As we previously explored in the article: Blurring work-life communication – are you always on? it is fairly easy to understand how technology blurs the lines between our work and private lives, and how this also impacts on our happiness levels.

What is less easy to see is how the blending of professional and private social circles can also affect our happiness. And with 99% of respondents to our survey in the Belgium saying that positive relationships with their colleagues are important to them, this subject is not going anywhere soon.

The importance of relationships at work (and outside the office)

PageGroup decided to investigate the work-life balance phenomenon by conducting a survey in June 2018 of 250 professionals in Belgium. Separating our private and professional lives is becoming increasingly complex due to the presence of connected devices, activities outside of work, and normal out-of-office socialising. The introduction of Millennials and Generation Y have also changed the equilibrium of the workforce, with their differing expectations of what a workplace should offer.

In 21st century Belgium, 56% of employees have contact with their colleagues outside of office hours. This could mean sending messages or calling each other about topics that are not related to work (40%), meeting after work for social gatherings (40%), events at weekends (9%), or even going on holidays with colleagues (4%).

The survey also tells us that these social norms change as people a) get older and have families, and b) have more responsibility at work, highlighting that the new generations entering the workplace have different drivers when creating bonds with colleagues. For example, 33% of over 35 people socialise after work, compared with 59% of under 35. As family becomes important outside of the office, work colleagues less so. Does this have an impact on productivity?

Friendly relationships boost productivity

In Belgium today 74% of people believe that having good relationships with their colleagues in the workplace will positively affect productivity – with 60% agreeing that the same is true for the relationship with their manager.

Employee well-being and fulfilment are the real drivers of performance. When employees get to know and understand their colleagues, this creates trust – and a bond that positively influences professionality.  

Companies understand this, which is why they actively encourage employees to meet outside of work for company social activities. In fact, 58% of employees have introduced family members to their colleagues, with 43% happening at their employer’s initiative (such as office Christmas parties, summer picnics and birthday parties.).

Employees closer to direct colleagues than managers

As the old saying goes, there is no constant in business but change. The current effects of technology and the gradual flattening of the management pyramid are seeing businesses undergoing a revolution of sorts. To improve delivery, teams are being empowered to build broader skillsets and work more closely together.

That said, an amount of distance remains deeply rooted in the relationships between managers and their employees, and vice versa. Only 38% of employees say that they have contact with their direct manager outside working hours.

Only 22% exchange calls or messages that are not related to work, and just 18% spend time with them in the evening on weekdays, 12% less than with their colleagues at the same level. This fact is compounded when the statistics tell us that while nearly 53% of respondents say they are friends with their colleagues, only a little more than 17% say they are friends with their manager.

About the study

Sample: the survey was conducted among a sample of 250 people in Belgium, including unemployed people, employees, and managers.

Methodology: the representativeness of the sample assured by an adjustment of the data (gender, occupation of the interviewee, proportion of people in a job).

Collection method: the interviews consisted of self-administered questionnaires completed online over the month of June.

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