by Stacey Thompson
Working from home (telecommuting) might be a real trendy thing nowadays, but chances are that most of the people you know are still reporting to an office or worksite to do their daily toil.
The modern day office may still have a lot of traditional holdovers from eras past, but it has to be said that there are also many fundamental changes. Most of these changes are brought about by the paradigm shifts brought about by the information age, and the reactions and adaptations people have made in response to these innovations.
The differences can be seen when you compare a more traditional business institution to a more modern IT-centric company: tenure vs. signing bonuses and perks, time-tested experience vs. raw talent, lifetime employment vs. short-term gigs, making radical strategic calls at a moment’s notice vs. inundating each day with long meetings and corporate resolution forms, etc.
Let’s focus on the particular aspect of social interactions among employees. Traditionally, since workers would prefer to stay in a company for most of their lives, the people they work with tend to be their primary social group, along with their families.
To make things more harmonious within the workplace, the human resources people are also tasked with providing opportunities for social interaction for the employees, building team integrity and bolstering their loyalty towards the company. Planned occasions such as company outings, picnics, anniversary parties, and other similar functions are among the standard fare when it comes to employee social interactions.
These practices are still very much alive, even in the more modern companies, albeit somewhat diminished in frequency. Nowadays, employees have a wider variety of work schedules and venues. The standard 9-5 office worker still exists, but there are also other shifts, especially if the company operates on more than one region of the world. Getting together with the rest of the company might not be practical.
A Compulsory Requirement It Shouldn’t Be.
Here is where my opinion starts to stray from the what used to be the norm. The way I see it, not every person is inclined to be an outwardly extroverted individual, and even among those who are, not all of them are comfortable with the idea of socializing with the people he/she works with beyond work hours; you already see and interact with these same people for most of the work week, isn’t it going overboard to spend even your leisure time with them?
Some are more inclined to keep to themselves, with others prefer small groups that comprise of teammates within a department, or with people from different branches of the company whom they share some extra-curricular interest with.
No amount of parties and interactions can change what some people are comfortable with, and these forced employee social functions do not help most introverted workers with their social interactions with their coworkers, or improve their opinion of the company in general.
Employee Initiated, Voluntary, and Segregated.
As opposed to herding all the workers together like livestock, a more progressive company should instead give leeway to the employees to plan their own social gatherings. Contrary to the belief that this will fragment the workforce socially, this is a more sensible approach to forcibly making them interact, a move that might even have worse ramifications like excessive competitive posturing (“pissing contests”), a level of familiarity that inevitably leads to contempt, and all others sorts of office drama.
One or two important and must-attend company interactions per year are within reason (company anniversary and the holidays, usually). Apart from that, it should be up to the employees when and how they interact, and none of these unofficial social events must be given the kind of importance that they cannot be passed over.
With all the advanced communication tools available to us today, there is simply very little risk of losing touch with coworkers and the company’s “voice.” Keeping the employees on the same page and engaged with each other and the management is just an employee recognition platform away.
[Image from Pinterest]
Stacey Thompson is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, and a lover of weird little animals. She shares a blog with her gang of gals, Word Baristas. She is based in San Diego, California.