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08.20.2020

The benefits of social interaction in the office and the impact on your mental health

The past few months has seen more people working from home than ever before. The internet and technology available have made it possible for many employees to work remotely, keep in contact with their managers and even participate in virtual team meetings.

While there can be many benefits to working from home, like saving money on commutes or spending more time with family, the advantages of working in a well-designed office cannot be outweighed.

The social interaction of the office is something that can’t be entirely replicated at home, and it can have a big impact on your employees’ mental health. We’re looking at some of the ways social interaction in the office benefits employees and why you should consider them in your next office fit out.


Opportunities to network

Being in the office is helpful for new employees to get to know their managers and co-workers. While video calls and meetings are proven to work, there’s nothing like sitting next to someone to really get to know them, in both formal and informal environments.

For current employees, their opportunities to network with other departments and other colleagues are also improved when working in the same room or building. Office design has already leant heavily towards communal breakout spaces and hubs which encourage employee interaction and we predict that office design will continue to offer complete flexibility for staff with well-designed communal spaces proving a key feature.

Junior members of staff will benefit from being able to learn from their senior colleagues, asking questions when they are working in the same environment, often observing for a convenient opportunity to approach. While working from home, a telephone or video call must be arranged in order to ask the simplest queries and this may put pressure on the less experienced staff who may be unsure whether the question would be considered too trivial to interrupt their seniors.

It is human nature to feel valued and often praise is given ‘off the cuff’ during informal situations such as team drinks, chance encounters in communal areas or travelling to/from meetings where managers may feel more relaxed. Without the office, this form of praise may be less frequent.

Formal performance reviews would feel more comfortable in a face to face environment rather than over video calls as they provide the opportunity for both parties to read body language or facial cues and sense whether the conversation is being taken in a positive light, which isn’t always possible during a video call. The chance of being interrupted during these important meetings either via poor connection or something happening at home during the video call, could have a detrimental effect. Conversational flow and being able to read body language is so valuable during performance reviews.


Teamwork

When you sit with your co-workers every day, whether you are chatting over coffee in the morning or going for a walk on your lunchbreak together – you’re building a relationship that not only benefits yourself, but benefits the whole team.

Colleagues who get along with each other are often less stressed, happier and more productive. They are more likely to work well together as a team, cultivating a more collaborative atmosphere.

This is also important for your employee’s mental wellbeing, which we predict is going to be a hot topic over the coming months with so many people working in isolation and missing out on human interaction outside of their own households.

Offices should be a hub for developing relationships, idea generation and growth. Often creativity thrives during spontaneous meetings or random encounters.


Work-life balance

It’s essential that your employees have a strong distinction between their working life and their home life. While working from home can bring a better sense of work-life balance to some people, other colleagues might not be able to switch off properly and they might see their work life begin to blur into their home life.

Having a separation between the office and the home can help to ensure your employees look after their mental health properly and do not suffer from burnout.

In a post-pandemic world, every office is going to need to adapt to ensure the safety of their staff. While some people might offer their employees the opportunity to work from home more often, others will need to provide a fully functioning office space that is designed to keep everyone productive, but also safe.

Solutions such as desk-mounted screens, informational signage and sanitising stations are all good places to start for your next office fit out.

There is no doubt that working from home has great benefits but we feel that a combination of well-designed office space and making the most of the technology to allow staff to work from their homes will be crucial for the long term success of many companies. A great success from the recent ‘Worldwide Test’ is that employers can trust their staff to make a decision as to where the best workplace will be for them on any given day.

There is also a consideration amongst larger businesses, that rather than having everyone based in one big city centre office, a series of satellite offices may prove beneficial depending on the demographics of your workforce. Employees could drive or cycle to the ‘Hub’ closest to them, keeping them in smaller safer bubbles. This would also help with business continuity should one of the offices suffer with an outbreak, the other hubs can still remain open.

For more information on how we can help you create a safe workspace for your employees upon their return to work, please visit our website and get in touch.

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