The Office Rules. OK?

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Christian Logue, MD of Sagal Group, on the evolving etiquette of the post-pandemic office.

 It used to be all about not stealing another team’s milk or cooking stinky fish in the microwave.

What am I talking about?

The unwritten rules of working in an office. They’ve always been there. For as long as people have met together in a communal space to get work done, there have been etiquette guidelines to ensure that as few things impede this process as possible. There really is nothing worse than spending an afternoon in a windowless space that smells of mackerel or making a cup of tea only to find that someone has purloined your milk.

It’s true to say that (for many people) working from home, during the pandemic, put a stop to many of these irritating issues. Far from finding home a frustrating place to be, many employees embraced the upsides of being a remote worker. These benefits weren’t simply the relief that comes with knowing nobody’s going to steal your semi-skimmed. In a recent report by Owl Labs, among those who worked from home during the pandemic, 67% reported they are more productive while working at home.

This spike in productivity is something no employer can ignore. So, as we transition back to our offices (often as part of a hybrid working approach), it’s apparent that a new set of rules is wholly necessary to make sure our new ‘destination’ workspaces are attractive and productive places to be.

The Office Rules:

Let your team work!

Frustration with being back in the office is likely to build if your team feels they are unable to maintain the levels of productivity that are possible at home. Does your office have areas dedicated to activities that require a high level of concentration? If not, implement them. Perhaps consider introducing a traffic light system that tells others not to disturb an employee when they are busily at work.

Hybrid working will only succeed if team members see the benefits of being in an office, not the frustrations of being constantly distracted. It’s all part of making your workspace a ‘destination’.

Before you book a meeting, stop and think

In our new hybrid normal, time in the office needs to be filled with activities that cannot be done remotely. In this context, try to resist the urge to fill your team’s office days with back-to-back meetings which could have taken place by video call. In an ideal world, office time should be made up of inspiring and enlightening interactions that recharge a team member for more WFH. Days crammed with dull meetings will kill any employee’s desire to battle the commute and come back into the office.

Ask yourself these questions: Is this meeting necessary? Are there too many meetings today? Is this meeting too long? Could this meeting be an email?

Think about where you are…

A successful ‘destination’ office is somewhere that is zoned to facilitate a range of activities (see our blog ‘We need to talk about Meeting Rooms…’). Break out areas are great places to have a lively catch up, but zones for intensive concentration aren’t. Ensure you and your team suit their activities to the area where they take place. Don’t moan about noise if you’re doing intricate work in a casual area or, conversely, don’t start a loud conversation about the latest scandal on Love Island in a space filled with team members trying to concentrate. Either approach will make you as unpopular as a fish microwaver.

If you say you’re going to be in, be in!

In this new hybrid model, team members need a clear idea who is going to be in office and when. Relying on ‘bumping into’ an employee to discuss ‘that task’ simply doesn’t work when half of the staff aren’t in the office half of the time. Make a schedule and stick to it. If you tell your team that you’re going to be in the office on a certain day, make sure you are – someone may have come into the office exclusively to see you. Being unable to fulfil the tasks they expected to complete, will quickly put off hybrid workers from commuting back into the office.

Don’t steal milk or cook fish in the microwave

Some rules remain, even in the wonderful new world of hybrid working. Seriously, don’t do this.

What other Office Rules would you institute? Let us know.

Christian Logue, MD Sagal Group.

PS: Who drank the last of my milk?

Your office should serve as the centre of your business. It should ooze everything that defines you, your dreams, your mission, and your culture.

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