According to a recent BBC headline, people are tired of working from home. The story draws on comments from the head of strategy at Canary Wharf Group which, to be fair, has a vested interest in getting people back to the office.
He does have a point though. Especially when he says people are “missing that opportunity to collaborate with and just see their friends in the office, to get your hair cut, to go and get a good coffee at lunchtime.” I think many of us can relate to that.
Here at DevOpsGroup, we closed the office and switched the entire team to homeworking on 12 March 2020, almost two weeks before the first lockdown started. We were in a good position compared to many other businesses. Some staff already worked this way all the time, and most of us did so on an ad hoc basis. We embraced the evolving Covid-19 situation as well as we could, and the transition was pretty smooth. But I don’t think anyone thought we’d still be working like this a year later.
Keeping the culture alive
As a tech company DevOpsGroup had the resources and capabilities to ensure company-wide home working was seamless from a practical perspective. However, pre-Covid our culture was very much rooted in social activities, from team lunches to our monthly DOG Conference. And it’s not just about organised events. Chance encounters, shared experiences and personal conversations in the office all play a part in team-building, creativity and job satisfaction.
Without those diversions, it’s easy for the workday to become repetitive and boring. No wonder homeworkers are starting to feel tired. We need to keep it up for a little while yet though, and something that helps inject a bit of variety here at DevOpsGroup is our Coffee Buddies initiative.
Random watercooler moments
Enabled by Slack’s Donut app, Coffee Buddies is our way of generating chance conversations between colleagues who don’t usually work together. We set it up after staff feedback indicated that their interactions beyond the immediate squad had gone down. As a result, people were feeling a little less connected with the wider business.
It made us realise how important those watercooler moments really are. We needed to recreate them to keep the team feeling happy and motivated.
Staff who sign up to Coffee Buddies are randomly paired with another participant every two weeks. One of them sets up a virtual meeting, and they get together over a cuppa for a non-work related conversation. We’ve also set up a CEO Coffee Lottery where two people get to have an informal chat with our co-founder James Smith.
What do people think?
According to Slack’s information about Donut, “having authentic relationships with our colleagues makes us more productive, 7x more engaged, and increases our happiness as much as $100,000 raise”.
That all sounds great, but we’re more interested in what our own colleagues make of it. The stats show that it’s gone down well. As a business, we made 263 Coffee Buddies connections via Slack Donut in 2020. The average for companies of a similar size was 85. Anecdotal feedback has been encouraging too:
“The chats have been really helpful to me, even when I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. Having the matching happen automatically nudged me to be sociable, and I look forward to them now.”
“Coffee Buddies has allowed me to speak to people from across the business that I wouldn’t usually get to speak to. It gives me time out of my day to feel normal again and forget that I am working remotely.”
“I was worried originally because I’m pretty shy, but I have loved Coffee Buddies. I’ve spoken to loads of people I wouldn’t normally and it’s nice to see how much we have in common!”
Let’s be honest. Working from home day in day out for 12 months has been hard at times. We can’t wait to get together in person again at our Cardiff and London offices. In the meantime though, we’re focussed on doing the best we can to keep the team feeling happy and engaged. Coffee Buddies has been a brilliant vehicle for that.