According to industry surveys, people are feeling less connected to their place of employment more than ever. It is no surprise, given current conditions, that the feeling of work malaise is at an all time high and with it employees are leaving in droves. The mass exodus is in part due to personal deep introspection, however for many, when the world removed public life and the work community, what went with it was a sense of belonging. For many who moved to remote work environments, the work alone was not enough.
Those who want to succeed in a remote or hybrid environment in the future will need to recreate the work community. What has been erased is the water cooler talk, the laughter, the fun. The work environment, now digital, needs to be rehabilitated and re-imagined. It will be some time, and maybe never, before we go back to a traditional work environment. So the question remains, how do you inject a little fun back into a digital environment?
I have been in a leadership position for most of my life. Those who work with me know how important it to have a positive work culture. For me, creating authentic connections and genuinely being interested in those I work with is key. Making opportunities for unfocused work talk (aka water cooler talk) increases productivity and motivation. Doing it digitally requires a little creativity. Scheduling time regularly in the calendar and people can “drop in” and talk about whatever suits their fancy is one way. The key to success is to have a ‘water cooler facilitator’, this is the person people are drawn to, have lively conversations with and are skilled at people, relationship building and laughter. Done correctly, soon everyone joins in the fun as a paid work break. (word of mouth always travels fast 🙂 let the early adopters spread the news)
The last piece is having opportunities for colleagues to connect outside of work, free from work conversation. For me, the best way to do this was to meet at the local pub on a Friday after work. Stay for as little or as long as you want. The strongest teams I ever had were the ones where there was a commitment to have it as a monthly event or ‘safety meeting’ . Not everyone could come each time, or always stay for long, but there were 12 opportunities in a year to join in the fun. Again, having a fun facilitator and including a bit of food is key. The investment in some wings, nachos and veggies and dip will be well paid back in productivity, and retention. I instituted a fine jar for anyone caught talking work at these socials and the money collected went to future social time tabs. Ensuring that the leadership team is present is essential to building positive work culture. Seeing your boss having a laugh or making a joke or learning that they love spam makes them human and relatable. There can be no sermon from the mound from the leadership to start or end things. Employees get talked at enough in a day.
The need to work remotely or in a hybrid environment has changed the ability for many of us to meet safely. With this new global reality, social time or safety meetings needed to reimagined. How some companies are bringing back the social time is through wine tastings. Who doesn’t love a wine package dropped off at their door and/or going to the conference room for a bit of fun ? Everyone comes together and is taken through a wine (or a few), tasting notes and food pairings. It can be done live and digitally at the same time. A few games are played along the way and after a winner is crowned, there is an opportunity to chat and catch up on the news. Any babies? birthdays? Exciting news? This is the time to connect and share.
Trina Plamondon is the founder of Carpa Vino, a local company specializing in wine tastings & wine consulting. In her blog she helps others find the magic in wine in a way that is easy to understand and appreciate.