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Work hard, play hard: why socialising matters to office life

Put a load of people together in an office it won’t be long until friendships start to blossom. Keep them there for nine hours a day – far longer than they will spend with their own friends an family – and you can expect a healthy social scene to emerge.

The question of fraternising with colleagues is divisive. For some, a strong boundary between work and life is vital for both to flourish; for others, it is the friendships we find at work that make office life enjoyable, even bearable. There is always a half-way house: you may not choose to join the Friday night pub sessions but no one can work in total isolation.

And there are political and logistical issues to navigate. Few of us would want to spend a whole evening hanging out with their boss, or to see your manager walk into the pub when you’ve had one shandy too many. It can also be difficult to leave the minutiae of work behind, and conversation often revolves around work until colleagues become more entwined in one another’s personal lives.

Coworking offers a solution to these dilemmas: members work near each other but not with one another, giving space for friendships to be formed outside of the office walls. Socialising is also crucial for networking, finding contacts and learning how skills might be utilised and traded. Moreover, it makes for a much more convivial atmosphere when you do come to sit down at your desk.

It is inevitable that some friendships become something more – and like social dynamics, office romances have both positive and negative connotations. Few offices ban relationships between colleagues – it isn’t easy to enforce such a ban anyway. Most simply ask for discretion and not to let relationships outside of the office affect what happens within. Indeed, far from inciting jealousy or anxiety, many of us enjoy watching our coworkers fall in love.

The adage of ‘work hard, play hard’ may seem a little extreme in today’s society, where it’s all about a balance between the two. But there is a ying and yang to work and play that is important to  maintain in office life.

A social network is also a support network and a chance for coworkers to chat through problems in a relaxed setting. Getting to know your colleagues outside of the office offers better understanding of their motivations at work.

And while these are vital factors in improving work dynamics, the value of work friendships are often much more base. Because when you’re having a bad day, puzzling over the photocopier or despairing over a project, it’s nice to have a friend nearby.

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