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Employees shun office social scene

Greta Garbo
Garbo: Not one for an after-work drink
Do you enjoy socializing with colleagues?
Yes, I often spend time with workmates outside of the office
Sometimes, but only at work-organized social occasions.
No, I never socialize with anyone from work.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Like Greta Garbo, the famously reclusive Hollywood icon, European workers increasingly just want to be alone.

After coping with the stress and hectic pace of pressurized office life during the day, many workers are happy to see the back of their colleagues as soon as possible, according to research by recruitment Web site Monster.

Perhaps appropriately, Garbo's Swedish compatriots were the least likely to form friendships with colleagues, with 67 percent saying they were not interested in socializing with workmates.

In contrast, 60 percent of German workers said they were happy to socialize after hours, with Italian workers (57 percent) also displaying a gregarious streak.

But across Europe, more than half of workers (51 percent) surveyed were in agreement with the majority of Swedes that contact with colleagues outside of the office should be minimized at all costs. In a similar poll two years ago, the figure had been just 44 percent.

"There's no doubt that increased pressures on workers has meant that there is less time to build close social ties with work colleagues, both within working hours and outside," said Janet McGlaughlin, director of recruitment firm Pertemps.

"It means the term 'workmate' is increasingly out-of-date, as fewer people consider their co-workers to be personal friends."

According to Pertemps' own research, one in six workers said they had no friends at work while 56 percent said they had no more than two. A third admitted that they socialized with colleagues less than twice a year.

Many blamed the lack of socializing on family commitments and tiredness, but 11 percent admitted they simply didn't enjoy spending time with people from work.

And that is bad news for businesses that have traditionally relied on a healthy office-based social scene to encourage a happy workforce.

"This is a particular worry for managers as workplace friendships build morale and encourage retention," said McGlaughlin. "Ultimately work should be fun and enjoying the company of your workmates is a major help."

German workers are Europe's most sociable.

But increasingly companies are recognizing that the best way to encourage healthy social relationships between colleagues is to invest in them directly, both financially and with time off for employees from regular work, in the form of team-building activities.

"We consider team-building activities to be as important as training sessions in our company and ensure we conduct off-site exercises for this reason," Shell global marketing manager Navjot Singh told Monster.

"It is invaluable what you learn about your colleagues during these sessions -- we were amazed by our employees' hidden talents!"

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