Another fringe benefit for highly paid employees: More fun at work

July 12, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Highly paid workers aren't just reaping the greatest material rewards on the job - they are also more likely than lower-paid employees to report rich social lives among their co-workers.

A new study found that highly paid workers reported more cohesion and solidarity among their colleagues and were more likely to participate in social activities with co-workers.

"The social attractions of the workplace are strongest for those who are already rewarded with the biggest paychecks," said Randy Hodson, author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

Hodson said highly-paid workers tend to have jobs with more freedom and autonomy in which they can interact with their co-workers and develop friendships. They are also more likely to work in teams in which interaction with others is both necessary and encouraged.

Lower-paid workers, such as those in manufacturing, may spend more time working with things, rather than people, and often don't have the time to interact with their colleagues.

Workaholism, then, may be partly the result of employees who truly enjoy their work and co-workers, and not necessarily a result of fearing for their jobs.

The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Social Science Quarterly.

Hodson, along with three advanced graduate students, did a detailed analysis of 124 book-length studies of employees in various workplace settings. These included books about meat packers, taxi drivers, lawyers, doctors, and people from a variety of other occupations.

The researchers organized and coded information from all of these books to measure types and amount of social interaction at a variety of workplaces from around the world. This allowed Hodson to build a data set that would allow a quantitative, statistical comparison of different workplaces and different kinds of employees.

Hodson said the results suggest that when people develop friendships at work, it is because they enjoy their work and co-workers.

"It is the carrot of having an enjoyable and well-paid job that leads to rich social lives at work, not the stick of worrying about job loss," Hodson said. "But of course, only some people are offered the carrot."

The results showed men tended to report richer social lives at work than women, but analysis revealed that was because men tended to have jobs that made workplace friendships more likely. Women, when they had jobs in which social interaction with co-workers was common, tended to have on-the-job social lives similar to those of their male colleagues.

Hodson said the study suggests that for many highly paid workers, there is not a conflict in which they feel forced to spend time away from their families in order to be at work.

"For people who have well-paying, interesting jobs, the workplace is a positive attraction that provides meaning and fulfillment in their lives," Hodson said.

"The friendships and camaraderie they have with their co-workers is part of the appeal of work. For these lucky employees, the workplace is a strong competitor for their time with home and home life."

Workaholism, then, may be partly the result of employees who truly enjoy their work and co-workers, and not necessarily a result of fearing for their jobs, Hodson said.
The study was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Ohio State University

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