Why working alongside others motivates us

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
Studies have repeatedly found that working alongside other people has a positive impact on our working day. Photo: Getty
Studies have repeatedly found that working alongside other people has a positive impact on our working day. Photo: Getty

After a year of working from home, employers are looking to gradually bring people back to the workplace. It’s likely to be a shock to the system to be out of our sweats and into our ‘work’ clothes, let alone be around other people again – but being back in the office does come with some perks.

For many, home-working has provided respite from long, tedious commutes, but it has also been an isolating experience. Before the pandemic, interacting with our colleagues – going for coffee, grabbing lunch together and heading to the pub after office hours – was a big part of our social lives.

Being around co-workers also kept us motivated and engaged with work too. We could bounce ideas off one another, collaborate and communicate freely without the need for Zoom or Teams.

“Our relationships with co-workers are incredibly important. Social interactions with colleagues in the office helps us feel like we’re part of a team. For many, that sense of connection and collaboration fuels motivation,” says Charlotte Davies, careers expert at LinkedIn.

Studies have repeatedly found that working alongside other people has a positive impact on our working day. In 2014, research by Stanford psychological scientists Priyanka Carr and Gregory Walton found that when people are treated by others as partners working together on a task, their motivation increases – even if they worked on their own.

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Simply sitting next to someone who is working hard can influence our own actions, a phenomenon seen when studying group exercise. Research shows that the healthy actions of others rub off on us, with a study published in the Journal of Social Sciences suggesting that participants gravitate towards the exercise behaviours of those around them.

One of the main reasons we find being around other people motivating is because it provides us with a sense of togetherness. Dull admin tasks become easier when you can chat to a co-worker at the same time, or when you look forward to breaks together. We are social animals and thrive off the interactions we have with our friends and colleagues, which make the workday much easier.

When spending long periods of time alone, therefore, it is easy to feel unmotivated and disengaged with work. The good news is that connecting with co-workers virtually can make a difference, particularly if we try to replicate the social interactions we have in the office.

“Many of us have missed face to face time with our colleagues during the pandemic. LinkedIn research carried out in April last year found that 40% of people were missing interaction with their co-workers,” says Davies. “We’ve seen a 48% year on year boost in conversations on LinkedIn too, as people look to connect with their professional community.

“Working from home has brought teams and colleagues together in surprising ways. Research we carried out among UK workers in July revealed that 23% agree learning more about their colleagues' day to day lives during lockdown has improved their working relationship.”

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Here are several ways to boost our motivation when working from home.

Recreate coffee breaks

The humble tea or coffee break is a staple of British office life. That 10-minute chat with a colleague at the kettle can help us reset and refocus, giving us a much-needed mental break from work. Recreate this at home by setting up a virtual coffee break with a coworker.

Reach out to peers online

Your professional support network goes way beyond your day-to-day colleagues. We’ve seen lots of members take to the platform over the last year to check in with their online network and share advice,” says Davies.

“Take the time to reach out to people in your professional communities to share your challenges and experiences. You’ll be surprised at how many people are feeling the same as you.”

Shake up your ‘home-office’ set up

The monotony of lockdown has made it difficult to feel enthusiastic, but making small changes to your set-up can help. “It could be as simple as finding a new space to work from - if you spent last year working in the kitchen, try moving to another room in the house,” Davies adds.

Set work boundaries

And finally, switching off from work at home is never easy – but it’s important to set ourselves work boundaries to achieve a better work-life balance. Whether it's saying no to video calls, stopping work when you're supposed to, or having less screen time – think about your set-up at home and decide what’s right for you.

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