Oct 24, 2018

Making friends and productivity


n order To get a glimpse of people's feelings, we've ran an etnographic study based on use- filled diaries (cultural probes) to investigate, during the span of a month, reported feelings of being lonely and how they affect people's lives.

Key Findings:

People that interacted the most with others reported being less lonely.

This finding confirms the insights reported on the Lonelines Index.

Short interactions, like a casual water-cooler chat and longer interactions like a lunch with a friend, both had positive effects.

The level of intimacy in the interaction played a role in the impact on the feelings of loneliness. However, even people having shorter interactions reported being less lonely by the end of the day than people with no interactions.

People often visit social spaces, but keep to themselves most of time while at these places.

Some users reported working from a social space. Other users reported visiting social spaces at least once per day. No user reported having less than weekly interactions with a social space.

People reported they feel a connection to the social space they often go.   

The way users wrote about the social space they often go, giving it human attributes like calm, non-judgemental, laid back, suggest there is an anthropomorphic relationship between these spaces and visitors.

Ice-breakers are hard for introverts. Social spaces make this easier by serving as natural ice-breakers.

People reported they are more willing to interact with strangers in the social spaces they trust and feel connected to, than interacting with strangers on the streets, commuting or at public spaces. 

People tend to work better with people they get along with.

There was a strong relation between feeling close to the person you are working with and the feeling of being more productive while working together. According to Robert Half, people with good work relationships at work are two-and-a-half times more likely to be happy on the job, compared with those who don’t get along with thei colleagues.

Companies make little effort to properly match employees

Some users reported that they would like to see the social spaces they often go to and organizations they work for having a more prominent role in introducing them to people they could get along with.

If the solution can help people feel less lonely, can it also be useful to properly match organizational teams?

This is a hypothesis raised during a user interview with a HR manager of a large startup in San Francsico. It shows that friendship and loneliness are problems also affecting team building and performance in large organizations.


A Cultural probe is a self-reporting document, like a diary. Users interact with it for a period of time. It gives people the opportunity to think deeply about their answers while also allowing elapsed time to be of influence in the self-reported data.

Interaction time span: 30 days.

Daily reports:

- Describe encounters or casual conversations you had today (don’t forget to mention where the conversations took place).
- Describe the emotional impact these conversations had on you and your day. 
- As you go to bed, from zero to ten, how lonely are you feeling? 

Weekly reports:

- Social spaces are areas like co-working spaces, coffee shops, the gym, libraries, main atrium of buildings, a plaza on a mall etc. Write down social spaces where you spent time on this week. 
- For each space, log, briefly, your social experience there. (Did you talk to other users of the space? Did you kept it to yourself while there? How the experience made you feel)
- Looking back at the interactions you had this week at work. Do you believe that chemistry and/or the feeling of being friends with the people you work with, had, or could have had, an impact in your productivity? Please explain.


For the cultural probe we’ve focused on Generation Z and Millennials.  Each participant interacted with the probe for a month.

Probe deployment automation

For this research we'’ve used the following automation stack: ConvertKit, SMS messages (Zapier), Google Sheets, Survey Monkey, and Zapier for workflow.