Friday 7 June 2024

Social cohesion in the workplace

I caught up with a friend for a coffee before work today. It had been more than a year since we'd caught up - perhaps the topic of a future blog post. She asked me how my new (as of nine months ago) job was going.

I told her that I was really enjoying it, the subject matter is interesting and my teams are nice and supportive. However, there was one thing I was really struggling with.

In my previous job, I worked with an amazing team. We were all in the same open-plan office together. It was a hive of activity. We worked hard, planned all our deadlines everything together on a big whiteboard, supported each other through stressful times, shared skills and had plenty of 'teachable moments' with technology, had meals together, cracked jokes regularly, celebrated birthdays with cake and engaged in more than a few shenanigans.

In my new job, due to the nature of the available office space, our team is divided into a series of small offices, which are usually shared between two. We have flexible office arrangements which means that, at any given day, half of us are working from home and, more often than not, I'm working alone in my office. It's a very different atmosphere to what I'm used to.

As a result, it's much harder to reach a sense of social cohesion with this kind of setup. I see other team who, due to the nature of their work, are mostly working on-site in the office in more physically collaborative environments, and as much as I enjoy the flexibility that I currently have, I feel... jealous.

I do try to find ways to manage this. I make a point of never eating my lunch at my desk, but walking across to the biggest lunchroom in the building and sitting there to eat lunch and chat with whoever might be around. A few of us also have a crafting group (varying in size from 2 to 5 people at any given session) who meet every Friday lunchtime, which is also a fun social opportunity. But these are momentary snippets of social interaction in what is, for the most part, quite an isolating experience.

Also, my home office is either too cold, or I'm cranking the heater for the benefit of one person, which just feels wasteful. 

Now, by no means am I advocating that we should all be returning to the workplace full-time - I completely respect and value the opportunity for flexible office arrangements. And I totally get that, for some people, a job is about doing the job and not trying to make friends with your colleagues. You just want to do the job and get paid, and if you can do that without the added stress of commuting, then all power to you.

It's just that when I think back to those times when I've felt most excited about going to work - it hasn't been for the work itself, but for that feeling of being in physical proximity with a great time that I love working with.

No comments:

Post a Comment