Socialising At Work: A Discretionary Spend or Fundamental Investment?

Socialising At Work: A Discretionary Spend or Fundamental Investment?


The day had team drinks scheduled after work, something completely routine in the working world, but nothing is routine for me anymore. My thoughts progress through a now predictable sequence.

“Sorry guys I can’t go” ......“Yep, ok I will go and rearrange things at home”..... “I’ll come for 1 but I’ve got 16.75 minutes to get to the pub, drink and leave to make the very last train before pick up. I can do this”.....“It’s all too hard, I’m not going to go. I just can’t risk missing that train.”

Drinks after work are much better for team building than a lunch where everyone has to bolt back to their desks. It’s not meant to be a great source of diary management anxiety and yet another catalyst for feelings like you’re letting people down, and here we are...

So where does socialising at work fit in now? Do I allocate a bit of my discretionary time budget or is it a non-negotiable smart investment?

This is my new professional “normal”. I’m a part-time working mum so I’m in the office only a few days a week. On my work days, I’m in charge of the daycare pick ups. I’m going to assume you’re good at math and you’ve probably done the calculations by now, but what this means is that my time at work is pretty limited, tightly scheduled. And when I’m there I want to make it count.

So, for me, TIME has become much more of an actual resource that needs to be managed and allocated carefully, a bit like the marketing budget. Pre-baby and in my F/T work days, I’d be the first person to sign up for any training course, big meeting or coffee catch up. I was the one organising the social club drinks. I had a WHOLE WEEK to play around with and maintaining my relationships was a top priority. Different story now. I find myself applying the exact same business thinking to time-spend as other restricted resources. I weigh up every invite and task allocation with “If I say yes to that, what will I be unable to do?” or “If I spend an hour doing X now, what will go down the list?”.

Here’s a bit of an inside peek at the look at the general thought trail my mind goes down when a social Outlook invite pops up.

My mouse immediately goes to hover over the DECLINE button because:

Which is why I then take a moment to think of the bigger picture, more of the sensible and practical reasons so my mouse then hovers over the ACCEPT button:

Sometimes it really is good to have adult conversations that aren’t about kids, and let’s face it, if you were hanging out with your besties that’s what it would come back to anyways.

When I returned to work, I was really surprised at how complex my feelings now were towards something that used to be a no brainer. My feelings still churn around and different elements of this thinking rise to the top at different points in the year. They are also entirely dependent on what is happening in your team/workplace, your rapport with your colleagues and your family set up at home. Everyone’s situation here will be different.

So how do I end up managing it?

I tend to have a loose 1 in 5 rule. I know I can’t say no to everything. I’ve also been a bit more inventive with the look and feel of the team celebration events I organise so that it works for everyone. Find me someone who doesn’t like a Champagne Breakfast ;-)

Full time Mum, Part-time Professional. Career Support and Recruitment Practitioner, Business Operations Manager. Mastering the art of keeping lots of balls firmly in the air and service to a whole bunch of people around a 24hour clock. Coffee, Milo and wine is helping lots, not necessarily in that order.



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