Open space, flex office, work from home, etc all aim at providing greater flexibility, but perhaps at the expense of social interaction. The key priority of companies is to bring teams together, but how can social bonding take place in an increasingly fragmented professional environment? What if redesigning lunch breaks was the answer?
New Generations, New Habits
Generation Y and Z have grown up in a digitally advanced society. Accustomed to the tailor-made and hyper-personalised, they thrive in environments where individual habits, constraints and wishes can be accommodated. They do not want the one-size-fits-all approach; they expect their employers to adapt to accommodate their eating habits.
One such habit is BYOB, i.e. bring your own boxes. Whether for financial, personal or nutritional reasons, this trend is gathering pace across the world. With more and more employees bringing their own lunch to work catering services that no longer offer what employees want are under the radar, and this is making companies rethink cafeteria spaces and other meal offerings.
These developments are in sharp contrast with a far more worrying trend: the increase in employees lunching at their desks. The trend of employees eating in front of their screens, or not taking a lunch break at all is on the rise and should not be taken lightly by employers. Studies on the harm done by this habit are numerous and are all unanimous in their conclusions: eating in front of a screen is not good for health, causes a drop in productivity and creativity, leads to burn-out, and diminished employee loyalty. However, there are solutions to this.
With changing habits and increasingly demanding careers, employers are having a hard time trying to come up with a framework for organising these new practices and encouraging employees to bond with each other. So, the challenge is considerable leading to a rethink on work breaks to create a sense of bonding inside the company. But beyond the basic experience of taking a break and building spaces for in-house bonding, the most important consideration is ultimately the purpose of collaboration.
For Better Collaboration
Although compartmentalised in the past, personal and professional lives now tend to overlap each other and sometimes even become indistinguishable.
From the employer point of view, this is excellent news. Numerous studies on workplace socialisation have been carried out, and all reach the same conclusion: “colleagues who are friends make for good bosses”. In a study published by a leading analytics and advisory firm, 50% of employees who have a “best friend” at work state that they feel strong loyalty towards their company and genuinely enjoy coming to work. By contrast, only 10% of people who do not feel particularly close to their colleagues show the same degree of loyalty to their company.
Whilst it may be difficult to create friendships from scratch, it is certainly possible at least to create the framework for encouraging them.
Creating Moments for Getting Together
Lunchtime meetings between managers and staff, half-day workshops on teamwork or the classic seminar run over several days; the opportunities for fostering team spirit are numerous and must be seized. These moments are ideal for galvanising teams but are not frequently used. Daily rituals can easily be set up in any kind of organisation for promoting employee bonding.
A lot of organisations have grasped this idea well and introduced some activities with their workforce related to cooking and eating lunch together. These moments serve both as an icebreaker for new members of staff and as a daily event for bringing together all employees.
The lunch break thus becomes an opportunity to socialize and relax, whilst simultaneously ensuring that all staff enjoy a wholesome, balanced and free meal. Today, in a remote set up, this can of course be done from anywhere and shared virtually.
Inventing Moments for Relaxing
Remote working can be stressful and that is why it is important to take regular breaks both in the workplace or at home. Whether it’s a virtual gaming session or a cuppa break on the balcony, taking regular breaks keeps staff motivated and improves their performance. These welcome breathers are the chance for staff to take a step back from their projects for a moment, and then go back to work after being revitalised and refreshed. Therefore, companies are becoming ever more ingenious regarding redesigning their virtual experiences, employee engagement and motivation strategies.
So How Can Social Interaction be Combined with Working from Home?
For employees around the world, lockdown has been a slightly forced experiment in what tomorrow’s world of work might be like. Loss of motivation and engagement, breakdown in trust, lack of transparency, the list is long, and it is vital to build and maintain bonds between colleagues, even when working remotely.
A leading global consultancy firm has analyzed this thorny issue and identified three essential tools and simple activities to introduce:
- Be Safe and Healthy: set up “food” routines with colleagues, share meals even at a distance, and meet up to play sports
- Be Digital and Flexible: 100% online communication can sometimes be difficult to get used to, so do not hesitate to use different communication channels according to projects and the individuals working on them - email, telephone, messaging, videoconferencing
- Be Actively Engaged: help colleagues/ employees to maintain their team commitment by redefining and tailoring their goals and daily rituals to this new way of doing things
Aware that employee well-being impacts positively on productivity, various organizations are investing in and giving a new angle to working time not spent at the desk. Short gaps have the power to refresh, unite, and motivate employees, thus positively impacting the business. And there is no doubt about it, implementing new mechanisms for facilitating such opportunities to meet up and bond daily will therefore be a core component of major organisational changes as we navigate through transformation.