Confession time, this is absolutely not my idea, but it’s one I have come across recently and I thought it is worth sharing.
Some of the big concerns about remote and hybrid work is the social connection stuff. Ties, relationships, bonds. We know that these things matter at work, both at an organisational and individual level. We also know that for some, remote work can lead to loneliness, weakened ties and feelings of isolation. The early stages of hybrid work generated other frustrations. People going into the office to find that no one else was there and they were spending the day in online meetings. The difficulties of co-ordinating schedules across teams.
Questions remain about the best balance of office to remote, how to build and maintain relationships when hybrid, how to preserve organisational culture, and make in-person work meaningful. The one thing that is clear however, is that employees do not want to go into the office just because. It needs a purpose. It needs to be worth it.
One way that we can possibly make it worth it, is introducing anchor days.
Anchor days are days that every team members comes into the workplace. Monthly, quarterly, a few times a year – whatever fits for the team or organisation. No rota or schedule, everyone comes together in the workplace for the primary purpose of being together. These are days that focus on relationships and connection. This doesn’t have to mean organised fun or team building activities (think of the introverts!) but it should mean meaningful face-time. This is very much not the same as mandating fixed days in the office – this is about something else entirely. It’s like the old school away days, only in the office.
Anchor days can serve as points of connection, both with each other and the wider organisation. An anchor keeps something in place. It is a device to hold things steady. In this case, relationships and belonging.
Here are some thoughts from me about creating good anchor days.
- Anchor days should focus on meaningful face-time. Encourage people not to schedule routine or online meetings on that day.
- Explain to people why you are having them. That it is about supporting effective relationships in order that hybrid can work effectively. Make sure that employees understand that this is important.
- Add in some opportunities for learning and development, whether that’s formal or informal.
- Include food. All good employee engagement strategies involve food. Put on some decent coffee, lunch, a good selection of biscuits (lots of biscuits).
- Think about the space. If your usual office environment is small individual rooms, then hold your anchor days somewhere else. Find a big room, an external venue or book a co-working space. Get people in the same room, but provide them with spaces that they can break off for 121s.
- Schedule anchor days with plenty of notice so that people can arrange childcare or travel.
- Make sure to communicate with new starters / during recruitment activity that attending anchor days is part of the job.
- The whole day doesn’t need an agenda. Create the space and let people work, chat, engage.
- Encourage people to engage with new starters in particular. Schedule a few coffee ‘dates’ for them to help them meeting new colleagues.
- Seek feedback from employees about what they want from anchor days in order to help keep them fresh and useful.
- Mix up where you hold them – if teams are spread across different buildings or locations, move them around.
- Invite guests such as people from others teams, or ask senior leaders to drop by.
- Take the opportunity to use anchor days for appreciation or recognition.
Anchor days are a simple device that can help keep teams connected – and avoid the Zombie office!