The Village Effect

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How face-to-face contact can make us healthier and happier

We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child, and Susan Pinker’s wonderful book does elaborate on this theme. However, the research that Pinker draws upon comes from a variety of sources including health, sociology, business and psychology. I found her book fascinating for a variety of reasons; for example, students taught by a great teacher rather than an average teacher, even for just one year, can earn on average $250,000 more over their lifetime! But what really sparked my interest was the chapter on social networks, business and crime. Yes, there is a dark side to how a conniver can manipulate social bonds for one’s own good, but let’s consider things from the side of a flourishing workplace — does your workplace allow for people to get together in real time? Seeing people’s faces can elicit trust and create bonds far better than screen time or phone calls ever will — our brains are just hard-wired that way. Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar has posited that our brain can only handle around 150 meaningful relationships — does your job require you to create relationships with far more? What is the mood like around your office? People in a happier mood can increase problem-solving and creativity — and positive human contact puts people in better moods. Furthermore, a great deal of business rests on relationships — does your workplace fuel you so that you can go out and create great client relationships? While Pinker’s book isn’t exclusively about the workplace, there are lessons that can be drawn from her stories and researched insights. We are human, and our brains are wired for social connection. How does your workplace fare at providing that?

Lisa Sansom

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