The headline in the Globe and Mail newspaper says, “Pssst! Wanna know the real reason to return to the office? It's the gossip”.
As columnist Susan Pinker writes, “Sure, you can get bits and pieces of information through direct messaging, Slack and phone calls, but informal face-to-face conversation is best for finding out what’s really happening.”
And don’t I know it. No, not because I have direct experience with relocating to the home office in the last two years due to Covid. Nope… I made that kind of transition many moons ago when I retired from my day job and began writing books. But my agreement with Ms. Pinker comes from researching my book “Being Happy Matters” (beinghappymatters.life; to be published this fall). While profiling 37 people from around the world as I investigated happiness, I came across Dr. Robert Putnam’s revealing treatise, “Bowling Alone”. Dr. Putnam, of the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, states that many traditional civic, social and fraternal organizations – typified by bowling leagues – have undergone a massive decline in membership. We’re talking more than merely missing out on gossip.
“We used to be joiners, now we’re not” Putnam writes. “We don’t embrace bowling leagues the way we used to. Church attendance is off. Book clubs, investment clubs and other gatherings of people into ‘communities’ have lost their allure as we replace pleasant pastimes with helter-skelter lives aimed at achieving things, not enjoying things. The simple act of joining and being regularly involved in organized groups has a very significant, positive impact on individual health, well-being and happiness.”
The value of community. It’s so important. But we seem to have lost that connection in so many ways. As Dr. Putnam says, community has been replaced.
Let me ask you this aligned question: know what the happiest country in the world is? Finland. And get this: it’s ranking is for the fifth year in a row! (The Annual World Happiness Report ranks countries based on: Income, Freedom, Trust, Healthy Life Expectancy, Social Support and Generosity.) Now, you’re saying to yourself, “So, do Finns enjoy gossip more than we do?” Not necessarily. But what they do appreciate is the value of community.
“A happy social environment, whether urban or rural, is one where people feel a sense of belonging, where they trust and enjoy each other and their shared institutions,” says John Helliwell, Professor at the University of British Columbia, in describing Finland. He explains that having someone to count on, having a sense of freedom to make key life decisions, generosity, and trust, all play a significant role in a person’s happiness.
So do we all go out and start bowling again? Not necessarily. But do give thought to reconnecting with your local “community”. There just might be opportunity for you to throw in with some other folks and begin getting to know each other again. You know: like, live, in person… rather than “friending folks through Facebook.
And don’t forget this: you’ll be happier doing it.