The interesting thing that took place was that of the people I received feedback from, they all pretty much felt the same way. The discussion revolved around maintaining culture and how to do that with the move towards more hybrid work. It was almost universal that people felt it is a must for people to start coming back to the office…but not five days a week. Most advocated for employees to be in the office three to four days a week. My guess is if an employee is asked, they would say one to two days per week in the office. As I got into it, I found out why these leaders felt three to four days was optimal.
The main reason was not that they didn’t feel people were working. The main reasons revolved around the culture of the organization. They have seen the culture suffer because there is not the camaraderie that comes from chance meetings at the water cooler or over lunch. As an HR Leader, this employee recruitment expert experienced chance meetings at the water cooler, in the lunchroom, and even in the hallway. People said, “good morning” and talked about their weekend, what they planned for the evening, and a whole host of other non-business topics. In these discussions, you got to know each other as people and not simply co-workers. Beyond camaraderie, another plus to this is people tend to treat each other better than when they don’t know the “person.”
Another big reason is these leaders felt that the interactions helped generate creativity. Although we do talk personal stuff at work, interpersonal interactions often get people sharing ideas and “spitballing” on the problems they are trying to solve. These leaders have found that people don’t generally set up a formal meeting to work on a problem as much when using Teams or some other platform. This hurts idea generation and problem-solving.
The last area mentioned is with a young workforce who lean so heavily on technology, these young employees are not developing the critical skills of interpersonal communication. In the long run, this is going to hurt the value young people can bring as well as impact their careers. As a person rises in the organization, interpersonal skills become more and more important. This lack of skills will hold people back in the future.
Covid-19 has truly impacted the workplace. Organizations are now faced with some difficult choices. The factors above need to be considered when developing your strategy for future work arrangements. When considering them, don’t underestimate the value of water cooler talk!
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