How Hybrid Work Threatens Office Friendship
I remember quite clearly the moment I first missed having colleagues around.
I was drinking hot coffee, leaning on a cold kitchen counter in my small Parisian apartment, with a great urge to talk to someone.
The nine o’clock meeting didn’t go well. And there was no one to complain about it during my coffee break as I was working from home.
Before, I would have thundered out of the meeting room, dropping my laptop on the desk of the office manager, Céline. I would have then looked at her with those eyes of Puss in Boots, hoping she had a minute to take a cup of coffee with me or even treat me to a piece of chocolate.
Together, we would have met a bunch of other office mates in the cafeteria and each of us would have let our emotions out, be it about work or personal life.
However, despite having a million times better coffee, the kitchen at my place didn’t provide me with the same relief as the office cafeteria would have. It also felt weird calling Celine on the phone to whine about an unsuccessful sale or sneaking into the living room to talk about it with my working-from-home husband. He wouldn’t understand me anyway.
Work is one of the most important parts of our lives. Not only because of its economic value but also because of its social aspect.
Think about it: we spend at least 38 hours a week working.
According to a 2018 study by Jeffrey Hall, a person needs on average 30 hours for someone to become a casual friend and 300 hours for someone to become their best pal.
Personally, I can’t imagine myself finding such a crazy amount of time for daily chit-chat with my future bestie anywhere but at work.
No surprise that nine out of ten French believe that work is one of the easiest places to make friends and that more than half of the Americans had met a close friend through their or their spouse’s job.
Even the most popular sitcoms were developed around the workplace: The Office, Brooklyn 99, Superstore, Mad Man… In fact, in these TV series, friendship was often the only reason why colleagues were actually staying in the company.
In real life, strong social connections at work have proven to result in a lower turnover rate and fewer cases of burn-out or job-related depression.
For many working women and men, having a best friend at work leads to a higher engagement that, in turn, improves the overall company’s performance. Indeed, increasing the number of friends from the usual two to six employees out of ten can result in a 12% rise in profits.
However, with its virtual onboarding, irregular presence on site, and lack of spontaneous informal interactions between employees, hybrid work may lead to the death of office friendship.
No more water cooler gossip, team lunches, or post-work “brasserie” getaways. Hybrid work minimizes the moments of office life that create emotional bonds between teammates and are essential to developing friendships.
Don’t take me wrong, as an introvert, I love working from home as it allows me to sleep in, do my work in complete silence, and have a better work-life balance.
Nonetheless, I believe that the new hybrid work realities should be pursued with caution, keeping in mind their negative impact on the social aspect of work-life and office friendships.
(That’s why I left that job where I was obliged to come on-site on a different day than my coffee pal, Céline).
A hybrid work organization must be flexible, its administration must be collaborative.
Allowing employees to choose when they come to the office alongside their desk (of course, within the corporate teleworking rules) may lead to new friendships and, hence, happier and more productive employees.
Easy access to the information on the colleagues’ presence on site is key to a successful hybrid work organization.
For instance, aligning my in-office days with my friends from sales is more beneficial for me and my company than coming in on the same day with the developers. (Sorry, Olivier, David, and Belssem, but I have no idea of the default shortcut to make a comment in PHP storm on macOSX).
Yet, I would be interested in coming to the office if the CTO is onboarding a new UX designer. Who knows, she might have the same passion for D&D as I do.
Jokes aside, the social aspect of hybrid work is vital. Companies, when choosing their hybrid work model, should prioritize building and maintaining strong social ties between employees.
At the end of the day, working among friends is much easier and more motivating than at home or, even worse, alone in the office.
Marketing Manager at Hubtobee