The Modern Work Team

By: Rachel Wozniak

“Keep your work and personal life separate.”

This is what we were always told as we began to enter the professional world. What your life consists of outside of the office should be kept at an arm’s length; it would only invite the threat of unfair judgment that can affect growth and office perception. Sure, people have always had “work friends” with whom conversations were kept to a polite minimum, but this usually doesn’t go beyond 9–5 or the occasional happy hour.

However, as millennials continue to expand their influence more and more throughout the workspace, this line in the sand is starting to fade. There are a variety of different reasons that employees are willing to, even eager to, establish closer friendships with their coworkers: millennials are accustomed to more interactive teams, they are implants to unknown cities looking for new connections, and it’s a key part of the trendy open (literally and figuratively) work environment.

The integration of the two “separate lives” breaks down the walls that former office relationships built up. Millennials are all young professionals that are close in age, going through similar stages in our lives, sharing similar interests, and spending eight or more hours a day together. Why would we keep these walls up simply because of where the relationship was fostered?

When you establish these more personal relationships with coworkers, it makes discussing work, deadlines and projects much less stressful, both in the office and outside of it. With flex hours becoming more common across the work place, evening and weekend hours are an inevitable addition to the workweek. These extra hours don’t have to be seen negatively if it is spent with friends and can become both productive, while simultaneously being able to feel at ease and relaxed with whomever you are with, even looking forward to spending this out of the office time with them.

Additionally, with any conflict or disagreement, people are more likely to honestly discuss and evaluate the situation with someone that they care about and respect, rather than the tension caused when coworkers jump on the negatives without bothering to understand any underlying feelings, motivations or issues.

This post was prompted by a recent “Work from Florida” trip that our insights team took together. Provoked by cheap Spirit flights and the cold winter months of Pittsburgh, we all decided to book a trip together so that we could collaborate and work, while also getting a much-needed vacation. After several days in close quarters, we managed to get the refresh that we all needed, not fall behind or feel stress over hitting deadlines, and return to the office afterwards still remaining close friends and coworkers.

Some may argue that going away together would cause a “fun trip” to become a stressful “work trip” . In fact, a vacation with coworkers actually relieves the stress of being away from the office. Since we were all together to quickly catch up on projects, talk to clients and collaborate, there was no worry about what we were missing while away or the pile of work that was waiting for us upon our return.

As workplaces continue to evolve with newer generations, the relationships need to keep up. While work and personal life separating may have been successful in the past, newer work environments encourage closer relationships that foster stronger working relationships, positive cultures and a new view on how to handle day-to-day issues and interactions.

Rachel is a Senior Associate at 113 Industries, specializing in Consumer Insights and Spanish-language analysis. She is also an online shopping extraordinaire, Lion King enthusiast and can be spotted running around the City of Bridges.