This blog was written for Indiana INTERNnet and was published here originally.
Depending on how much you enjoy your co-workers’ company, you may or may not find the idea of hanging out with them appealing. However, taking the time to get to know fellow employees while you’re all away from your desks can improve everyone’s work performance and bring the team closer together. An article from SUCCESS Magazine says that socialization among employees creates a “culture of connectivity” that regular work days do not necessarily foster.
There are certain precautions that you should take when spending time with your co-workers outside of the office. After all, you’re going to see them every day when you come into the office, so you need to be mindful of how you carry yourself and what you say – even if you’re just swapping stories on your own time. Avoid oversharing to prevent your new friends from feeling uncomfortable and avoid speaking negatively about your supervisor(s). No matter how close you might feel you are with the person you’re talking to, there should always be boundaries in place so that you don’t jeopardize your job.
“If your co-worker complains along with you, you’re likely not in a productive alliance,” advises Aricia LaFrance, a career consultant. If they don’t agree with your complaints, you might develop reputation for being difficult or negative. “It’s important to vent but limit it and do it with friends outside of work whom you can trust.”
There are benefits to spending time with co-workers outside of the office, even if it’s to attend a company event. Stephen Ufford, CEO of Trulioo, says that co-workers “should definitely hang out outside of work.” He believes that these friendships can have a variety of positive effects, including better interpersonal communication and increased understanding among a company’s employees. Other administrators agree, and company events are becoming more popular to encourage bonding outside of the office.
While “team building” activities have been popular for quite some time, they can easily come across as forced – which in turn means that employees won’t find them enjoyable. Coercing people into doing trust falls and participating in other cliché activities will likely drive a wedge between the supervisor and their employees. However, more relaxed company outings, like attending a professional baseball game as a group, are more likely to yield positive effects and encourage positive relationships.
If you’d like to get to know a colleague (or several colleagues) better, but your place of employment doesn’t have any events planned, you could always seek out other professional development or networking opportunities and invite them along. This will provide a chance for you to learn more about each other and makes attending a networking session less intimidating because you’re not there alone.
In short, there are a number of benefits to bonding with your team members outside of work, as long as you maintain a clear understanding of what’s professional and what’s considered crossing the line. Want to test out the positive impact of socializing with co-workers for yourself? We’re accepting RSVPs for our final summer networking event through Aug. 17. This free opportunity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, called meet@TheChallenge, is open to interns and young professionals. Invite your co-worker along for fun times and food!