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Company culture is more than time spent in a water cooler

It is now September 2022. This is the month Apple decided that staff must be back in the office at least three days a week. His CEO at Apple, Tim Cook, is tired of working remotely and has ordered the move essential to “maintain the face-to-face collaboration that is so vital to our culture.”

As the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, many companies are exploring hybrid work. This naturally led to coordination problems. If people can be flexible about when they are in the office, how can face-to-face collaboration work? I am posting that I am using it all day.

Tim Cook’s message is that Tuesdays and Thursdays are important office days, with the third day being defined by the team leader. This has the advantage of forcing people to work together days, but after two years of proving value and productivity without mandated hours in the office, he says workers now expect more than they should. In the face of such flexibility, does it go wrong?

New research by Culture Partners shows that company culture makes people more productive and more likely to stay. Enforcing time in the office does not improve culture. A September 2022 study showed that 6 in 10 workers are “extremely likely” to quit their jobs if flexibility around working hours and location is not maintained.

CNN reported on the research in an interview with Jessica Kreigel, chief scientist for workplace culture at Culture Partners. We’re not talking about water coolers. It’s not about whether you’re playing table tennis in the office. It’s really about the experiences we co-create, and it absolutely can be on her Zoom or phone. You don’t have to be with them directly. These experiences drive our beliefs about our work and whether we are contributing to something worthwhile. ”

Danger is real. Rather than creating a work experience that employees truly value, some leaders truly believe that culture can only be created and nurtured through face-to-face contact.

The impact is potentially immense. As the survey suggests, about two-thirds of people are not ready for an inflexible employer. If you want to start enforcing when employees need to be in the office, loyalty will be wrecked as employees head for exits and new jobs with more flexible employers. I’ve seen senior employees leave the company. Specifically, as we reorganized our lives during the pandemic and forced hours at the office were no longer personally acceptable.

But this trend applies to all levels. It’s been two years since he’s been able to see the kids at breakfast and be flexible about managing family responsibilities around work, but he’s been flexible in favor of more time in his water cooler. Not many people seriously deny sex.

Companies that do this can also have a dramatic impact on their efforts to increase diversity. It’s easy to imagine an employee twin track being created, as women are more likely to prioritize caregiving responsibilities over returning to the office. That means younger people (especially men who don’t have a lot of family responsibilities) are sitting in the office, and everyone else is working remotely. Also, if all managers are in the office, proximity bias is almost certain.

HR leaders are aware of the problem and there is a clear danger of less flexibility. I hope they can advise management before leadership causes an employee drain. Treat your employees like adults. Respect their desire to remain flexible and focus on building a positive culture of inclusion for all, whether at home or in the office.

Sensée helps renowned UK organizations improve business performance and deliver superior customer service. Uniquely, we employ a team of over 1400 award-winning service advisors (as well as support and administrative staff) who work entirely from home and are available not just by phone, but by email, web chat, We respond to inquiries via text and social media. Sensée’s UK-wide recruitment reach and remote employee-centric ecosystem create accessible careers for people everywhere, creating sustainability for our planet and our communities…. and ISO certified.

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