In most recent years optimal workplace design has mostly centred around breaking down barriers between teams. Conversations around managing social interactions have involved how to increase chance interactions and social connections.
We’ve seen a huge rise in co-working spaces on the basis of the collaboration opportunities they offer, an increase in high density open plan offices, breakout spaces and collaboration zones. The simple fact that we have a plethora of terminology to define these spaces is testament enough to the rise of a collaborative workplace.
Many of us are thirsting for the opportunity to return to the workplace for this very reason – to get back into collaboration mode. However proximity in the face of COVID-19 is considerably less appealing.
It’s only natural that there will be a heightened sense of caution around social interaction in the workplace and inevitably this will create feelings of awkwardness, similar to what we are currently experiencing in the supermarkets and on the streets. These initial stages of a return to work scenario may leave us feeling less connected to our colleagues and adversely impact our productivity.
However the greater need is one of safety, as productivity levels will bear a greater loss if employees are constantly worrying about whether the right precautions are in place. It’s important for employers to remain agile in their responses to managing social interactions, listen to your employees and their experiences to collectively work towards meeting their needs where appropriate.
Look for alternative ways to introduce social elements to your workforce. Instead of people bringing in food for a morning tea, consider the government guidelines for arranging food deliveries and organise a pre-packaged snack to be distributed amongst staff, including employees who remain working at home. Although these can’t be shared together it still gives your staff a shared experience to talk about – even if it’s over email or video calls!
This piece is part of our ongoing commitment to delivering resources that will help initiate discussions around getting your workplace back to work safely. More resources are available here.