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I recently accepted a new job at a company much smaller than the previous one I worked for (18 employees instead of 500) The smaller company and it's friendlier culture was part of what drew me in.

In my previous company I noticed it's easy to get distanced from colleagues working at another floor or in a room that's not close. Also there's a natural tendency to form social groups based on location in the building that might collaborate less and have more conflict in between the groups.

Right now every colleague at my current company works at the same floor, divided in a few big rooms. This will not fit in the long term, which is why we will occupy another floor and will split.

Do you have any suggestions on how to keep working together closely in this situation? What would stimulate colleagues to see each other regularly and maintain a coherent group?

As it's a small company and the employer is open for suggestions, I'm mainly looking for ways to improve the office environment to support a close group of coworkers.

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Two things worked for us:

  1. Developing an IM culture. I don't mean one-to-one but, rather, persistent chat rooms (or Slack channels or whatever you use). Everybody has the client open all the time, so if somebody talks it'll be noticed. That conversation can be about getting some debugging help, deciding where to go for lunch, or planning an after-hours movie outing. A persistent chat channel has been really important in building team connection despite geography -- even if the geographic problem is in the same building. (We recently moved from scattered rooms to a space of our own, and we still use the shared chat room. It's less invasive than walking up to the person, talking, and kicking everybody nearby out of the zone.)

  2. A shared, casual space. Usually this is your lunch room, but it can also be a cluster of comfy chairs near the front door, or that one meeting room that everybody agrees will be the last to be scheduled so it's available for hanging out, or the corner with the pool table... it's a physical analogue of the digital chat room, and just as important. Most of us eat lunch together every day; if you can't do that then look for other ways to encourage casual, in-person interactions.

What we've found is that when we have these kinds of interactions, we're also better at working together on actual work. It establishes a habit and an expectation of collaboration.

  • 1
    At one workplace, we got some benefit from installing a whiteboard near the coffee machine. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 25 '18 at 10:03
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As @Robert Dundon mentioned, this is a good place to start.

Another good way is afterwork events. This builds a bond, beit friendly or collegial and is a good way to keep in touch in a fun and friendly manner. This could be done with company events or just going for drinks together once in a while. However the latter makes it harder to differentiate between what is acceptable as collegues or friends.

  • I agree, but after work could be difficult with employees with families/other commitments. If that is the case you could do something on a Friday afternoon (or other slow time) or doing something like fika – Robert Dundon Aug 24 '18 at 13:05
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Say "Hi"

This works for remote colleagues too. reach out to them via IM or in-person, invite them for coffee or a walk, etc.

Then, keep doing this every once-in-awhile. Do it enough to not be forgotten and/or lose communication, but not enough to annoy the person

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My employer suggested changing workplaces every half year, to make sure people don't always work with the same colleagues. My colleagues had some resistance against that idea, I can imagine that people prefer to have a fixed workplace.

My suggestion for now is to move all meeting rooms and the lunch room to the new floor and use the old meeting rooms as new workplaces. That way, for now everybody can continue working at the same floor, while getting used to going to the other floor on a daily basis.

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