April 19, 2013
In American culture, we strive for independence. As we achieve success in our careers, we are rewarded with ever-increasing amounts of isolation. We have our own corner offices. We see working from home as a reward. It allows us to get things accomplished. Yet at the same time, without physically being at the office, we tend to miss out on the social aspects of our jobs. We get more done at home, but miss the connections formed by water cooler conversations or by poking our heads into colleague’s offices to ask a quick question. In our home lives, we drive to work alone from single-family dwellings in neighborhoods where the neighbors are virtual strangers. We watch TV or surf the internet rather than forming social connections. We are structuring our lives to promote alone time which, in turn, tends to create loneliness in inherently social creatures. Yet there seems to be a cultural taboo against being lonely. Lonely people don’t have friends and I have friends, right?
We in the A/E industry have an advantage in that our work for the most part is collaborative. We are part of teams within our firms, among our teaming partners and with our clients. Yet while firms have no real obligation to provide social lives for our employees, could it be within our best interests to give employees the opportunity to interact outside the normal office environment? It builds cohesion and engagement, and just makes coming to work more fun when we can discuss how poorly we bowled or strategies for winning the next couple of softball games.
So as firms and as an industry, where do we draw the line between work and social interaction? What, if anything, has your firm done to increase interaction among employees?