Socializing at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Manufacturing Workers

Through a field experiment at a seafood-processing plant, I examine how working alongside friends affects employee productivity and how this effect is heterogeneous with respect to an employee’s non-cognitive skills. This paper presents two main findings. First, worker productivity declines when a friend is close enough to socialize with. Second, workers who are higher on the conscientiousness scale show smaller productivity declines when working alongside a friend and were less likely to choose to work alongside a friend prior to the experiment. Socializing behaviors account for two-thirds of the six percent productivity gap observed between high- and low-conscientiousness workers.