Meme Partners | The face-to-face countertrend
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24 Jul The face-to-face countertrend

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We’ve seen a decrease in face-to-face interactions in the workplace, as companies pull back on large offsites, team retreats and even one-on-ones, and move their workers into offices that encourage flexible working.

But more recently, we’ve been noticing a reverse trend, as the longer-term ramifications of not meeting colleagues face-to-face start to show. Yahoo notoriously made headlines after removing remote work and Google is known for actively discouraging telecommuting, but there’s also been a quieter undercurrent of large Australian companies making moves to bring their staff back together:

  • This year IBM pulled back on remote working, to encourage collaboration and innovation.
  • IAG moved into a new workspace designed to encourage encounters and ad hoc conversations in shared spaces, in particular on the stairs.
  • Microsoft organises meetings for globally separated teams to meet in person at least annually.
  • St George and Westpac bank branches now meet every morning before opening, to discuss service and set goals for the day.
  • Lush brings their Australian store managers together 3 times a year and brings all global store managers together in the UK every year, to align around the strategy and share best practice.
  • This year, for the first time AMP Capital Shopping Centres brought together program champions from across Australia and New Zealand, to share ideas with each other; it will now be an annual event.


To find the right balance, it’s helpful to consider the intrinsic motivations which drive us:


Experiencing choice and control

  • Giving staff time to work on their projects where and when they’d like is a simple way to support people and motivate them.
  • Forcing staff back into the office can seriously demotivate people who are used to being autonomous, as seen with Yahoo – so it’s best to increase remote working in small increments, rather than big jumps that may need to be reversed later.


Achieving at optimally challenging tasks

  • Remote work focusses teams on what’s produced, rather than the hours worked, and it can reduce distractions.
  • But a face to face request is 34 times more successful than an email – so it can be much easier to get the answers or support you need to do your job well when your colleagues are nearby.


Feeling connected and valued

  • Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.
  • 35% of the variation of team performance can be accounted for simply by the number of face-to-face exchanges.

This post is from the July edition of our Working Theories newsletter – for more like this, you can sign up here.

Image credit: Bill Ward

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