I’m not talking about how to use Facebook and LinkedIn at workplace. I’m talking about the real life. Where and how do the office workers have a social conversation and network each other for professional and non-professional purposes? Here are my observations of the workplace social networking in the US, Japan, and India.
Although the water cooler is the symbol of the workplace socialization, I never saw an actual water cooler in the office. Instead, people has a small talk in front of the microwave, where people naturally gather, waiting on the queue during the lunch time. Generally speaking, the office layout of an American company is more spacious with more private space. Therefore, socializing can also happen at someone’s cubicle or office, where the owner put some efforts to decorate their space with framed diplomas, family pictures, New York Times best sellers in business management and favorite quote and funny cartoons printed out and pinned on the wall. This display is, in fact, meticulously designed to have the same effect with Facebook’s profile page.
The Office of Surgeon General may not want to hear this but in Japan one of the key socializing settings is the smoking room. To cope with a strong global pressure against the traditional tobacco-friendly culture, the companies has implemented a smoke-free workplace policy while installing a smoking room in the office building. As majority of the older generation dominating the corporate senior management are still pro-smoking, now the smoking room has become a second executive boardroom to discuss about wide range of corporate issues. Although fewer people smoke among the younger generation, some venture into the smoke-filled room to seek for management guidance in a casual setting. Disclaimer: socialize at your own risk.
In India, the key item for the workplace socialization is coffee (or tea, depending on which region you go). “Would you like a cup of coffee?” is a cue for the break and you see several groups of workers standing on the hallway with a small paper cup of coffee on their hand, chatting and laughing. Comparing to the US and Japanese standard, their coffee break may seem longer than necessary, but this is an important part of workplace communication. Lunch time is another socialization occasion. In many cases, it’s not practical to go out for lunch (as there is no restaurant next to your office building) or eat alone at your cubicle (as the office is more open space and having food there many not be allowed.) Therefore it becomes a social lunch at a cafeteria or a break space.
Internet is not the only place for social networking