An office environment that fosters friendships

Nathalie Walls, Workplace Consultant Culture, Workplace strategy

Over the past year, workplace friendships have faced a number of challenges as we were forced to adapt to remote working. Maintaining bonds and forming new ones in a virtual world is by no means easy and now that we’re faced with the prospect of returning to the office, what is the next step for these relationships. In a 2020 study, a positive correlation was found between office friendships and wellbeing and business related factors. More than 67% of workers agreed that having workplace friendships improved happiness levels and contributes towards good mental health. These bonds with our colleagues help to create a positive working atmosphere as well as foster workplace culture. So how do you create an office environment that boosts employee interaction, creates bonds between colleagues and increases productivity?

Smart working to encourage interaction

Attracting employees back to the office is a huge focus for businesses across the country at the moment and balancing different personalities and preferences will be key to success. The introverts among us may have enjoyed the solace of working from home and the return to the office may be a daunting prospect. The extroverts, now that the working from home novelty has disappeared, are excited to return to the workplace and to be reunited with their colleagues and friends. But whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or omnivert, we must encourage smart working and collaborative thinking in a way that is inclusive of all.

Smart working areas create flexibility in where we choose to work as well as encouraging accidental interactions. These ‘water cooler’ moments can, at times, save someone an email or a phone call, increasing employee productivity. You also free employees from their desks allowing them to discover new places to work in proximity to potential new friendships.

For members of the team who may be cautious about returning to the office environment an agile working environment that includes features such as quiet areas or pods, provides somewhere they can work without being in the midst of it all.

For Peldon Rose’s client Twinings, a social area was created to serve as a central point for engagements with colleagues as well as a hub for monthly meetings and internal events, improving collaboration within the teams and boosting the Twining’s culture.

Twinings' multifunctional social hub

Why are breakout areas and tea points so important?
As we return to work place it is crucial that we have space for informal conversations, to build upon the social capital that has been lost. Within the workspace ecosystem, breakout spaces help to encourage conversation and for us to chat and interact informally.

For Peldon Rose, our tea point and family-style dining area brings us together as a family, a place where we can enjoy a drink together after a busy week or break down those social barriers over a board game. It creates a positive atmosphere where we can celebrate business milestones or a colleague’s birthday. We are able to foster our work/love culture in this area and are excited to be able to get back to creating memories together.

Peldon Rose's family style dining area

Having the right office environment for social events such as after work drinks or summer BBQs is essential for the promotion of workplace friendships. It allows colleagues to come together and interact with their peers and meet new members of the team. With many starting new roles from the comfort of their homes, these interactions will be essential to immerse new team members into a company's culture. Common interests are discovered, and it can also help to develop a new perspective about the different job roles within the company.

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