As we 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 98% of respondents to our survey in the Netherlands 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 588 professionals in the Netherlands. 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 Netherlands, 58% of employees have contact with their colleagues outside of office hours. This could mean meeting after work for social gatherings (30%), events at weekends (13%), or even going on holidays with colleagues (6%).

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, 20% of over 35 people socialise after work, compared with 57% of under 35. As family becomes important outside of the office, work colleagues less so. Does this have an impact on productivity?

Are friendly relationships important for productivity?

In the Netherlands today only 64% of people believe that having good relationships with their colleagues in the workplace will positively affect productivity. This percentage is significantly lower than the European average of 85%.

This doesn´t mean that Dutch employees don´t socialise with their colleagues, as 49% send messages or call other about topics that are not related to work.

But what the data seems the suggest is that many Dutch employees - compared to employees in many other European countries - feel less obliged to spend time with their colleagues. Only a little less than 30% meet up after work, compared to a European average of 44%.

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 41% of employees say that they have contact with their direct manager outside working hours.

Only 30% exchange calls or messages that are not related to work, and just 17% spend time with them in the evening on weekdays. This fact is compounded when the statistics tell us that while nearly 44% of respondents say they are friends with their colleagues, only 16% say they are friends with their manager.

About the study

Sample: the survey was conducted among a sample of 588 people in the Netherlands, 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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