simply vent our daily stresses. Abraham Maslow, in his 1943 Hierarchy Of Needs, defined Social Belonging as one of the most basic human requirements for an individual to productively contribute to society. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a research psychologist at BYU analysed over 150 studies relating to social isolation and concluded that fostering meaningful relationships may have as much, if not more, of an impact on our mental and physical health as diet and exercise.
With healthcare costs continuing to skyrocket, turnover rates across the US hovering around 2-3 years, nationwide loss in productivity surpassing $50-billion annually, and a population that is increasingly looking for a lifestyle fit in the workplace, perhaps investing in Health Risk Assessments, Office Gyms, and trying to compete for the coolest onsite perk goes beyond what’s necessary.
Maybe we simply need to present more opportunity for employees to hang out, together.
Austin based Blipic is aiming to do exactly this. If you would like to continue conversation on this topic, please reach out through our contact form or connect directly with Chris Eddy, Founder and CEO.
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