Work is one of the biggest identity-and character-forming stages for any adult — and a big part of that is the relationships we form at the workplace. What changes await the generation that spends 1–2 years at most at any job?
Basically, we will miss out on $100,000 a year. Let’s back it up.
In the US, 42% of people working in technology, hospitality and transportation switch positions within 1–2 years. This has an obvious upside: according to research, job hopping has led to 20–30% productivity growth in the IT sector. But what are we losing out by not having enough time to develop deeper relationships with our coworkers?
Job hopping seems to be generational: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, the median tenure for workers ages 55 to 64 was 10.4 years, while the tenure for workers between 25 and 34 was 3 years. Those who start work today will probably have more workplaces within a decade then their parents had all their lives.
This effectively causes a change in human relationships: it is much harder to invest in friendships once we know we will not stick around for long. According to Olenka Kacperczyk, in 1985, about half of the Americans claimed to have had close friends at work: in 2004, only 30 percent. Even though research shows it is more satisfying to work with friends, not to mention more effective. It’s simple: if you care about your coworkers, and if you feel safe telling them your ideas, you will work harder, and be more creative.
It might look like they are wasting time looking at the Olympics results or something, but on the long run, this will make their work much more effective. Source: freepik.com
Not reaching out to develop deeper relationships with our coworkers has other reasons too, of course: finding the work-life balance is harder than ever, and staying in touch with our old friends from college is easier than ever. Why hang out with people from your workplace when you already spend 10+ hours with them every day, when you could just group message your college friends?
Well, partly because work is important for the development of self. According to Al Gini, “as adults we find identity and are identified by the work we do”. Your colleagues, the relationships you form with them all help you make sense of who you are.
And partly, because as humans, connecting socially is what we do. Matthew Liebermann’s research proved that when our brain is not engaged in an active task, it will direct itself to think about other people. Liebermann says that evolution’s bet was that our brain’s best use of its resources for thinking socially — in a big part, because humans are the happiest when they can help someone.
Economists actually put a price tag on our socially active brain: seeing a friend most days makes us as happy as earning $100,000 more each year. By missing out on having friends at work — having someone to help, someone to share our stories with — we miss out on a sizeable pay rise.
But how could organisations help for their employees to form relationship, in spite of all the pressure to do the opposite? (Such as shortened work tenures, availability of college friends, precarious work-life balance.) Google, Amazon and numerous startups are betting on the great socializer: eating together. By offering free breakfast or lunch, they help people actually gather and talk to each other. Big 4 companies and Linkedin are both betting on their alumni projects to foster a sense of community and investment in relationships in a world where people don’t spend decades at the same workplace.
What is your company doing to give a sense of community to your employees?