“I see you hanging out by the coffee machine a lot—you must not have enough work to do.”
This comment, accompanied by raised eyebrows or a not-too-friendly tone of voice, probably sounds familiar to a lot of office workers. Many bosses feel that socializing at work is wasted time that decreases productivity. Ben Franklin would have agreed. “Lost time is never found,” he warned.
However, recent research shows just the opposite. It turns out that socializing at work increases productivity. In a Fast Company article, the results of research by MIT Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland were reported. It turns out that when people in work groups talk to each other a lot (showing high engagement with each other, irrespective of the kind of work they do), they are more productive than groups that don’t interact as much.
Pentland cited research done at a Bank of America call center. He persuaded a manager at the facility to change the policy in the office allowing only one individual at a time to take a coffee break. When the bank allowed two people at a time to take a coffee break, the least-productive groups increased productivity by 20 percent.