Whether employees are at home, in the office, or hybrid working, creating a sense of community in the workplace has never been more important in the corporate world
The idea was nice enough while it lasted. We’d work from home forever more. We’d sleep in a bit, then pop on a towelling robe, take a freshly brewed coffee and a croissant into the garden and sit at the laptop in the sunshine. We’d be happy and relaxed, and super-productive, and we’d spend our lunch breaks laughing with our families and enjoying a slower pace of life.
The truth of working from home is rather more prosaic. For a lot of us, it involves sitting at a makeshift desk complaining about bad wifi. And, it has to be said, missing our colleagues. In the tug-of-war debate between working from home and full-time offices, it seems that not everyone is as desperate to spend 24/7 behind their own front door as we’ve been led to believe. A survey by the Office for National Statistics in June showed that of adults working at home, 85 per cent wanted a “hybrid” approach.
Lord (Stuart) Rose, former chairman of online grocer Ocado, points out that people are missing being part of a team: “I believe most people now see the benefits of returning [to the office] … We are a social species — we need to interact, spark off each other and bring on the next generation. You can’t do that on a screen.”
While companies like Facebook and Twitter have said many of their employees will continue to work at home, more and more companies are keen to get people back into the office for at least part of the working week. And employees, it seems, are on board with the idea.
But it may not necessarily be plain sailing, cautions Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, the office workers’ union. “Hybrid working will have a lot to recommend it… but the transition will probably have a lot of tension and pain along the way.”
Whether people continue to work from home, or in the office, or a mixture of the two, it is becoming clear that responsible employers will face challenges in ensuring the wellbeing of their workforce. Which is where organisations like buddyboost could have a key role to play.
buddyboost uses a simple activity challenge format to help improve wellbeing and build employee engagement. Once a company embarks on a buddyboost challenge, employees are encouraged to get into groups and encourage each other do 26 minutes of activity every day for 26 days. Everyone taking part stays in touch on the app’s community feed, posting messages and photos, boosting engagement and team spirit.
The undeniable success of buddyboost is evident in the mood scores of those taking part, which invariably jump by around 25% over the 26 days. But what may be even more significant to employers is that users report a much greater sense of camaraderie and togetherness. The feeds are full of encouragement and community, with an inclusive and supportive environment increasing social connections that have inevitably diminished over the past 16 months. Time and again, the app’s community feeds are filled with people remarking on how good it is to be back together again.
Whether employers are eager to help those returning to the office to re-establish a bond with their colleagues, or want to help those who are based more at home to be part of a greater whole, buddyboost can play a hugely important role in facilitating these links. And the added boost to mood and mental and physical wellbeing have never been more important.
Paul Harrison, chief executive of fund manager Schroders, says: “We used to do our work in the office, and we used to get out to meet to build teams and to socialise. Now, we do our work wherever it is most appropriate.” This means that there will be a greater need to find alternative ways to build teams and ensure social connections. “Spending time together… is still the foundation of how we will work in the future,” concurs Jes Stanley, chief executive of Barclays. “For people entering the world of work, and for those who thrive on company or live alone, going to the office and meeting people matters.”
Whatever the shape of ‘the new normal’ in the workplace, what is clear is that community needs to be at its heart, and a sense of belonging and camaraderie is no longer something that companies can take for granted. The organisations that succeed in ensuring their employees feel looked after, engaged, and part of a team, will be the ones who thrive in this brave new world.
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buddyboost has been developed with a range of experts, supporting the buddyboost team who were motivated to develop the product based on their workplace experiences, but also their sincere belief that being active and helping a friend is a way to stay healthier and happier.
The Sheffield Hallam University AWRC is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the population through innovations that help people move. AWRC are helping buddyboost understand its impact on making people healthier and happier.