Majority of Czechs enjoy good social relations at work

A survey carried out by the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic examined the social atmosphere and relations in the workplace. Some 53% of Czechs described a working atmosphere of good cooperation without the formation of personal relationships, while almost 30% cited a friendly and trusting atmosphere. In contrast, 16% of respondents complained of a cold, impersonal atmosphere or one full of tension and conflict.

About the survey

The sphere of paid work is not just a place where working people spend a considerable part of their lives; it is also a place for building social relationships. The way in which working people view the workplace in terms of privacy and as an arena for building close social relationships was the subject of a representative survey entitled The context of changes in the labour market and forms of private, family and partner life in Czech society.

The survey was based on a sample of 5,510 respondents aged 25 to 54 years. Data were collected through personal standardised interviews based on a questionnaire format, and respondents were chosen by quota sampling. The survey was conducted by the Public Opinion Research Centre of the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Centrum pro výzkum veřejného mínění Sociologického ústavu Akademie věd ČR, CVVM SOÚ AV ČR), as part of a Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerstvo práce a sociálních věcí ČR, MPSV ČR) grant programme called ‘Modern society and its transformations’ (Moderní společnost a její promĕny).

Atmosphere and relations in workplace

The majority of respondents (53%) perceived the atmosphere and relations in the workplace as ‘proper’, with good cooperation without any particular personal closeness prevailing at work; at the same time, a certain distance is maintained from others and relations are marked by some degree of formality. This description was cited more frequently by men (58%) and by those with a higher education (58%). ‘Proper’ relations in the workplace are also more characteristic of companies with between 30 and 300 employees, or among workers on open-ended employment contracts or those whose work is planned out on a relatively long-term basis.

Just less than 30% of the respondents cited ‘a friendly and trusting atmosphere’ in the workplace. This description was more commonly chosen by women and by those with a secondary school education, as well as by those who are able to organise their working time. In terms of the work environment, the respondents in this group were typically employees of small, predominantly Czech companies with up to 30 employees.

According to about 12% of the respondents, ‘cold, impersonal relationships’ prevail in the workplace. Moreover, just under 4% of the respondents complained of ‘an atmosphere full of tension and conflict’ in the workplace. Most of the workers in this group carry out constant or frequent physical work in their jobs and have a low education and low income, often at the level of the minimum monthly wage. An atmosphere of conflict was cited more often by those working in the capital city of Prague than by those working in other parts of the Czech Republic. In these cases, the work organisation is characterised by a low degree of flexibility as regards employees’ ability to organise their working time or to influence their work regime. In addition, people who work in an atmosphere of conflict and tension often work on a shift work basis with a 12-hour break between shifts, or in jobs where their work schedule is changed with just one day’s notice. An atmosphere characterised by ‘cold and impersonal relationships’ is also more frequent in companies whose majority shareholder is a foreign owner. The majority of employees experiencing these difficult social conditions in the workplace hold fixed-term contracts shorter than 12 months.

Close social relations in workplace

Although more women than men cited a friendly atmosphere and confidential relationships in the workplace, the female respondents were less likely to form friendships with their work colleagues (see figure). In contrast, men – who more often cited good cooperation but not particularly close relations in the workplace – more frequently mentioned having a male and female work colleague among their friends.

Proportion of friends from work, by sex (%)

Proportion of friends from work, by sex (%)

Source: CVVM, 2008

Proportion of friends from work, by sex (%)

The survey also found that people with a higher number of friends from work tended to be middle-aged men and to have a higher educational attainment; in other words, those who are usually focused on their work and are released from family duties at this stage of their life are more likely to have a higher number of friends from work. The respondents who, in the course of their work, operate in social networks – particularly people in senior management positions – and who often work longer than average hours cite having more work colleagues among their friends.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are people with lower educational and social capital. The respondents whose job is ‘insecure’ were more likely to report having a low proportion or no work colleagues among their friends. Having no friends from work is linked to high demands on workers’ flexibility in terms of time and sometimes also place, where this flexibility is determined by the employer rather than the employee.

Commentary

Although the paid work environment is highly formalised, friendships and intimate relations can be formed in this arena. In the field of paid work, there are distinct groups of workers who view social relations at work as being favourable, trusting and close, while other groups hold the opposite view. Work is perceived as a source of friendships mainly by those with higher educational and social capital.

References

Maříková, H., Práce a pracoviště jako sféry důvěry a soukromí (in Czech, 270Kb PDF) [Work and the workplace as arenas of trust and privacy], Prague, Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 2007.

Hana Maříková, Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

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