I used to work at an old Texas law firm. The offices took up 11 floors of a downtown building. Each floor was huge and had two separate kitchens. You could go weeks without seeing who was on the other side of your own floor, let alone actually getting to know them.
When they finally did renovations, they combined the two kitchens into one. I was elated. Hurrah! for tearing down the walls. Yay! for breaking down barriers. This wouldn’t have affected me nearly as much as the attorneys. I was a lonely HR analyst, my anonymity was my shield. But my optimism for those it would affect had us creating a more collaborative environment and working together. I was wrong.
How Snacks can Encourage Collaboration
A simple change in office structure doesn’t magically create a collaborative office. You have to create programs that allow you to take care of your employees and help them to get to know each other across all departments.
An easy and delicious way to do just that is to put snacks in the kitchen. Create the proverbial water cooler. Start with simple and inexpensive ways to get your employees together. Then you can see what works and continue from there.
What works at GoCo
At GoCo we are always looking for ways to take care of our employees. We have a well-stocked snack kitchen, and lunch is a time when people put away their work and interact with their co-workers.
When I first started working here, there were two company-wide events added to my calendar right away. On Wednesdays “GoComradery – Lunch & Games” and on Fridays, “Show Me What You Got” which is a catered lunch and company-wide meeting to update everyone on different projects all departments are working on.
Now, don’t get me wrong; a 30-person startup is very different than 800+ person law firm, but it’s the little programs that start to chip away and make a bit of difference.
In my calculation, it would have taken less than $30,000 a year to put fresh fruit in the newly remodeled coffee bars.
Now say an attorney working on a Merger and Acquisition deal ran into an Employment attorney. They chat for 30 seconds about apples, then touch on what they were working on, discovering an opportunity to bring an employment matter to an M&A deal they were working on. We could have made up the cost of fruit in about three weeks of a junior associate billing time.
The same can happen for any type of office or industry. You have to give your employees a way to interact with each other. This not only helps camaraderie but having a stronger connection with their teammates helps employees feel more included in the greater mission of the company, and are more likely to be more productive and stay longer time in the organization.
I would love to hear what has worked in your organization to improve employee interaction and take care of your employees; your questions and constructive comments are welcome and encouraged – email me to share.