First published on Michael Mauro. Republished with full permission
By Michael Mauro
Apologies for stating the obvious, but the pandemic changed a lot of things.
None more so than the business world. What once pulled the strings of our everyday lives, has now been relegated to a small laptop at home.
While remote working has been a blast for most, it’s been a real drag on others. Some remote workers have been experiencing loneliness, weakened social ties and feelings of isolation. Going into an empty office doesn’t offer much respite from these feelings – unless you enjoy the company of tumbleweeds.
To help prevent these unwanted feelings from getting out of control, anchor days were invented. If you’re wondering what the hell anchor days are, then we’ve got you covered. If you’re pondering whether anchor days even work, then you’re in for a treat as well.
Anchor days are when remote employees come into the office on certain mandated days to work together face-to-face with their teams. This can include team meetings, collaborative sessions, training, or even an excuse to socialise and catch up.
They can be weekly, monthly, or quarterly – whatever fits your team or organisation.
Their main goal is to encourage teams to spend time together.
Sounds pretty wholesome, right? But anchor days aren’t just about chumming it up, they actually serve as points of connection, both with each other and the wider organisation. They help create stability in choppy waters, and that includes maintaining relationships and preventing organisational silos from running rampant.
First off, anchor days come with some preconceived notions that just won’t cut it in today’s business world. These usually are:
Of course, expecting everyone to live within commuting distance of the office is not realistic anymore. Also, trying to force everyone into one fixed timetable when many employees are juggling childcare and other personal matters is like trying to herd cats. Albeit far less cute.
Collaboration, on the other hand, is a bit trickier. Putting two people in a room together isn’t a guaranteed recipe for results. Collaboration is built on trusting your team to find their own approach to being creative together. Trying to force it on them is never the answer.
The last assumption is the most forgivable. Working remotely has stopped colleagues who didn’t necessarily work together from casually socialising at the – apologies for the cliché – water cooler. Now if you want to speak to someone you have to set up a very formal online meeting, which is just not the same.
But the problem with anchor days is that they ensure employees will never meet anyone in a team that rotates in on different days. Not the best approach if you want to prevent organisational silos.
Creating natural opportunities for cross-team interactions won’t be so easy, and leaders will have to step their game up or see their silos deepened.
I haven’t really sold anchor days to you, have I?
But don’t get me wrong, I believe anchor days can aid collaboration and help you create a livelier office culture with remote workers.
With remote work making it almost impossible for new relationships to be developed naturally, we need as many tools as possible to help build and nurture these weakening connections.
While I’d love to give you a definitive answer to whether anchor days are worth it, the answer is a resounding yes and no. Anchor days, by themselves, are not the solution to creating connections in your organisation. They are, however, a key part of it. If they’re handled correctly that is.
Hybrid workplaces work well for individuals – not so much for teams.
However, anchor days can help. They can be a vital part of your organisation’s efforts to establish more sustainable ways of working in this remote working age.
But – and this is a big but – they can’t be implemented haphazardly. A lot of thought needs to go into making sure they’re actually useful for your team, not just a waste of time.
Remember, putting a load of monkeys into a room won’t necessarily mean you’ll get Shakespeare.