When everyone is working from home, where do you put the water cooler?
I may be showing my age with this reference, but there was a time before bottled water and filtered drinking fountains, when people in the office came to common area and grabbed a glass of water from a 5-gallon tank called the water cooler.
The point of the water cooler wasn’t hydration as much as an occasion to strike up casual conversations to build personal relationships or spitball ideas (another dated reference) about current projects. And it’s this spontaneous, unfiltered, unjudged aspect of agency life that is most at risk with the rise of remote work.
So what is the solution? How can you keep the spontaneous benefit of the water cooler in a work environment where no one is in the office? Consider scheduling some standing meetings with no pre-determined agenda.
I know this goes against the grain for those that scream about a workday consistently filled with unproductive meetings, but the key here is to change your perspective on what is success. Is developing culture, building trust and creating a short-hand with coworkers something that is unproductive? I’m not suggesting you arrange times to chat with every employee, weekly for an hour, but standing meetings with some key coworkers every other week for 15 or 20 minutes may be the way to get back to “how are you?”, “what are you doing this summer?” and “while I have you, I wanted to get your two cents on the way we ran that last client call.”