The Watercooler: Keep talking — how to make a hybrid office life work for you

·1-min read
According to Mann, two separate career tracks could develop: the virtual and the physical  (Pixabay)
According to Mann, two separate career tracks could develop: the virtual and the physical (Pixabay)

Working from home can harm your career and leave you socially sidelined. So said economist Catherine Mann, a member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee this week — striking fear into the hearts of those of us juggling WFH with in-office hours.

According to Mann, two separate career tracks could develop: the virtual and the physical, with the virtual seen as less vital. But it doesn’t have to be this way. “Social wellbeing in a hybrid working world has huge potential,” says Alaana Woods, commercial director at Bupa Health Clinics. Rather than a problem to fix, it is a chance to level the playing field — the key is avoiding an “us and them” culture, and grabbing chances for inclusion that the virtual world can offer. Virtual co-working hours, where people can join a video call and go about work as usual, make it easier, says freelance happiness officer Danielle Woods — while virtual socialising also breaks reliance on after-hours alcohol as a social aide.

This “has forced us to think more creatively about how we socialise with our colleagues”, says Harry Corin, who advises low-alcohol brand Lucky Saint and others on workplace mental health.

Santander bank is a member of responsible business group Business in the Community and is held up as example of where this works: their employee-led Mental Wellbeing Network fosters social wellbeing through weekly virtual activities including “tea and talk” sessions and a text chat forum where colleagues connect.

So to make hybrid “work”? Check in, reach out and remember to be there for each other, even if you’re not there in person.

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