As companies are slowly returning back to the office, it can be tough to find ways to create an engaging and interactive office for a hybrid organization. However, there are a few ways to maximize face time and ensure your team has ample opportunity to interact with each other, whether it be for a work related chat or casual catch up. If you want to know how to foster team interaction in your hybrid office, stay tuned. But first....
An interactive office is a space where team members are able to interact with each other face-to-face. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as through open spaces, common areas, or by using tools to facilitate interactions.
There are a few key reasons why it’s important to create an interactive office. First, it helps create a sense of community and camaraderie within the team. Additionally, it allows team members the space to bounce ideas off of each other and collaborate on projects more easily. Finally, it can help build stronger relationships outside of work, which can lead to better communication and collaboration in the office.
While everyone knows the value of in-person interaction, it's still challenging to get employees into the office. If everyone can work remotely and isn't technically required to report to the office, what’s they incentive to come in? The question then is, how can you encourage staff interaction in the workplace and collaboration in person? To solve these hybrid team challenges, it's critical to understand the reasons why employees may opt to work at home.
Employees have gone through so much change since the COVID-19 pandemic started. First, they were forced to work remotely. Initially, it was a nightmare, especially for parents who were working from home and homeschooling their kids at the same time. But they eventually settled into their work-at-home life and started enjoying it. Asking them to come to the office when they are perfectly content working remotely is definitely a challenge.
💡Solution: Provide Attractive Incentives for Working in the Office
Offer incentives such as breakfast and coffee, lunch on occasion, etc. For example, JP Morgan Chase has expanded their childcare benefits and even has a daycare in a few of their headquarters. This eases the mind of parents who might not be willing to leave their young kids.
Whether it's offering free parking spaces or free lunch, make sure that it addresses the needs of your employees.
It's been almost two years since companies have implemented and improved all the health and safety protocols. But employees are still concerned about spending time in the office, especially for 8 hours at a time. According to an online survey of 256 employees in the US, 91% of the respondents are moderately concerned about returning to the office because of getting affected by the virus and putting their families in danger.
💡 Solution: Encourage Transparency and Constant Open Communication
You can implement all of the latest safety measures in the office, but if your employees don't know about it, their concerns will continue to grow. Ideally, you should have one place where you're communicating with your employees how safety protocols work when they come to the office. Depending on your company culture and resources, you can even create a fun return to work video.
Okay, you've provided incentives and assured everyone that it's safe to return to the office. And the office is starting to get foot traffic again. But everyone is just going about their day with their masks on and heads down. No one is interacting. Some may want to but are unsure of how to go about it.
💡 Solution: Create an Interactive Office that Lets People Know It's Safe to Interact
That's why redesigning your office to foster staff interaction is key. You don't need to go to extreme measures like Dropbox where they completely got rid of its individual desks when they switched to a fully remote setup. You can make a few changes with what you already have and incorporate a few new tools.
Creating an interactive office is a combination of logistics and creativity. By working with what you already have and adding a few minor changes, you can have a huge impact on staff interaction in the workplace.
Open floor plans have been controversial even pre-pandemic as a few studies claim that it's not conducive for productivity. Nowadays, an open floor plan might be a safety concern because it doesn't provide "barriers" to the virus.
But let's face it, an open floor plan not only makes interaction easier, but it's also safe. It's easier to clean and it lessens high-touch surfaces such as door handles. Installing transparent "workstation enclosures" has been the most cost-effective and safe solution for most offices.
Once you've covered the basic workstations, it's time to invest in creating or repurposing spaces to be more interactive. For example, you can redesign the office canteen to make it like a coffee shop or a “work bar.”
"Our work bars incorporate storage for project resources in the base but their work surface serves as informal collaboration space. This time in workplace design is exciting as everyone is trying many new things."
Due to safety protocols, eating in workstations has been prohibited, so everyone needs to eat in the kitchen and work bars. Who knew that a safety protocol can also be a socialization feature?
Traditionally, floor plans are taped to the wall. For fancy offices, some floor plans are even in glass frames. But nowadays, this solution is outdated because desks are often moved around to accommodate social distancing guidelines. That's why an interactive office map free or an interactive desk map is a handy tool for everyone. IT and HR can create a secure and flexible floor plan that employees can access and interact with on any device.
Companies are now switching from big conference rooms to smaller ones not just for safety but also for better collaboration between a smaller group of people. Some collaboration spaces also incorporate digital tools to bridge the gap between remote teammates and colleagues who are in the office.
Adding ambient office music in some spaces can also dramatically change the office environment. According to Quartz.com’s article, there is evidence that music is better at managing stress and anxiety compared to anti-anxiety medication. Plus, playing the right background music can boost productivity, especially when doing repetitive tasks. It also creates a more inviting vibe, similar to how you feel when walking into a coffee shop or bar.
Now that your office is ready for productive brainstorming sessions and fun interactions, how can you maximize face time in the office while keeping everyone safe? There are two options to choose from.
Option 1: For a manager-led schedule, decide a day of the week when everyone works in the office.
This works great for smaller companies that have plenty of space and can accommodate everyone in the office. This instantly solves the problem of getting people to the office. However, make sure to choose the right office days.
👉 How to choose the best days for working in person.
Option 2: For an employee-led schedule, use a tool that makes it easy to see who's working in the office.
Using a Slack app like ‘Where’ easily lets employees see who's going to work from where so employees can better coordinate shared work and foster team interaction. Add incentives for people to come in and you’ve got a killer combo.
Hopefully, this article gave you plenty of ideas and inspiration to create or redesign your interactive office. With the many tools available nowadays, you’re only limited by your imagination! Using and repurposing what you already have is a great place to start. You can always add new things as you gain more knowledge about your hybrid setup and get more budget to build the ideal office space.