Socializing in a hybrid office
Even though we're not all physically working together these days, we still need to connect
We recently launched our app, Break, and are getting good feedback from people who are now able to connect in manners they weren’t able to before.
At Fractal 5 we’ve been using the app internally for awhile, so I figured it might be interesting to talk a little about how it has been helpful to us in a hybrid office environment.
First a little bit about our setup. We started as a fully remote team, and have built the company from the ground up as a remote-first workplace. This comes with a lot of challenges, and I’ve always been skeptical of any work environment where people aren’t sitting physically next to each other with. There’s a lot that can happen over email, Slack channels, Github pull requests, Zoom calls and other means of communication, but if you pull away the natural high bandwidth face to face channel, things can also go bad.
Who doesn’t relate to having been stuck working on a challenge, only to have it resolved over a serendipitous 5 minute conversation by the coffee machine? Well, that’s usually missing from the remote environment, and any “formal” means of replacing it seems to not quite work out. Setting up a 30 minute Zoom meeting to “grab coffee” feels too much like a meeting, and nobody wants more meetings.
Since starting, we’ve evolved and now even have an office, but people can still work from home or even abroad. This poses further challenges where Break has helped us fill a gap. By defining our own little groups of people to catch up with during the day, we’re able to stay in touch with a wide set of friends and colleagues without requiring us to be all in the same place at the same time. Without scheduling meetings or being worried about interrupting we can now signal that we are on a Break and those who want to grab the opportunity to take a break join for a chat, just like when you see someone walk towards the coffee machine at the workplace.
In fact, this has allowed us to “bump” into each other during the day, but some of us have also used this to define alternative groups of people they’d like to hear from regularly. It’s like each and one of us can create their own virtual coffee break rooms.
Being remote-first or even having a hybrid work environment poses challenges around how we can continue to socialize with people during office hours, and Break is uniquely filling that gap in a clever manner. This has absolutely made a difference in our setup, and I hope it can do so for a lot of other companies and teams around the world.