“67% of millennials are likely to share personal details [at work]…while only one-third of baby boomers do the same,” found a 2014 study by LinkedIn.
The work/life balance is an unspoken rule among working people. What happens at home shouldn’t be brought to work, and vice versa. This has long been the idea undergirding “professionalism.” But millennials have challenged this distinction in a very simple but powerful way.
It goes without saying: there are many reasons to keep the work/life distinction afloat. The workplace is not home. And a certain level of professionalism is required to maintain an efficient organization. This is true without qualification.
But what millennials have done, writes Sarah Landrum of Forbes, is widened their investment in the workplace. Work isn’t just an investment of time for them; it’s also an emotional investment. And this isn’t a bad thing. The attempt to roadblock the emotional aspect is not only a misunderstanding of science (the brain is interconnected in unimaginably complex ways), but a recipe for unproductive habits.
How Work + Happiness = Productivity
Many of you, like myself, may think making friends at work would impede upon productivity. But friendships at work aren’t like friendships at home. They don’t involve hanging out, but are held together and formed by self-disclosures in conversations. What does this mean? Simply put: it’s talking about how you feel about what you do, about how the weather is, about your weekend, more than about what you do, Landrum points out.
In Psych 101 you might have learned the simple difference between an acquaintance and a friend. Acquaintances talk about facts. They say to each other, “It’s sunny out. It’s a nice day. I have work to do.” But they don’t go further by disclosing any information about themselves like, “It’s sunny out, I think I’ll go to the park after work because there’s a good area to fish.”
Just to understand this from a millennial’s perspective, think about it this way: If you’re not self-disclosing sometimes to people you talk with every day, you’re basically working with acquaintances. And that means you never learn more about anyone, even after 20 years of work.
In 2014 Censuswide and LinkedIn joined to conduct a survey on 11,500 working professional that spanned 14 countries. They found that “57% of respondents indicated having friends at work made them more productive.”
Millennials get the most out of work by relating to those around them. This doesn’t keep them from being productive. In fact, it makes them more productive. And one reason just might be because they don’t feel like they are working in a world of acquaintances. The emotional investment is a powerful piece to the overall work experience. And it might be the key to productivity in a world where everyone is more and more alienated by technology.
And there’s another benefit. Apparently friendships at the workplace make companies more valuable to employees. As Landrum reports, “When asked whether they’d swap camaraderie for a larger paycheck at a different employer, 58% of men indicated they wouldn’t make the trade. A whopping 74% of female professionals concurred.”
The work/life distinction has a valuable place in a professional setting. But it doesn’t necessarily deny the possibility of self-disclosure. And self-disclosure just may be the key to happiness and productivity in the workplace.