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Reimagining the office social scene

by wrich

By Jo Deal, Chief Human Resources Officer at LogMeIn

Watercooler moments, lunch with the team, exchanging gossip the morning after the night before. Whether you love it or hate it, the infamous office social scene is a workplace staple – but what does this look like in a world of WFH?

Over the past year, we have seen many examples of organisations trying to recreate office socials and bring back those spontaneous moments. These touch points shape our culture and can be the glue that holds us all together. It can be hard to do, but with more and more organisations announcing a permanent shift to hybrid working, planning a strong remote culture will be crucial if businesses hope to retain and attract talent.

The organisations that have seen their cultures thrive have been the ones who have embraced the opportunity to get creative. Collaboration technologies have played a fundamental role in keeping office culture alive over the past year. We may only have seen one another’s faces in a small video square but imagine not having that digital human connection. These tools can do more than help us get work done and if we are having to deal with back to back meetings, then adding a little fun and social into the mix can be a great boost to everyone’s engagement.

Little moments that matter

When reminiscing over the old days of the office, what many of us have missed the most is the random hallway run-ins or trips out to the coffee shop with a colleague to catch up; moments that have become distant memories during the pandemic. However, it only takes a bit of creative license to bring these moments back. I was recently asked to join a video meeting a few minutes early to “run into” the colleague leaving the prior meeting. Before he left the room, it gave us the opportunity to have a quick catch up about life, family and a non urgent work question I had been meaning to ask him about for weeks.

Many of us now start our meetings with a quick check in question, similar to the kind of small talk that would happen in a conference room while we waited for everyone to arrive. We have a check list of questions, a document anyone can access and add to and the topics range from the trivial (favourite breakfast) to the memorable (best ever concert) to the thought provoking (if you were a potato, what kind would you be). With a small group you can dedicate some time to each answer but even with a larger group or if you are short on time, you can pop the question and people can throw their answers in the chat for everyone to see. You’d be surprised what connections form amongst those with a penchant for parmesan truffle fries.

Often it can be the small moments that add up, giving us a boost to our day, an opportunity to connect on a more human level and ultimately feeding into our general happiness and likely, our productivity too.

Giving back

A huge part of the office culture is the various recreational activities that employers facilitate to encourage team bonding and collaboration. From wine tasting and flower arranging to virtual movie nights and book club meetings, we have done it all in a virtual capacity, and employees have benefitted from the commitment to creativity. Given many teams will be spread across the globe even when we get back to the office, collaborative technologies and virtual team building will remain central components of our working lives.

In addition to internal social activities, we have also made a concerted effort to keep up our volunteering efforts over the past year with the addition of virtual options. Whilst in-person opportunities will be resuming, the resounding success of virtual options means we can continue to include employees who may not be near an office, providing team building moments with the opportunity to do good within our local communities. The numbers of companies that can help assist on virtual volunteering, combined with a game or an online activity has grown in the past year and the great feeling that comes from doing good for others goes a long way to building strong cultures.

Combine personal and professional

Collaborative technology has proven to be a great ally in this mass remote work experiment, and has proven to be an effective tool for connecting colleagues. We have actively encouraged employees to set up channels that can help bridge the divide between professional and private lives. For instance, we now have group chat channels for just about anything, from dog and cat lovers, groups dedicated to sharing the best Peloton workouts, to channels for employee resource groups where we can share challenges in a safe space, as well as opportunities, book suggestions, resources and more. One of our employees kicked off Dad Joke Friday in one of the channels recently and the toe curlingly bad jokes people from all around the world were sharing with each other was really fun to watch.

We also encourage employees to use the status features of internal communications platforms to tell the rest of their colleagues what they are doing. And this isn’t simply busy or not busy, but things like “Walking the dog,” “coffee break,” “working out” etc. This may sound trivial on its own, but it’s one of the small ways that we can open the conversation around the importance of striking a work/life balance. People shouldn’t be ashamed if they need to step away to take a break, and statuses are a great way to open this discussion. Life became work and work came into our homes; showing the honest reality of the juggling act many employees are undertaking has been a great way to reinforce the need for balance.

Take a moment for yourself

Within our own business, we are fortunate enough to be able to take self-care one step further. Once a month the entire company gets a day off, and by making it the same day for all, we really have time to rest, recharge and do something that makes us happy with no guilt from missed emails or work piling up. Our employees share the things they do to care for themselves with their teams and on our dedicated #LogMeIn life channel. We all get to see photos of colleagues from across the world spending time with pets or children, planting herb gardens, working on their hobbies or walking on beautiful beaches and hiking mountains.

Flexible working is in high demand and companies who plan for it mindfully will come out on top. Reimagining social and team building moments outside of the physical walls of an office building is key to this planning. People like flexibility, they want work life balance, making WFH very appealing. However, we all crave human connections and most of us enjoy the social interactions that coming to the office each day brought about.  It is time to get even more creative and come up with new ways for people who cannot be together, to be together.

 

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