Does it feel like you don't even notice what's happening in your company when you're in your home office - or only when the company management officially announces it? No wonder, because small talk in the hallway or at the coffee machine is missing. But there are ways to encourage virtual hallway chatter. It's not only important for well-being.
After more than a year of the Corona pandemic, many professionals have experienced the painful reality that the home office has some advantages, but also some disadvantages. From a social perspective, probably the biggest weakness of remote work is the lack of social contact. There is a lack of conversations that go beyond the actual work. Spontaneous meetings in the hallway or in the coffee kitchen also eliminate small talk with colleagues and with employees from other departments.
This can feel isolating, because communication is a human need. It is important for well-being and helps to blow off steam. Good managers make sure to offer short video meetings for the entire team at regular intervals, the goal of which is personal exchange and strengthening the "we feeling."
However, some employees still ask themselves: Am I even aware of what's going on in the company here at home? Which new employees will be starting soon, or which new customers have we won? Who is leaving because they have supposedly received an offer from the competition? Where might something have gone awry or is a layoff even imminent?
Before Corona, a lot of this information was reliably passed on through the grapevine, even before it was officially announced. But when the corridors are empty, there's no radio either - is there? It's not quite that simple.
Why the hallway radio is so important for well-being
Where people come together, they talk. Corridor chatter plays a special role in this. It's more than just petty small talk: It's the company's unofficial, interdepartmental line of communication. Insiders know about important innovations and decisions long before the management level makes an official statement to everyone.
In many cases, office gossip is based on chance meetings at the coffee machine or in front of the photocopier. Who passes on what information to whom is often just as coincidental. For example, there's the friendly colleague who until recently worked in the same department - and after the first "How are you?" she immediately knows something interesting to say about her new supervisor and her new colleagues. No indiscretions, but definitely nice anecdotes.
Especially active floor radio operators know how to use their advantages, which others may later consider unfair: Those who are the first to learn "entirely in confidence" that an executive has asked to leave also have more time and opportunity to recommend themselves under the table as a successor for the vacant position.
However, not everything that is reported in the grapevine is relevant to every listener. The boundaries between rumors, explosive information, funny stories and simple small talk are fluid. A good feeling often arises just from the fact that one can talk to others, exchange ideas and learn something new - regardless of whether one is personally affected by it or not. In this way, ambiguities can often be cleared up early and emerging conflicts nipped in the bud, which in turn benefits the working atmosphere.
The office gossip has not stopped - it has only shifted
The displeasure is all the greater when people are cut off from the informal flow of information. Clubhouse and video calls or not, virtual meetings can't replace the authentic, spontaneous character of the hallway radio. But that doesn't mean it no longer exists. Important developments in the company are still happening all the time - and so is the need for employees to know about them as early and comprehensively as possible. And the information somehow finds its way despite the home office.
Corridor communication tends to take place in an official setting under Corona conditions, making it all the more exclusive. Previously, every employee could potentially meet everyone else in the office or in the hallway. That is not possible at present. Instead, firmly established communication structures and rounds are gaining in importance for informal exchange: the weekly department head call, for example. If you don't take part in such a meeting, you won't hear what might be said just before hanging up, after the first participants have perhaps already left the round: "By the way, but that's not official yet.... " is making the rounds.
Particularly in companies with hybrid work models - part of the workforce sits in a home office, part in an office - there is a risk of an imbalance in informal exchange in the long term. In addition, there are many so-called non-desk workers, i.e. employees who do not work at a desk but in the field, in production. These employees need to be included in communication on a permanent basis, irrespective of the current Corona situation.
But those who sit in a home office and have few scheduled meetings can easily feel left behind. If information does get through, there is no opportunity to share one's own thoughts, hopes and fears in the next step.
How managers can support informal exchange
At its worst, it can give room to indiscretions and allow rumors to boil over - but at the same time, it also provides an opportunity to dispel circulating untruths and to speak clearly. Last but not least, as mentioned above, it simply fulfills the human need for communication.
Managers must recognize this importance of corridor radio in the perceived endless home-office lockdown and take it seriously. The best thing they can do is to take preventive measures and prevent an information imbalance from developing.
For one thing, they themselves need to pay more attention to their communication behavior and, when in doubt, simply communicate more than they did before Corona. They should check every piece of information: Can or should I perhaps already say something about this to my team? Will word get around anyway? Negative news in particular - when colleagues leave or customers leave - spreads quickly even without an official statement.
Supervisors should point out to their employees that they always have an open ear and that they are welcome to address uncertainties that affect the company. In private, of course, if necessary. In addition, managers should consciously give floor talk a framework. This can also be done in the home office: for example, through informal meetings in which the supervisor sometimes deliberately does not participate. This removes the inhibitions about addressing current and explosive topics among colleagues and expressing one's own thoughts on them.
The focus should also be on internal company communication tools such as social intranets or social collaboration platforms. Do they offer employees meaningful opportunities to exchange ideas? How can people be brought together across departments? There are many ways to keep the grapevine alive here.
In order to keep the floor talk going and to support it in the best possible way, there is SION. SION, the Social Intra-organizational Network, makes the exchange between people and their interaction as simple and also as individual as possible - overcoming physical distance and creating cohesion. SION is the one central connection between employees and the company and their colleagues. As a SaaS solution, SION is not limited to improving communication, information and collaboration, but offers everything companies need beyond that. In addition, access and handling is made easier as SION can be accessed via browser as well as via app for iOS and Android. Even non-desk workers are easily integrated with the SION apps by using the apps with their own smartphone (BYOD - Bring Your Own Device); of course, in compliance with the highest security standards.
You can find out what alternatives there are and why you should use SION here: