Working from home has changed the dynamics of office friendship. With many professionals missing the personal touch as well as workplace camaraderie, the lack of physical proximity seems to be affecting efficiency and coordination for companies.
Until a few months back when Gauri Anand, a 26-year-old copywriter working with a leading advertising agency, used to run out of ideas for catchy taglines or concepts, she would have a brainstorming session with her other team members and come up with great ideas. Similarly, when Nitin Ahuja, a software developer, would feel stressed at work, he would head out to destress with his office buddies and catch up on some gossip at a nearby café. Now, face-to-face interactions have been replaced by Skype meetings and Zoom calls where we are talking about work or projects in a virtual world.
With COVID-era seemingly unending for now, working from home has become the new norm. Gone are the days when we would go with our office buddies for a quick drink post office hours or catch up with some gossip over a cup of coffee or just simply bond over sharing tiffin during the lunch hour. Consequently, informal bonding and office friendship that led to better results have gone for a toss.
Watch: Is Working From Home The New Normal
How remote working has hit office friendships?
One thing that most employees, working from home, miss about going to the office are their friends as well as office banter. The “coffee breaks” helped ease stress and added some vigor in otherwise strenuous long hours and mostly mundane work life.
A recent Cisco report says 64% of professionals experienced challenges with the loss of informal kitchen or watercooler exchanges. The new WFH model can make employees feel disconnected as in-person interactions have come to almost zero for some.
The absence of casual hallway chats and long lunch breaks with office friends could potentially make workers feel more isolated, Hilla Dotan, an organizational-behavior researcher at Tel Aviv University tells The Atlantic. As per Dotan, virtual work is neutralizing the social aspect of work life.
Although digital collaboration tools have helped colleagues to catch up with each other, the ability to just sit down and have a chat and the personal touch is missing. The Cisco report added as teams are remote, colleagues do not happen to walk by each other to start a conversation, even those slight doubts about everyday tasks.
Why workplace camaraderie is important?
As most of us spend anything between 8 to 10 hours at work, it is only natural for employees to look for workplace friendship. A healthy relationship between employees as well as team bonding makes working easy, enjoyable and productive.
According to Gallup research, having a close work friend increases productivity, fulfillment, and even loyalty towards the company. Similarly, if you don’t have any friends in office, it can affect both professional and personal well-being.
Talking about the benefits of workplace friendship, an article in YourStory says that good camaraderie helps in boosting employee satisfaction, contribution, and commitment to the organization. It makes coming to office pleasant, creates a sense of belonging among employees and ultimately has a positive impact on employee’s well-being.
Hence, offices where friendships and team culture are promoted usually score high on employee satisfaction and increase productivity. It fosters a spirit of collaboration among employees as they go beyond their duty to help others in need. As a result, many companies have policies like buddy system, fun Fridays, team outings and lunches.
Ways to keep your office friendship alive during COVID-19:
- Phone calls: You can always pick up your mobile and catch up with your friend by giving him a call. It also helps in avoiding misunderstanding and miscommunication. The personal touch and your effort will be appreciated.
- Schedule virtual lunch dates: Miss having lunch with your office BFF? Well, you can block time in the calendar for having lunch over video with your friends.
- Chain emails: To break away from the monotony, you can start an interesting chain of emails to either a group of your colleagues or with the whole organization. It can either be to share the new recipe you tried or the new fun show you want your mates to watch.
- Virtual fun hour: Ask your HR to hold Fun Friday or events on Zoom so that it helps in keeping the positivity alive.
- Movie sessions: If your work buddies share your interest with horror movies or adventure, you can plan a Netflix party with your office friends. With Netflix, you can simultaneously stream with friends and enjoy a virtual movie night.
Tools to keep your office friendship alive during COVID-19:
- Slack: You can download Slack on both your desktop and mobile. It helps you communicate with anyone one-on-one and also with small groups of people. It also makes communication streamlined and enables you to react to a message or announcement with an emoji and not just text.
- Microsoft Teams: You can chat with your office buddy or make a group of your team buddies and have a video call to catch up with them. This program has a list of members of your organization on the left side and chat space on the rest of the screen
- WhatsApp: If you are concerned about the privacy of your chats with your office colleagues, you can always add him or her on WhatsApp. Besides making calls and chatting, you can also share jokes, the latest news as well as other interesting forward messages. WhatsApp is also useful for anyone who wants to set up a big group chat.
- Skype: Extremely popular with traditional companies, Skype for Business enables you to access all corporate contacts within an organization. You can chat, call, or even join a meeting at the click of a button.
- Zoom: Zoom is a video platform that allows professionals to meet, and even hold conference-style sessions, over video.
Now with more and more companies planning to extend work from home to a longer period or opting for a hybrid workplace model, it has become even more important to take time from your busy schedule for your office friends and connect with them so that you can enjoy working like you used to.