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Britain’s Workplace Bonding Rituals and Bugbears Revealed

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Cracking a joke, making a cuppa and lending a pen are the fastest ways that office workers can form bonds and become popular with colleagues – but taking credit for someone else’s work, turning up late and not pulling your weight will quickly annoy fellow employees, according to new research into UK office culture.

In true British fashion, making tea for others builds strong bonds when it comes to making friends at work. In fact, over 65 percent of office workers believe the social interaction involved in making a brew brings them closer to their colleagues. With over three rounds made per day in the average UK office, there’s plenty of opportunity to impress.

A study of 2,000 British office workers, conducted by My Nametags (www.mynametags.com), revealed the actions that are most valued by co-workers and guaranteed to boost office popularity. Helping relieve a colleague’s workload when they are busy (93 percent), assisting with a technical issue (92 percent) and saving a colleague from a challenging customer or client phone call (87 percent) were all greatly appreciated. Taking charge of the office tea round also scored highly, with 77 percent viewing it as a valuable gesture. A teammate who makes other colleagues laugh was voted the most popular member of the office, while 70 percent of those surveyed agreed that sharing stationery goes a long way in helping them form bonds.

Social interactions form a key part of our working life, with over half of those researched admitting that they would prefer office perks, including a happy working environment or never having to interact with annoying colleagues again, over a pay rise. One in 10 people would also opt to never answer the phone again over a wage increase.

Commenting on the findings of the research, Beverley Stone, Chartered Psychologist, said:

“From my perspective, the most significant finding from the research is the large extent that people are motivated by small gestures. These are often overlooked by organisations, or even considered not important. The environment we work in has a huge impact on our self-image and we need to feel valued and respected in order to thrive. Positive interactions with colleagues are so vital, as they reinforce feelings of belonging and being appreciated. Not feeling supported or believing that their colleagues lack integrity can lead talented people to look elsewhere for work, which will have a big impact on a business. This is why social rituals, however small, are an important part of UK office culture.”

One quarter of people believe that making tea for their boss will even improve their chances of promotion. Men are more likely to buy into this theory, with 29 percent believing that there is a link between making tea and receiving a promotion, compared to 20 percent of women.

That said, the office tea round also provides opportunities to commit workplace social faux pas. Half of office workers secretly judge people who don’t offer to make a round of hot drinks, while 17 percent confessed to avoiding drinking tea or coffee at work because it’s too much hassle.

When it comes to friction amongst co-workers, colleagues not pulling their weight (56 percent), taking credit for someone else’s work (45 percent) and repeatedly coming in late (37 percent), were voted top. People spending too much time on social media (33 percent), leaving washing up in the sink (32 percent) and confrontational colleagues (31 percent) were also listed as top gripes among British office workers.

Agreeing the thermostat temperature was also cited as an issue amongst office workers (24 percent), followed by organising social events such as the Christmas party (10 percent). Eating smelly food or chewing loudly, stealing stationery and food thieves were also listed as causes of irritation.

Over 35 percent have had their food stolen in the office, most often from the communal fridge (86 percent). While one third of people said they use name tags to prevent food theft, some admitted to going to extreme measures to prevent further incidents. This included licking food, putting laxatives in meals to catch the culprit and confronting whoever they believed to be the perpetrator.

Commenting on the findings, Lars B. Andersen, Founder and Managing Director at My Nametags, said:

“A huge percentage of the UK population work in an office, so we were interested to explore the sociology behind the behaviour and relationships that are formed in this environment. This revealed the extent to which missing food and stationery causes conflict, so it’s unsurprising that many of our customers use name tags to keep their possessions secure while at work.”

It’s not just food that goes missing in the office – over one third of workers have also lost stationery, with the majority (87 percent) revealing items have been taken from their desk.

A whopping 72 percent of office workers claimed they would be upset if they lost certain items of office stationery. Most workers (52 percent) admitted to being irrationally protective over a treasured item which was, for many, their favourite pen (39 percent).

It perhaps then comes as no surprise that many office workers feel compelled to take action if they have such items taken from their desk. Workers admitted to shouting across the office (19 percent) or sticking name labels on all their stationery (14 percent) as a reaction to having prized items stolen. Some even admitted to hiding or locking away their favourite items, while others said stealing from co-workers was the way they re-gained missing stationery.

Lars B. Andersen concludes: “In response to the findings, we have launched a new set of smaller name tags that will stick on most office stationery to stop items being taken or going missing. While we can’t help with the tea round, we hope these new labels will reduce one of the major causes of irritation for office workers moving forward.”