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Home for the holidays: Employees report declining interest in workplace social events

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Dive Brief:

  • Two-thirds of workers have reduced their appearance at or entirely stopped attending workplace events in 2023, according to a survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees by Visier. Nearly 7 in 10 said they’d prefer a larger end-of-year bonus to a holiday party.
  • When asked why they’d pass up a holiday party, 36% of workers indicated they get enough socialization with colleagues during the workday, 33% said they liked to draw a line between their personal and professional lives and 28% wanted to reserve the time for friends and family. Only 5% chalked their reluctance up to health concerns, suggesting fears spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic have largely resolved. 
  • Millennial and Generation Z workers were significantly more interested in socializing than their Generation X and baby boomer colleagues, suggesting they may see after-work events as a way to build professional relationships, Visier said.

Dive Insight:

The survey’s results may worry business leaders who have culture and engagement on their minds. “The link between workplace connections and job satisfaction is well documented,” the Visier team noted, pointing to an Eagle Hill survey finding that for 40% of workers, connections with others influenced their decision to stay at or leave their organization. “Participation in company culture and non-work interactions with colleagues correlate to improved job performance and employee satisfaction,” the team continued.

Engagement has been trending downward for a while, and the outlook doesn’t look good going into 2024.  

In some ways, social disengagement seems to feed on itself. Visier found that while getting enough socialization during the workday was the top reason workers turned down holiday parties, those working full time in the office were still more interested in such events than their counterparts with hybrid and remote arrangements. “These contradictory findings may indicate that pre-existing, in-person relationships are a prerequisite for certain employees to attend after-hours events,” Visier proposed.

Employers may need to change their approach to better foster social connections between workers. One form of engagement that seems to be on the rise at work is volunteering, according to data from the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals released in November. Some employers organize occasional team-based volunteer opportunities during the workday, giving employees a chance to socialize without depriving them of time normally spent with family or friends. 

Similarly, employers might also consider holding the holiday party during the workday rather than after hours.

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