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Working Around the Water Cooler

The world of work has changed. Gone are the days when work was a paper-intensive process, compartmentalized among specialists with well-defined, tangible tasks that could be executed individually. In the current knowledge economy, both individuals and teams create value and drive business performance. Due to the people and team-focused aspects of today’s work, socializing has transformed from a frowned-upon activity to a critical role in success. It enables the fostering of social networks and infrastructure that moves knowledge through an organization to create innovation. Socializing creates common bonds and values, collective identity, collegiality, and productive relationships. In the 21st century workplace, socializing creates and builds social capital, and encourages the trust of colleagues.

Socializing can no longer be considered a time-waster. In our US Workplace Survey we found that top-performing companies socialize 16% more than average companies. Further, they consider it almost three times more critical than average companies. Our most forward-thinking clients understand that retention, communication, and innovation are critical outcomes of this work mode. The social aspects of work are clearly becoming more critical to organizational performance.
For workplace design this means more attention paid to informal gathering areas, layouts that encourage interaction with less walls and more openness, and design of an environment that is comfortable and inviting.

Janet Pogue is a Principal in Gensler’s Washington, D.C. office. She co-leads the firm’s Workplace Practice and is a frequent writer and speaker on the critical issues affecting the design of high performing work environments. Contact her at janet_pogue@gensler.com.

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