The summer holidays can be very disruptive to the office environment; with people away on annual leave, parents having to juggle childcare and the school holidays, and clients away too, it can be a bit of a flat time of year.
Now that the children are back to school, most businesses are also back to full capacity, but not necessarily raring to go! Post-summer blues may be affecting some employees as they return from their travels, and those who feel they were left to hold the fort may be feeling a bit resentful.
So, September is the time to boost morale, increase motivation levels and re-energise your team. It’s time to restore your company culture.
Promoting a social workplace culture
Employees who get on with each other are more productive and healthier people. Many of us count our colleagues as friends and this is good for our mental health and wellbeing. After the summer break it is important to re-establish those bonds between colleagues and provide opportunities for staff to socialise.
While organised activities can be very beneficial, there are also things you can do in your office to re-gel your team. Here’s how some companies are encouraging collaboration, bonding and a happier workplace:
Fika – this Swedish concept has now reached the UK, and encourages better working relationships and helps employees to de-stress. A fika break is a coffee break, but not a take-out coffee at your desk. Instead employees stop work and socialise with each other. A breakout area is the idea space to host a fika and give employees a chance to talk, relax and recharge. The golden rule of a fika is not to talk about work; this is about stepping away from work for just a few minutes and socialising with your colleagues.
Lunchtime classes – many people spend their lunch hour at their desk, whether they’re continuing with work or scrolling through Facebook, they’re still focused on a screen. This means they don’t have a proper break and that can be bad for their health as well as their productivity levels. Instead a large meeting room or boardroom could provide the perfect venue for employees to bond during a shared activity. Fitness classes, a mindfulness or mediation course, or even a board games club could all be hosted in the office. The idea is to encourage employees to reclaim their lunch break and socialise at the same time, and this is another reason why having a break-out area within your workspace is essential.
Social meet ups and events – this option is great for employees who work in the office, but especially for companies with remote workers. It can be very isolating working from a remote hub, so regular meet ups that are not business related are an important way to build working relationships and foster collaboration across your workforce. Consider trips to the theatre or to a comedy club, or do something active like taking over the local bowling alley.
It is important that these activities are not compulsory as that turns them from being a social perk to being a company directive to ‘be sociable’. It also important to discuss with your employees what they want to do. Not everyone will want to socialise in a pub after work for example, they may need to get home instead. Therefore, some social activities may need to be on the company’s time.
Is your office a social workplace?
The dominant trend in modern office design is to create an environment that promotes social interactions. It’s about providing employees with spontaneous opportunities to converse and collaborate. When designing a new office space, we look for ways to engineer interactions, so that when employees leave their desks they are likely to meet other colleagues and share ideas.
This is why we also design spaces for informal meetings in key areas of the office. So when employees bump into each other and want to talk, there are convenient places to do so. We also encourage our clients to consider having hotdesk areas that allow employees to work in different parts of the office so they meet other people – not just their colleagues who they work alongside every day.
Breakout areas need to encourage socialising, with space to eat communally and space to relax and chat. If all you have is a galley kitchen with a kettle and fridge, it’s no wonder that staff spend most of their time at their desk looking at a screen.
We also design flexible meeting rooms that can host business events and meetings, but also provide a venue for social activities. Having intelligent furniture and storage solutions makes it easy to reconfigure rooms to create the right environment.
An office refit is not a quick fix for addressing the post summer blues, but it is something to consider if your current office design does not promote a social workplace. In the meantime, we hope that our social activity ideas will help your employees bond and feel happier at work this autumn!