Last year, I, Wendy, painted my deck. I was sure it would be a long and painful experience, and I was disheartened even before I began. On the first day, I painted for three hours before losing motivation and going for a walk. On the second day, I did the same. Before starting work on the morning of day three, I was talking on the phone with a friend and bemoaned the arduous task that lay ahead of me.
To my surprise, she showed up within the hour, paintbrush in hand. We painted, chatted, and laughed, and we worked much longer together than I would have worked on my own. By the time the sun set, my deck was beautifully restored, and my painting days were over. Just as working with a friend increased my motivation, productivity, and satisfaction, being in a workplace with a culture of strong connections can have a similar result.
An Experiment in Collaboration
In 1999, Richard Sheridan was the vice president of research and development at a software company, and he conducted a radical experiment. Rather than assigning one programmer to each computer, he required employees to work collaboratively by allowing only one computer for every two programmers.
Working collaboratively reduces stress while increasing motivation, productivity, satisfaction.
His staff were reluctant. One programmer said the idea would lead to “blood, mayhem, [and] murder.” Another announced that he was going to leave the company. But after sharing a computer for three weeks, that same employee had changed his mind. He told Sheridan, “I am having so much fun, it doesn’t feel like work anymore…. I’m not sure you should pay me.”2
Why did Sheridan’s experiment work so well? Why was painting the deck with my friend so much easier than doing it alone? Because working collaboratively reduces stress while increasing motivation, productivity, satisfaction.
Camaraderie and Increased Motivation
One of the most significant benefits of meaningful relationships at work is the feeling of camaraderie. As Edward Everett Hale is said to have stated, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
Coworkers who like each other look out for each other both in good times and in times of higher stress.
Coworkers who like each other look out for each other both in good times and in times of higher stress. They experience positive energy and the power of collectively working toward a shared goal. In one study, Stanford researchers Priyanka B. Carr and Gregory M. Walton found that even when people thought they were working on a task with others, they persisted 48–64 percent longer than those who believed they were working alone. They reported less fatigue, performed better, had better recall of the details involved in the task, and spontaneously expressed greater enjoyment of and interest in the task. Even one to two weeks later, they freely took on similar and more challenging tasks than those who believed they had been working alone.3
In our consulting work, we’ve had the opportunity to talk with people from many different organizations, and we’ve noticed that workers frequently cite camaraderie as a reason for coming to work. Sometimes it is the only reason they still work where they do. In our experience, it’s clear that people work harder and longer when they are part of a group effort.
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