Where’s the Free Food and Ping-Pong Table? What New Hacks Will Solve the Innovation Vacuum in the Work-From-Home Economy?

The work-from-home revolution has been unleashed. While it’s true that the workplace and worker of the future were both already changing prior to our current global pandemic, this lockdown has cemented a new era.

Big headlines from some of the largest tech companies in the world are just the beginning of this new era. What will it do to our workplaces?

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of both Twitter and Square was the first to announce their “work-from-home forever” policy change. Other companies soon followed suit and last week we had the announcement from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the tech giant’s employees may also continue working from home indefinitely.

So what does this mean for cities that currently enjoy prestige as tech hotspots like San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Austin, and others? And more importantly, what does this mean for companies who have invested years and hundreds of thousands of dollars creating campuses stocked with free food, gyms, ping-pong tables, and more in an effort to attract the best and brightest employees in the industry?

That is the question that has been on my mind the last few weeks as I work with my own clients, including executives from some of the largest companies in America. It’s been well documented that perks like free food do more than attract rock star employees. A 2015 study from Cornell University found that when crews of firefighters eat together, they perform better on the job than crews who eat alone. This didn’t escape the leader in free food and organized socialization, Google, or the thousands of other companies that have followed their lead. For tech companies, offering free food has the same effect. Science dictates that it brings people together and fosters friendships, ideas, and innovation.

Prior to CVOID-19, the ubiquitous new age “dining hall” that could be found at many tech companies created a natural space for innovation. Where people gather and come together, there is always the potential for the creation and spread of new ideas. And it’s these new, innovative ideas tech companies relied on to stay one step ahead of the competition. Summarily, food and eating together creates safety and belonging , which creates trust, which creates innovation.

Here’s one thing I know: the work-from-home revolution and less human-to-human gatherings will create a safety and belonging gap which will lead to an innovation vacuum in your company unless you take steps to prevent it. Even now, your employees likely are not sharing meals together. They’re logging off of Zoom or Slack to go eat alone in their own kitchens. Ideas are not being exchanged and innovation is stalled.

So if you want to continue to spur innovation inside your company, as I know you do, use these ideas to foster safety, belonging, and innovation in the workplace:

 

Bring People Together

One of the most important steps to fostering innovation during the work-from-home revolution is to be intentional about replacing the cafeteria. You must find a replacement for your company’s dining hall, happy hour, or mixers that fits our new normal of social distancing and working remote. Rather than getting off of Zoom or Slack for lunch, encourage people to stay on and eat together as they would at the physical office. Schedule virtual happy hours. Randomly assign or encourage small groups to form and meet weekly over video chat to check in with each other and talk. As regulations allow, have people meet outside of work in small groups to walk or go for a hike. In fact, creating small bonded teams of 6-8 works for the Navy Seals. They create a brotherhood of safety and belonging, which yields the highest performance. Our millennial/Gen Z networking groups at launchbox, encourage participants to form a “tripod,” a small group of three people that meet for lunch and check in with each other between monthly meetings. No matter what you choose to do, you must be intentional about encouraging the human-to-human connection.

 

Ask Your People What They Need From You

One of our favorite workplace hacks to create and build strong teams and companies is to simply ask your people what they need from you. Are they feeling Zoom Fatigue with too many meetings already? Are they isolated and feeling distant from their team? Are they experiencing challenges at home that are interfering with work? Regular check-ins with your people will help you solve problems, build strong employee loyalty, and ultimately create the space people need to innovate. Unhappy, stressed, scared people do not create game-changing breakthroughs. Happy, confident, supported people do.

 

Foster Resilience

If you haven’t checked out our blog on mastering the 3 components of resilience, read that next. Our 3 C’s of Confidence, Commitment, and Clarity will help your people create resilience. As I said above, unhappy employees do not innovate. Help your people meet the challenges of the work-from-home revolution by teaching them the skills to build and maintain resilience. It will change the way they show up for work, their team, and your clients.

 

The work-from-home revolution has arrived and it’s now our normal. We do the work with business owners, executives and workplaces to help them find, build, and share their Strengths and Story to build high performance cultures through safety and belonging. What could be better? Click here to book a free session with us today!