Working from home became the default for many during the pandemic.
However last week the ONS (Office for National Statistics) released
data that showed that 84% of those people who had to work from home
during the pandemic now plan to hybrid work, with only 8% wanting to be
full time in the office. These figures show that hybrid is definitely
going to be the new normal.
Commuting less will be good for people’s work-life balance and will also
put less pressure on the planet by reducing carbon footprints. However,
there is a risk that core work relationships that have been depleted
during the last two years will not be rebuilt. Leaders need to
consciously think about this as otherwise some of the magic of working
together will be lost.
In previous articles, we have reported significant drops in work-life
balance as well as in
team relationships and friendships at work. This is concerning because
these factors are related to Connect and Be Fair, two of the Five
Ways to Happiness at Work. Relationships are the cornerstones of
collaboration, the foundation of trust and psychological safety. If
these trends continue, or even worsen over time because of remote
working, then businesses may become less innovative and competitive.
So, as you decide what your company policies are going to be regarding
people’s weekly working patterns, remember that social interaction
between employees is an essential part of business. We achieve more
together, rather than individually.
How to rebuild core relationships as you decide what’s best for your company**
The responsibility is on leaders to listen to their people to decide
what is best for their company. Polling employees is an excellent way to
get a feel for what people are willing to do, especially after they
have tried coming back to the office. When change happens to people
(especially if they don’t have a say in the matter), it causes
resistance. When they are involved in the process, they are more likely
to lend their support.
However, leaders must also be very deliberate about not just how to
work, but how to develop team relationships and encourage
friendships. Friends at work make the consequences of the pandemic far
easier to endure.
As you’re trying to decide what’s best for your company, allow us to
share some insights on how successful businesses can make a deliberate
decision in developing employee relationships. As we said in a previous
post, don’t be afraid to reimagine your working world. It may be
the right time to try something new and radical.
Think about relationships as ‘bonding, bridging and linking’**
“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
This old piece of networking wisdom contains many levels of truth. While
the people we associate with determine our ability to succeed, social
scientists have taken it one step further – to look at the different
types of social ties and their influence on us.
Bonding is a tie that connects close peers together. In the work
context, it’s the strength of your relationship with your teammates.
Bridging connects people with different identities and backgrounds. At
work, it’s your relationship with your colleagues in other teams.
Linking connects people at different levels within an organization or
society. In a work environment, it’s the connection you have with your
leaders, division heads and organizational leaders. Linking works
downwards as well — leaders need to be in touch with new employees so
they can have ears on the ground, and insights on what’s happening in
Without constant social interaction in office environments, how are you
developing these aspects of team relationships? Before starting a new
project, ask yourself: ‘who can we not move forward without?’ The
answer to this question will tell you something about who you need to
develop relationships with to accomplish your goals.
Reflect on what you’ve lost (and gained) **
We’ve been social distancing for a while now, and we’re starting to come
back together. This is a great time to reflect (if you haven’t already)
on the things we’ve lost and gained along the way. What essential
changes did your company make during the pandemic? What did you lose
along the way that you’d like to recreate?
If you’re going back to the office, consider the kind of habits you’d
like to keep up. Perhaps they’re social activities — a weekly music
playlist, a quiz night — or organizational practices.
More importantly, how do you create things like stronger team
relationships intentionally rather than accidentally by default? This is
more easily done with actual data — like the weekly reports and culture
profiles that Friday Pulse can provide.
Where do offices add the most value in your company?
With no real ‘end’ to the pandemic in sight, companies need to stay
flexible in their approach to office work. It’s time to rethink the
role the office plays in your business and assess the value it adds
to your company.
The office was once thought of as the sole arena for work. But the
pandemic has shown that the office doesn’t actually have to be the place
we work. This begs the question: where do offices add the most
Where the office does add value, however, is as a gathering space. It is
a social space where networking happens and relationships, social bonds,
and friendships develop organically in the office environment.
It might help to reimagine the office as an optional social space — a
place for collaborations, interactions, mentorship and, even, fun.
Perhaps it’s a place for training employees. Maybe it’s a meeting place
for activities that bring the team closer together. Whatever role you
decide the office plays within your business, a place to develop team
relationships is a must. The ‘office’—physical or otherwise — needs to
be a place of emotional and psychological safety. It needs to be a safe
place for relationships to grow.
Should you stay, or should you go? **
Hopefully, you’re in a position to reflect on your learnings from the
pandemic and to talk to your people, to determine a course of action
that is fair for everyone. Whatever you decide, decide
together. It’s the deciding together that increases wellbeing for