Posted on December 23, 2019 at 12:08 PM by Janet Lo
There is probably no time of the year that we collectively talk about family more than during the Holidays. Whether we are preparing for the upcoming gatherings or even missing those who are not with us for the first or twenty-fifth year, the theme of family permeates this season. This is not just in our personal lives. As a division, there have been several opportunities this month to celebrate, for fellowship, and to serve together as a “work family.”
The average, full-time American employee spends 40 hours a week at a workplace that is outside of his or her home. It is no surprise that in a recent Hewlett Packard workplace survey, 56 percent of respondents report that they spend more time with their "work family" than they do with their real family. This survey, which sampled 1,000 full-time office workers ages 18-65, found that having a familial relationship with co-workers boosts productivity and feelings of well-being in the workplace.
Managing to be happy at your job is not only good for your company's bottom line, but you also become a more engaged worker, according to Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report. One way to boost your happiness at work is to form good relationships with your coworkers. Perhaps the happiness is connected to the stress relief associated with the support and cultivation of social capital that comes from these bonds.
Most would be surprised that I actually agree with those thought leaders that argue that it can be pretty tricky referring to our work relationship as a family. Indeed, there are some distinct differences and boundaries in our approach to our actual family and the conceptual work family. We do not get to choose our biological families, but our work family is one that has flexible membership. People may retire. People may move to new opportunities outside of the organization. Work is also built upon a mission or purpose of service, innovation and/or profit that the group is working to achieve. Families are built on foundations that are inherently more personal and deeper than that.
In spite of these distinctions, I still contend that at the very least, we hope for our teams to be family-ish. While we aren’t an actual family, we do collectively work daily to institutionalize some of the ideal tenets of healthy relationships and families in our work life. There's no downside to intentionally creating a work culture that prioritizes commitment to shared goals, caring about one another’s well-being, open communication and acceptance of each other’s differences. You don't have to call it a family. Call it whatever you want. I just challenge us to do and be it.
During this season, I hope that each of you take the time to reflect on what our families really mean to us. The ones we were born into. The ones we choose. The ones we serve. Even the ones we work with. I also hope that we will take the time and care to renew our commitment to strengthen our family and family-ish units so that we are able to thrive for the remainder of 2019 and the new decade ahead.
Dorcas Young Griffin
Director of the Division of Community Services
Shelby County Government