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Be social, be more productive

Social interaction increases productivity, even among “cubicle monkeys”, a recent study reports. Social isolation, on the other hand, is counterproductive. The study was reviewed by Nature News.

The researchers attached badges to 23 employees which monitored their movements, who they talk to, etc. for 1,900 hours. Social interaction was defined as direct face-to-face contact rather than electronic communication.

The results of the study can be summarised as:

  • Employees who interact a lot with colleagues between jobs (coffee breaks, lunch, etc.) tend to be more productive and get more work done.
  • The “most social” employee was found to be 60% more productive that his/her “least social” colleague.
  • Interactions while on the job (e.g. considered as interruption), however, lead to loss of productivity.

Details of the results were presented at the International Conference on Network Science in Norwich, UK, last June.

Although the results were a pleasant surprise and can be invaluable in boosting productivity, there are concerns (and justified, I’d say) that such “Big Brother” type of surveillance in the workplace will be commonly implemented for the sake of “research”. The study above gathered data anonymously (e.g. none of the employees were identified by name), but in this day and age, nobody and nothing stays anonymous for long.

While the act of employers keeping tabs on their employees’ use of the Internet and phone has become widespread and tolerated, following each and every movement of an employee can be pretty disturbing – and yes – counterproductive.

Recently, a couple of retail chains in Switzerland were accused of invading the privacy of their employees by installing video cameras that monitor how they spend their breaks, how often they go to the bathroom, etc.

Surely there is a better way to motivate people at work!


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