Over half of workers miss office banter.

Waking up early, putting on a smart outfit, rushing to catch that packed commuter train. That life seems a long time ago for most office workers, right? 

With most office workers having worked from home for at least some of the time for over a year now, the rush of getting ready for a day in the office can seem like a lifetime ago. But, what do people really feel about working from home vs working from an office? The general consensus seems to be split: some want to work from the comfort of their homes forever, others are itching to get back into the office.

Home vs office.

Research Randstad carried out earlier this year revealed that whilst a third of people miss commuting, 17% of people said that they viewed commuting, business travel and physical meetings as completely outdated. This clearly shows that there are differing opinions over where the nation wants to work.

This suggests that it’s key to consider what it is about commuting and the office that workers miss (let’s face it, standing under someone’s armpit on a train or getting stuck in traffic on the M25 is unlikely to be it…), and what about the at-home set up people like.

People power.

To find out more, we spoke to 300 people about what they missed most about the office. The clear winner was office banter, with 54% of respondents picking this as their most missed part of office life. This was followed by structured working days (28%), in person meetings (12%), and lastly, office romances (6%). It is clear that what most workers miss is that ‘watercooler chat’, and being able to laugh, joke and chat with colleagues during the working day: in other words, having that office atmosphere.

Recreating the office atmosphere.

With this in mind and with offices starting to reopen, as an employer, you may have a queue of people ready and waiting to get back to their desks and work together in real life (socially distanced, of course). It’s important to consider what methods you can put in place to manage the return safely, whilst encouraging workers to get back to what they love about being at work. For example, although breakout areas and sitting next to your work best friend may no longer be possible, you can encourage your employees to have regular informal catch ups where space allows, and also re-introduce any office competitions, social events and incentives where safe to do so.

However, it is likely that some people, although keen to return, may be feeling a little anxious about the transition, and may not be quite ready to completely return to ‘normal’. You can read more about supporting employees who may be feeling like this here.

Bringing banter online.

Equally, there will be workers who are not returning to the office just yet, whether that’s to do with personal preference or health reasons. Whilst ensuring that those who are coming back to office are set up to do so, it’s important not to forget about those who are still dialling in via video call. It can be difficult to manage maintaining your ideal office atmosphere and workplace culture when your teams are experiencing different ways of working, but there are easy steps you can take to bridge the location gap.

Top tips for maintaining your office atmosphere when people are working in different locations:

1. Maintain regular non-work related check ins

Where you may be having a planned catch up with colleagues in the office, give those who are working from home the option to dial in too. You could set up your tech so those at home can see those in the office, and join in the conversation. Equally, if you have set up a group chat or something similar to help people stay in touch when not working in the same place, keep this going where you can.

2. Set up a virtual event…

...that employees can take part in from the office or from home. For example, all volunteering to do something for a charity, all committing to walk a certain distance each day, or all taking part in a virtual quiz or similar. That way, employees can be part of the team no matter where they are.

3. Create space in meetings for people to talk

Think back: when we used to have in-person meetings pre-pandemic, we’d usually start with a bit of conversation - incidental chat that comes with sharing a physical space. However, with online meetings it can be really tempting to jump straight into the planned agenda, without having that small but crucial bit of social interaction first. When you’ve got some people at home and some in the office, it’s really key to make time for this interaction for all involved. Carving out this time also gives your people the chance to air any stresses they might be carrying, making for a more productive meeting!

4. Check in on a one-to-one level

By checking in with your employees individually, you should be able to better gauge how each worker is finding the office atmosphere, and get suggestions for ways you could adapt your set up moving forward. Overall, this will help promote a good working atmosphere.

5. Get leadership involved

When it comes to creating the office environment you want, input and buy-in from all leadership team members is vital. Encourage leadership to take part in non-work related chat and lighthearted conversations, wherever they may be based. You could co-ordinate ideas with all leadership in a private chat, and discuss plans, initiatives and ideas for making  the wider office atmosphere somewhere that people want to be