Shared experiences and even team building exercises might actually make people happier

A new study from the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, published in the Journal for Environmental and Public Health, claims that shared activities in workplaces can boost wellbeing and performance by improving their ‘social atmosphere’. The review of nearly 1,400 scientific papers and reports from across the globe led researchers from the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, Reading and Sheffield to conclude that team activities are effective at making us happier at work. All the successful examples they found shared common characteristics in that they involved everyone – including people who might be reluctant to interact in shared activities and involved more than a one-off activity and carried on over time. Examples ranged from as few as three one-hour workshops to a more extensive programme delivered over several years.

The findings might cause a sinking feeling for employees who wince at the thought joining their colleagues in an icebreaker, or building a bridge out of rolled up newspaper, in the name of team bonding. But the study found that it doesn’t have to be a big or complex activity to bring benefits. Simply spending time on a shared project, like mentoring programmes, action planning groups, social events or workshops, all were shown to have positive effects.

Nancy Hey, Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, explains: “This research backs up our other evidence: people stay in, and go back to, jobs they like with people they like. We are recommending that organisations carry out activities that boost social relations at work, and evaluate their impact.”

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