Casual interactions are a natural way for humans to connect, especially when in an office environment. Whether it’s grabbing a coffee in the kitchen first thing, or throwing around concepts over the office water cooler, some of the most creative, profitable business ideas have come from these interactions.
As the pandemic started just over two years ago, ClearPeople took the decision to allow our team to work from home five days a week, forever. Thankfully, it was not a challenge for us to expand to full-time remote working as we had been doing so for a number of years already.
With hybrid working having changed the way our colleagues interact, it’s was the ‘water cooler moments’ that were the most difficult to recreate and replicate. However, we successfully managed to overcome this with a combination of using the best of Microsoft technology, including Atlas, our digital workplace and intranet platform, as well as implementing new rhythms and processes.
It’s important for teams to think about which ‘water cooler’ moments have helped them the most; whether that’s getting a job done, or career progression.
You will need to understand which moments are missed most from the office; is it learning something new by overhearing a conversation? The office chit chat or the ability to share your opinions and ideas easily? Whilst some need isolation to be productive, others thrive from that camaraderie.
We conducted a survey by asking professionals which water cooler moments they missed most from the office. 57% cited overhearing conversations as a means to learn new things, with 27% missing quick answers to their questions due to having people around them.
While there are definitely ways to create online water cooler moments, before I move onto suggestions as to how to do this, it is important to have fundamentals in place to ensure that a borderless office is effective.
When we advise our clients on how to create successful digital transformation projects, we always refer to three key aspects - technology, processes and people. There is no point in introducing a new technology and expecting it to be adopted if you don’t plan, implement the right processes and involve the right people. With this in mind, we have applied the same thinking to remote working (which is a complete transformation for some) and added a fourth dimension of culture.
But before I move onto suggestions as to how to create online “water cooler moments” it is important that some fundamentals are in place to ensure that a borderless office is effective.
When we advise our clients on how to create successful digital transformation projects, we always refer to three key aspects - technology, processes and people. Basically, there is no point in introducing a new technology expecting it to be adopted if you do not plan and involve people and processes. So, we have applied the same thinking to remote working and added a fourth dimension of culture.
Now that we have the fundamentals out of the way, lets focus on the one key moment that our research participants miss the most and that is overhearing conversations. How can you recreate these online?
Below are just a few ideas that are more formal and structured:
To encourage more informal “overhearing of conversations”, consider the following:
When looking to successfully recreate these moments, it’s not only vital to listen to employees, but also to try different approaches to see which work best for your organization. Not every business is going to realistically be able to implement lots of new tools and others will be unable to commit to weekly meetings. Despite this, having the fundamentals in place, and offering employees the opportunity to have informal interactions will benefit businesses and empower staff.
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