We spend a third of our adult life at work.
Let that sink in.
Work shapes our identity and has an immense impact on the quality of our lives. During the lockdown, people relied heavily on interactions with their partners or housemates, while their work relationships were put on hold. However, for many people, in-person connections from work are a big part of their social lives.
Your company’s office has something that no home office could ever compete with: your colleagues. That’s why leaders looking to get people back into the office need to focus on building experiences that promote employee collaboration, community, and connection.
Building vibrant workplace communities helps create a sense of belonging that’s crucial to us all. Leaders need to find a way to enable that.
It’s time to recognize and emphasize the social aspect of the office to drive people back.
Why Workplace Connection Matters
The pandemic has made hybrid work the new norm for companies all over the world. Many employees enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home, due to better productivity and work-life balance. However, when remote work was the only option during the pandemic, not being able to come into the office revealed just how big of a role the workplace plays in our social lives.
Many employees have been struggling with social isolation as a consequence of working alone for long periods of time. A study published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education confirms that the global pandemic has deepened an epidemic of loneliness in the US.
- 36% of respondents reported severe loneliness — feeling lonely "frequently" or "almost all the time or all the time”
- 61% of young people aged 18–25 reported feeling this way
- 43% of young adults reported increases in loneliness since the pandemic's outbreak.
Connection is a core human need and workplaces play an important role in our sense of belonging. Without regular touchpoints with colleagues, isolation quickly becomes an issue. Added bonus? Belonging is good for your business too. It can lead to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% reduction in turnover risk, found the same Harvard study. Making your employees feel like they’re part of a team is a crucial factor in maintaining a higher level of engagement. In turn, engaged employees mean spikes in productivity.
In order to see an increase in office utilization, you need to make the workplace experience as seamless as possible. Choosing the right tools will help bring your teams back into the office. For example, our research shows that when employees use the Robin platform, they’re 2.5 times more likely to come into the office - without company directives or mandates.
3 Tips for Building Office Communities
Since so many companies are adopting more flexible and hybrid working policies, it is even more important for leaders to create offices that support connections to avoid isolation and support community building.
Here are three things to take into account if you want to build collaborative workplaces that balance your employee's needs:
1. Remember: People Want to Come Into the Office
The office is still the go-to place for peer-to-peer connection, and it’s not surprising that people want to spend their time in environments that enable these types of interactions with colleagues. Our research shows that 64% of employees are more likely to come into the office if they know their team would be there.
Even though the “remote vs. in-office work” debate is still making headlines, when it comes to collaboration, both employees and their employers know nothing can beat the office. More than 60% of employees ranked in-office and in-person meetings as the most appealing way to brainstorm.
The office serves many purposes for people. Some employees use their time in the office for in-person collaboration, socializing with coworkers, and building friendships. Others want to be able to establish themselves as part of the work community, and see the office as an opportunity to build relationships with leaders and their managers. In fact, we found that 40% of employees prefer face time with leadership over other perks, like parking stipends.
2. Understand What Motivates Employees to Come in
After two years of better work-life balance and not having to commute, employees are looking for a compelling reason to go back into the office. No one wants to commute to an empty office – people come in to connect. According to Microsoft’s WTI Pulse Report, 84% of employees would be motivated to come to the office by the promise of socializing with coworkers, while 85% would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds.
Turns out, when people know their teammates and work friends will be in the office, they are more driven to come in. In fact, Slack’s Future Forum shows that 74% of workers said collaborating with co-workers and clients, building camaraderie, and facilitating in-person meetings is what brings them into the office.
Let employees plan their work week and create their hybrid work schedule more effectively by giving them visibility into not only who is in the office on any given day, but also what activities are planned. Incentives like free lunches and commuter benefits can also help get people in the door and set the stage for connection.
3. Focus on the Workplace Experience
Leaders are responsible for creating policies and implementing procedures for community building. That’s why it’s crucial to find tools and resources that support connection and collaboration. Implementing the right tech and improving processes gives people what they need to connect effectively.
In our report Redefining the Workplace to Enhance Productivity, we surveyed senior decision-makers and found that 87% of them have fully or partially implemented room and desk reservation tools, making their offices more accessible and collaborative.
What’s more, 66% of respondents have adopted space and occupancy tracking, which enables them to learn how to create a workplace experience that best supports their employees. Equipped with data about space utilization, teams can make informed decisions about their workplace experience strategy and successfully iterate on it.
By prioritizing building human connections, you foster teamwork, creativity, and collaboration that allow employees to do their best work. In order to do that, you need to support the processes that make the return to the office possible:
- Give your team visibility into who will be in and what is going on
- Create opportunities and spaces to connect
- Implement the tools that make booking desks and resources simple.
Remove Workplace Friction to Enable Employee Connection
If you want to create a workplace that promotes connection, collaboration, and productivity, you need a flexible hybrid work model that fits in with your team’s needs and objectives. People want to come into the office, but they need leaders to support the processes that make that possible.
Building workplace communities won’t happen overnight; however, by understanding your employee’s needs and finding the right tools to remove friction, you can help create the perfect environment for future growth.
Want to find out what drives people into the office? We asked 380 full-time employees what motivates them to return to the office. Download the full report to see their answers.