The role of the office in building trust in a distributed world

The role of the office in building trust in a distributed world
September 28, 2023
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Workplace culture has always been a cornerstone of organizational success, influencing collaboration, innovation, and employee satisfaction. In today's era of remote work, hybrid teams, and distributed organizations, the role of the office in shaping workplace culture has become a topic of intense discussion.

Debunking myths about distributed work

The idea that distributed companies are ambivalent about in-person interactions is a myth, according to Annie Dean, VP, Team Anywhere at Atlassian. Contrary to this misconception, trust is often solidified in person and then continuously bolstered.

Atlassian, for example, believes in the power of in-person bonding. While they acknowledge the potential of remote work, they also bring teams together physically 3-4 times a year, primarily for social bonding rather than daily tasks. This method, based on their research, enhances team connection by 27%, with the impact lasting for over four months.

The value of face-to-face interactions

There is no shortage of both employees and employers underscoring the importance of occasional in-person meetings, even in a remote-first setup.

Carl Pearson, Quantitative UX Research at Reddit, notes that traveling quarterly for off-sites is essential for his work well-being.

"In that one offsite spent with coworkers, my cup is refilled until the following quarter," Pearson said. "I come back from an offsite exhausted in the short term (as an introvert) but completely energized to tackle challenges at work."

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, acclaimed "office whisperer", says that in-person meetups are especially important for burgeoning mentor-mentee relationships.

"Mentees need to reveal vulnerabilities to mentors, and that doesn't happen without trust," Tsipursky said. "Yes, such trust can be built remotely, but it's quite a bit more difficult to do and takes a lot longer, based on what I saw within my clients who chose a remote-first model."

Related Video: Ford's Darren Murph on the importance of intentional in-person experiences.

Designing spaces for enhanced connections

When teams come together in person, the environment they occupy plays an essential role in shaping interactions. It's not just about having a space; it's about crafting a space that fosters collaboration, encourages open communication, and enhances the experience of being together.

Imagine having a key in-person meeting, but the room is too cramped, the acoustics are off, and the seating arrangement feels disconnected. The potential benefits of that face-to-face interaction diminish.

Our understanding of space is pivotal. Well-designed spaces can facilitate more productive brainstorming sessions, create moments of serendipitous interactions, and make those invaluable in-person moments truly count.

As companies increasingly value the quality of in-person interactions over the quantity, there's a heightened need for spaces that are purposefully designed. Spaces that resonate with the company's culture, accommodate its unique needs, and amplify the benefits of coming together. By understanding your space and designing it with intention, you not only set the stage for meaningful interactions but also underline the significance you place on those moments.

Related reading: Meet PagerDuty's conference room without walls.

Cultivating trust in a changing work landscape

Whether a company is remote-first, hybrid, or follows another model, the role of the office in building trust and culture remains crucial. By understanding the nuances of workplace culture in a distributed world and implementing intentional strategies, organizations can ensure they nurture trust and cohesion, irrespective of where their teams are located.