As many of us start to return to the office, safety is on everyone’s mind. Maintaining physical distance will mean the introduction of shift patterns and staggered start times; the construction of physical barriers and one-way walk-throughs.
Safe, but not exactly social – and there’s the rub. While swathes of your staff continue to operate remotely, your office needs to become even more of a social hub – a vital place for your people to connect and collaborate.
If we can’t physically give each other hugs, can we re-design our office to embrace us instead?
We had a fun chat with Kursty Groves, (author of I Wish I Worked There and founder of workplace consultancy Shape) and came up with some practical experiments to bring your people closer together, whilst keeping them safely apart.
Work on your ‘Sign’ Language
Our Hunch People want to feel they’re safe, not extras on the set for ‘Contagion’. Brands have been having fun with legalese for ages, and communicating COVID-19 safety policies is a golden opportunity to reinforce your company values and brand.
Experiment Can you find fun ways to land serious messages?
- Issue everyone in the office with their own 2 metre ‘pool noodle’. Grant OFFICIAL PERMISSION to swipe anyone entering their personal space!
- How creatively can you express 2 metres? That’s 6’ 7” – the length of Bob in accounts; two of Karen in HR, and approximately the length of three average spaniels…
- Have fun with physical reminders: Why plaster grim strips across the floor, when you could have the Queen, Freddy Mercury and Lady Gaga showing your people where to stand? (Cardboard cut-outs will suffice if you can’t afford the real thing!)
- Paint a giant daisy on your meeting room floor: Ask everyone to ‘choose’ a petal, and watch your stand-ups bloom!
We’re all cleaners now!
Our Hunch Post-Covid, cleaning will become a constant, particularly for high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Make it a part of what everyone does, and you’ll lighten the load/ let your people feel safe and in-control.
Experiment Can you bring cleaning out of the night-shift shadows, and turn it into a collaborative endeavour?
- Celebrate and spotlight your cleaning staff – “these are the people saving our lives every day!” Introduce them to your desk workers; hero their profiles around the office, and employ them during office hours.
- Stage ‘Communal Cleaning Times’ through the day: “Drop your mouse, everyone – pick up a cloth!” For five minutes, let off steam by speed-cleaning to loud tunes (from your ‘People’s Playlist’!)
- Splash out for hand sanitizers with sound effects. Cleaning hands has never been more fun!
Fill Your Space
Our Hunch Maintaining physical distance will quickly make offices feel empty – and emphasise the sense of separation your people are feeling.
Experiment Fill the space in fun and innovative ways – to ensure both physical distance and a sense of connection
- If there’s only room for 2 or 3 seats in your meeting room, make them cosy armchairs or brightly-coloured swivel chairs – encourage your people to kick back, and get comfy with each other.
- Cram every 2m radius with fun props/ creative stimulus – a stack of comics; a squeaky toy; a book of poems. Bring formality down, and let the connections begin!
- Set up a Swingball set – what better way for 2 people to stay 2m apart? Engaging in a joint activity opens up dialogue, and brings down defences.
Miss you…pass it on
Our Hunch With less people in the office at any given time, colleagues could become ships that pass in the night. So give your people structures to stay connected.
Experiment Can you adapt your environment for asynchronous communication and connection?
- Message boards are back: Set up pinboards allowing people to leave physical messages or pin their photos. Leave an encouraging ‘handover’ message or stick up a photo of what you had for lunch – anything fun that encourages communication.
- Idea Walls: Ask your to people stick up bright ideas, and ‘lightbulb moments’ as they strike – and furnish space for everyone to contribute their feedback and builds. We don’t have to be physically together to collaborate.