Keeping the workforce engaged has been a delicate dance. In 2022, many large companies, including GM, Amazon, Apple, and Citi Bank have declared a return to the office for employees – only to walk it back or reschedule that return until “later.”
Goldman Sachs famously insisted all workers return to the office full-time in March 2022. By the end of March, only half of their 10,000 HQ workers showed up. According to Business Insider, as of October 19, 2022, only 65% of workers are in the office 5 days a week.
Remote team leaders and our workforce have become uncomfortable and a lot of skills and overall comfort at reaching out got lost these last 2 years.
While we don’t necessarily advocate going back to the office, we do promote breaking down the silos of remote work with intentional interactions.
So how do you entice remote and hybrid workers to engage with each other, to discover mentors, career champions, and opportunities for career paths within the company.
Make it social.
By 2022, work has evolved into something people do, not where they go. So, give your employees a reason beyond “doing work” to reconnect with each other.
Having quick access to the work team and work friend group is one of the reasons people are eager to spend some time in the office or in a workgroup setting.
Here are a few tips to rebuild social connections and social capital within the organization.
Be clear about expectations
According to Harvard Business Review, 85% of employees would be motivated to go into the office to rebuild team bonds.
84% of employees would be motivated to go into the office if socializing with coworkers is the primary reason.
People are not eager to return to the office if their friends and teammates are not there. Be clear with the staff when they are expected to be in the office.
Ideally, there are required office hours for all staff.
Even if staff members are not interested in returning to the office, knowing that everyone is there can help ease the transition.
For example, for the Marketing staff, brainstorming works better in person than over Zoom. The creative process is better facilitated in person than remotely. More content comes from an in-person conversation than a Zoom conversation.
People get into their creative space much easier in person. For example, many people are more creative moving around – not very effective on Zoom.
Technology can get in the way of having a free-flowing conversation.
Reduce the busy work
Be aware that after several years of remote work, there may be a feeling that being in the office requires hyperfocus and productivity. This can stress out workers and defeat the purpose of bringing them together.
Try to relieve that tension by catering lunch, encouraging ad-hoc meetings, and facilitating group, non-work discussions. Social connection is the point – inspire those connections.
We put interactions at the core of career advancement for remote, hybrid, or onsite work teams.
Prioritize connections when people are in the office. No one goes to the office to sit on video meetings, answer emails and run reports.
It’s easy to devolve into that unless leaders and managers give permission for employees to spend their days connecting in person.
Avoid making the “in-person” days a blur of potentially missing deadlines. Enable employees to connect with their peers by using time blocking to get those necessary tasks finished.
For example, consider having a company-wide policy of one day per week meeting-free.
Create new habits
Going into the office is all about recreating social capital and team bonds. Leaders and managers can propose experiences that bring their staff together.
Create an opportunity for connection through shared experiences.
For example, cater breakfast for the staff and have a short activity that can help people learn more about other people in the company.
The CareerCNX app helps your staff connect with others and reminds team members to interact consistently over time. The CNX tool prompts employees to ask the right questions and capture the answers to develop deeper richer relationships.
When an individual has relationships with 5 or more individuals within the company, they are 87% more likely to remain with the company, according to an Empuls research study.
It might also be beneficial to set up 15-minute chats – maybe with coffee – cross-functionally between people of different teams so each member of the organization can become a bit more fluent on what their coworkers are responsible for.
Be intentional about career development. Pete Bonnaci, Director of IGS Data and Analytics at Honeywell – a cohort member at Career CNX has shared that “Progressive companies like Honeywell take dedicated Career Development time a step further to propose the meeting-free day each month be used specifically for Career Development, including fostering a mentoring relationship.”
Helping employees to relate
Remote work is increasing gaps in diversity advancement. Progressive leaders combat this phenomenon with increased conversations about weekly and monthly wins from each team member.
No one should be left outside of this conversation, even if they are a bit quiet about their achievements. Apps like the CareerCNX app can directly facilitate the routine celebration of all team member’s wins that is documented and consistently brought to the attention of leadership through automation without leaders adding time to capture the information.
Career CNX makes it Ok to be reaching out and even proposes some salient topics to get the conversation started.
The CNX tool allows employees to note interests and other information about coworkers that help to build deeper and longer-lasting connections
If you’re going to require your employees to spend time in the office with their coworkers and friends, make that time a pleasant and meaningful part of their lives. Help the staff to develop – or redevelop – those social connections by setting expectations, decreasing busy work, and creating opportunities for shared experiences.
As a cost-effective addition to supporting your HR team, the Career CNX app helps your staff facilitate cross-team interactions that are specifically designed to foster deeper work relationships, mentors, and just plain fun at work.