Worrying about being seen as a slacker is holding Londoners back.
Many of us spend more time in the office than we do with our partners, housemates, or friends. So why are we so reluctant to invest time and energy in fostering genuine relationships with our co-workers?
You might think you already get on well with workmates. But strong relationships run deeper than exchanging quips about last night’s football and volunteering for the odd tea round. More personal elements – taking an interest in people’s hobbies or families, going for after-work drinks, and taking part in office sports or charity activities – are the building blocks of deeper relationships that contribute to a more productive office environment.
New research from LinkedIn reveals a strong positive correlation between the sociability of offices and how productive the people working in them feel.
But it also shows that Londoners in particular are neglecting their office relationships, with a “heads down, earphones in” culture emerging in the post-crash years.
This “lone wolf” mentality is perhaps understandable: in a competitive and uncompromising working environment, nobody wants to be perceived as the office slacker, more concerned with niceties than the bottom line.
It might also explain why only a third of British professionals socialise with colleagues outside work hours, leaving us among the least sociable of the 13 nationalities surveyed. This is despite a third claiming that having friends at work made them happier, and a fifth saying it makes them more productive.
Forging more personal and productive workplace relationships needn’t be too arduous a task. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Take a personal interest. While you might not feel comfortable going as far as giving relationship advice, take an interest in your workmates as people. If someone is always dashing out of the office with a yoga mat under their arm, ask them about it one day.
Do lunch. Around 60 per cent of British professionals never eat lunch with colleagues. Pick one day a week to grab a bite to eat with someone – some company will help you relax, and you’ll get to know a workmate better.
Step out and socialise. In Indonesia – the most social country, according to LinkedIn’s survey – 50 per cent of professionals said socialising with colleagues helped their career progression, compared with only 4 per cent in the UK. Making an effort now will help you build rapport.
Stay connected. Only 37 per cent of Londoners are still in touch with former colleagues – in Hong Kong, it’s 60 per cent. It can be hard when people move on, so make sure you stay connected and keep up with their updates. Former colleagues could help you land your dream job, provide business leads, or even be your next hire.
But finally, know where the line is – and stay on the right side of it. A fifth of Londoners have sent their manager a text message out of work hours about a non-related issue – just try not to do or say anything inappropriate.
Ariel Eckstein is managing director of LinkedIn Europe, Middle East and Africa.
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