The Evaporating Watercooler: Workplace Culture Without An Office in 2022 and Beyond

Zoe Oppenheimer

The last few years revealed a noteworthy journey for companies across the globe. Leaving the comfort of traditional offices behind, many organizations shifted toward the hybrid-based future of work, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Many employees happily said goodbye to their daily commutes while also mourning the loss of Wednesday lunches with coworkers. While this journey is still ongoing, the lessons learned thus far have introduced a story worth reading.

The Setting. Fostering a sense of community within a traditional brick-and-mortar office wasn't without its challenges pre-COVID, but physical proximity offers at least baseline opportunities for employee connections. Companies could often rely on passionate and extroverted teammates to ignite conversations and fuel connections; but where those natural approaches fell short, intentional strategies were required.

The Plot. At the start of the pandemic, the world watched as traditional in-office teams rapidly transitioned to a virtual world, often with reduced productivity despite earnest efforts to adjust. Companies spent months attempting to mimic in-person workplace culture and communication methods in a remote setting. Employees sat with headsets on their ears along with 20 of their peers, asking whether everyone could see their screen or please mute themselves if they weren't talking. It was chaotic, sometimes comical, and definitely not sustainable. What were companies to do?

The Conflict. Businesses were already heading toward remote and hybrid ways of working, but for most, being thrown into this new environment so quickly was a massive upheaval. Companies have since discovered that workplace culture requires unprecedented intentionality. Today's hybrid, in-person, and virtual teams demand purpose, attention, and strategy tailored to the individuality of each; but few organizational leaders are equipped with the tools and standards necessary to operationalize this aspect of company culture.

The Resolution. That may sound like a lot of work, but there's good news. Technology companies have rapidly responded to these changes, providing dynamic solutions for organizations determined to build and preserve thriving cultures. Services like Zoom, Google Meet, and Loom made it possible for meeting participants to more authentically communicate with essential cues like body language and tonality of voice. Meanwhile, other systems like Grove made opportunities for connection more accessible and easier to manage and measure. Tools like these are fundamental as companies redefine what company culture means in the future of work.

The Googles and Apples of the world are embracing a hybrid workplace future, where opportunities for both in-person connection and on-sofa coding coexist. While hybrid models like these appear to be the future, we know workplace configurations will be a spectrum between fully in-office and fully remote for quite some time. Regardless, the technologies and strategies organizations adopt today will be key to withstanding this complexity in the future.

The Characters. With 86% of employees ranking company culture as important when considering a job (JobVite), the way we connect at work simply demands a higher priority. So, with the watercooler evaporating, what is your company doing to drive meaningful connections between coworkers?

Consider this: It was never about the watercooler, coffee machine, or break room at all. It was always about the people surrounding it, sharing ideas, building networks, and getting to know one another. So, to build a company culture of the future, equip your team with tools to connect, engage, and inspire, wherever they work.

The journey workplace experience has been on since the global work-from-anywhere experiment began has been an enlightening one. What was once an incremental evolution has rapidly accelerated and unveiled the true significance of a robust, connected company culture. The most important element of this story has always been the characters. So it's time to wave farewell to the watercooler and embrace the new ways of connecting at work.

Grove's platform empowers companies to foster stronger employee connections by bringing people together. Get started with a free trial, or schedule a demo with our team to learn more.

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