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Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 03:17 GMT
Office gossip 'makes workers productive'
A study by the Industrial Society says that bringing back the tea lady and the Friday night office drink after work will benefit relations within the workplace.
By the BBC's industry correspondent Stephen Evans
The Industrial Society report finds many of the things you would expect to find.
It indicates that 70% of high earners enjoy their jobs and would keep on working even if they had enough money to live comfortably.
Low earners simply see work as a means to a living - 83% of secretaries, or what used to be called clerks, say "a job is just a job, but life is for living".
It is the prescriptions for policy stemming from the report's conclusions which are perhaps surprising.
Before the great revolution in workplaces, there was more time to gossip and socialise and perhaps more opportunity to do it.
The tea trolley was an important part of many working days, and so was the drink after work in the pub round the corner from the office.
In the human resources revolution, these things ceased to be fashionable.
There was even talk of meeting rooms without chairs so that meetings would be brisk, efficient and over quickly.
Chatter about matters outside work was frowned upon.
Ms Doyle wonders if something was lost from workplaces with this drive for what seemed like efficiency.
"What makes the difference between a good job and a bad job are the intrinsic, emotional elements," she said.
In other words, happy employees are productive employees.
The Industrial Society does not endorse a "treat 'em mean to keep 'em keen" policy.
"Gossip is the cement which holds organisations together," said Ms Doyle.
"Providing communal space, such as coffee areas or lunch rooms, allows employees to share information, knowledge and build relations that benefits both the company and the employee."
Question of balance
The report, called New Community or New Slavery, questions many of the current assumptions about work and the workplace.
It says there are three beliefs underpinning some of the current fashionable rhetoric: "First, that the divide between work and life is clear. Second, that home or "life" is necessarily positive and, third, that work is a negative drain on our time and energy.
"It should be obvious that for some people home is a place of oppression while work is a place of liberation."
For people wondering how to organise workplaces, it is obviously a question of balance.
But what human resources professionals are starting to believe is that there are intangible benefits from some of the old institutions that many thought had gone.
All gossip and chatting does not make for an efficient company - but neither does no gossip and chat.