This is a really interesting read from a sociology and psychology perspective, but where that enters the realm of the workplace is right here:
Researchers for Gallup found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work, and less likely to fall sick or be injured. Without strong social connections, these gains become losses.
I find this to be pretty interesting on a number of levels. Personally, I find myself to be somewhat of a dichotomy in this area, because while I have met not only my wife, but also many of my best friends, through my work, I also absolutely abhor forced interaction. Team-building and bonding events are, for me, some of the most horrific things about being an employee. There is very little that I find at all redeemable about them. Despite this, I am perfectly fine making strong connections with coworkers.
I suspect that many who read this article will jump right in trying to force their staff to get better connected, and that would be a huge mistake. Looking at my own experience, the strong connections are the ones I chose and worked on. The reason those team building attempts didn’t work was because they had to include everyone, and that meant I was being forced to bond with people who I didn’t particularly like. That didn’t help me feel connected to the workplace, it made me dislike those individuals more, and led to less engagement.
So yes, having strong social connections in the workplace can make people more engaged employees. It’s also perfectly normal for some of your staff to not connect and/or not like one another. That’s human. If you try too hard to force connections, you may end up pushing people right out the door.
That being said, the lack of strong social connections is a very real problem, and not just for those of us who have moved across the country a few times in recent years. It’s happening everywhere as people simple move further and further apart.