The Hybrid Office and the “Watercooler” Moment

Despite the never-ending debates surrounding remote and hybrid working, it seems the hybrid office is here to stay.

Hybrid working in the office

Those in favour of a hybrid office often have the opinion that it gives the best of both worlds – a physical office space and the flexibility of working remotely, allowing for a better work-life balance and some even cite that employee productivity is better too.

Having a hybrid working environment – as opposed to solely remote – should in theory still allow for those ‘watercooler moments’, where employees can build relationships and connect with one another outside of scheduled meetings and events. But, some feel that even with hybrid working, the opportunities for connection as not the same as in the days of everyone being office based.

So how do we bridge the gap?

One idea floated by many organisations is to hold things like a simple ‘virtual team lunch’ or weekly coffee catch-up’s. They’re an opportunity to get to know your colleagues better, share ideas, ask questions, and discuss current topics. They’re also a great way to ensure remote workers feel included and connected to the company. There are also a range of ‘ice breaker’ exercises that can be done online, to help get the conversation going.

Some organisations have chosen to go down the route of having a team ‘book club’ to help foster relationships between remote and on-site employees or setting up a ‘group chat’ on a messaging platform to allow for those organic workplace relationships to grow.

However, just like it’s important to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard during in-person meetings, the same can be said for online ‘watercooler moments’. Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate is key, whether that be via a chatroom function or video call.

6 Ways we can bring back the ‘watercooler moment’

Bringing back the ‘Watercooler Moment’ in a hybrid office can feel like a challenge for some organisations, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to help you create a sense of community and connection within your hybrid office:

  1. Schedule regular virtual social gatherings: Set up a weekly or biweekly video meeting with your team where everyone can catch up on the latest news and updates.
  2. Tumbleweed on virtual gatherings? Look into using ‘ice breakers’ to get the conversation flowing between team members.
  3. Encourage workplace relationships outside of the ‘boardroom’: Create an online chat room or discussion board where your remote and in-office staff can share photos, stories, and jokes.
  4. Foster ‘watercooler moments’: Unstructured downtime is important for creativity and collaboration. Set aside time for your team to chat about non-work-related topics.
  5. Utilise technology: Use video chat and screen-sharing to make it easier for remote and in-office staff to communicate and collaborate.
  6. Ask your team! What do they think would be a good way to strengthen the bond of the team? A weekly virtual meet-up? Monthly book club? Discussion board about the latest podcasts they are listening to?

Are you working in a hybrid office now? If so, what is your organisation doing to bridge the gap between remote and on-site workers? If it’s something you are tasked with, would you use any of the tips mentioned?

Employment documents

Don’t forget, any change to the location of working from the contract will need to be supported in writing, generally, a ‘variation to contract’ letter will suffice for smaller changes. We can provide all of your employment documents to you including a review if yours have been around a little while and may not be fully compliant with legislation.

The last big change to employment documents was in 2020, have yours been checked since then?

Contact us

Hopefully, this blog has provided some useful information to you. If we can be of any assistance, please contact us on 01455 231982 or by email to hello@hrbyjude.co.uk

Employee Engagement, Hybrid Working, Remote Office, retention, Virtual Lunch

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