Hybrid work, hybrid coffee breaks
As Covid-19 exit strategies become an increasingly popular topic of discussion, it is becoming more and more likely that we will move forward from strict recommendations for remote work. We are approaching the point where employers and employees start negotiating who will return to the office and to what extent. More than a year of large-scale remote working has revealed the strengths and weaknesses of working remotely, which helps organizations evaluate the possibilities of hybrid working models. It is therefore possible, if not probable, that many organizations will be more flexible about post-pandemic remote work.
However, the effectiveness of the hybrid working models is measured not only in the guidelines of the management, but also in the attitudes of the entire work community. Whether it is about certain employees working entirely remotely or in the office, or about each employee switching between the two, it is important to ensure that the physical office does not become the only and primary place for developing a sense of community. According to our survey, for many employees that had worked remotely before the pandemic, the large-scale transition to remote work improved the opportunities to participate in the workplace and to find themselves as part of the community. As positive as this observation is, it also indicates that remote workers have not had as strong a sense of community when other members of the organization meet face to face. This is also explained by the interpretation of our data that the sort of communication that develops workplace relationships, often takes place in joint coffee and lunch breaks, as well as spontaneous encounters in offices and hallways.
When entering post-pandemic workplaces, more people know what it is like to work remotely. Personal experiences of building a sense of community, feeling of belonging, and finding opportunities for informal communication in remote work can help the ones returning to physical offices to remember and take account of the colleagues that are working remotely. In a productive and well-being workplace, everyone should have the opportunity to experience belonging. This requires involving remote workers not only in task-oriented communication, but also in activities that build the sense of community. If a formal meeting can be turned into a hybrid, why not a coffee break?