As new companies increasingly adopt strict return-to-office policies —often facing backlash from employees—crafting a more appealing and social experience both within but also outside the workplace is an underutilized strategy for boosting overall engagement.
In the goal of solving these core challenges, ACME recently switched to a more engaging approach by deploying Café company-wide:
- Investing in social initiatives to build a more connected and engaged workforce through in-person and hybrid events.
- Grouping the workforce into communities, based on interests and ERGs, to create interest-based events.
- Mapping their population into regional hubs to facilitate local connections, especially across digital-first employees.
After six months of utilizing Café as their workplace engagement platform, ACME has achieved significant success: 20% of employees attended a company event for the first time, overall connectivity was improved, and they witnessed a heightened sense of belonging among employees.
An important share of remote and hybrid employees feel isolated at work and show low engagement at work, it's key to prioritize the workplace as a space to reconnect employees and boost culture and morale.
For ACME, the new policy was shaped within the context of several challenges:
- Recent layoffs: Following the lead of many other large tech companies, the organization had to make the difficult decision to downsize its headcount. This decision could have a significant impact on the company culture, potentially damaging employees’ trust and engagement with the organization.
- Low adoption reservation system: Their desk-booking system was overly complex and caused unnecessary friction for employees. They wanted an easy-to-use solution for people to connect and collaborate with efficiently.
- Need for social connectivity: There was a pressing need to create a more appealing and social experience - both within and outside the office walls. To do so, ACME had identified the necessity to promote communities and events.
Below are some areas within ACME’s workplace experience that were enhanced as a result of deploying Café. Overall, they saw an increase of engagement, belonging and connectivity by:
Driving engagement across Regional Hubs
ACME defines Regional Hubs as zones where there are more than 50 employees within 25 miles radius.
One of the most complicated challenges that the workplace team faced before deploying Café was easily knowing which employees were based in which parts of the world. Different countries have different formats for zip codes and street addresses, which made the ordeal even more difficult.
Because Café syncs with HRIS platforms, it was easy to pull location data (zip codes) and map all employees into their respective regional hubs. Employees within each region are either considered “local,” or “travel,” based on how many miles they are from the center of the region. For example, “Boston Local” employees are invited to smaller, ad-hoc events, while “Boston Travel” employees are only invited to large company events that it makes sense to travel for.
Having employees mapped to regions makes it exponentially easier for the Employee Experience team to coordinate impactful events and make sure that no one is left out. Regions also empower employees to know who lives nearby, and lets them coordinate informal meetups of their own.
Implementing ERG & Communities
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are highly important to ACME’s culture that values inclusion and belonging above all else. ERG leaders are tasked with a lot, from coordinating meetings, to finding volunteering opportunities, to making sure everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the group’s success. These leaders have stated that Café has made it a lot easier for them to organize events and share clear communication to their group members.
In a recent study*, 66% of ERG members found their ERG to be effective in employee community building. ERGs ensure that employees are supported and help build genuine relationships. Because Café makes it easy for employees to see and join ERGs, ACME saw a spike in employees joining ERG's and participating in events.
*Research conducted by McKinsey & Company with 25,000 employees across the United States, published in this article
Increasing event attendance
Café has become the one-stop-shop for all company events. From small gatherings, like lunches or team outings, to complex, company- or department-wide offsite events.
In Café, employees can easily see events happening at their local office every week. 45% of employees have reported that they’ve decided to go into the office at least once based on an event that was happening on that day. Oftentimes, something as simple as free lunch or an after-work happy hour is enough to convince someone to make the commute.
Café has also helped the Employee Experience team design events that employees actually want to come to. The interest graph in Café makes it easy to see the biggest trends across departments and teams, like favorite activities and foods. Café also enables event organizers to send out a post-event survey to everyone that attended an event, which means that companies can gather direct feedback from their employees and continually improve events.
Finally, ACME is thrilled about how easy it is to create and manage events in Café. Because Café integrates with Google Calendar, employees can RSVP directly within their calendars. Café also has a waitlist feature, which allows teams to limit the capacity of seats at an event and automatically adds people from the waitlist to the “attending” status if seats open up. Event organizers can also manually check people in as they arrive to an event, which means that after the event, organizers receive data on who was invited, who RSVP'd, and who actually showed up.
Switching to a Space-Centered Approach
ACME is remote-first, which means that they usually have plenty of space available in the office. Employees don’t have to worry about not having a desk when they arrive at the office. However, prior to adopting Café, employees were struggling to understand the best area to sit based on the work to be the most productive during their time on-site.
In tandem with the deployment of Café, the workplace team defined zones within each office that were dedicated to different types of work. This activity-based space booking strategy aims at encouraging random encounters, boost cross collaboration and simplify the process required to attend an office.
These zones designed by ACME include: “focus area,” “collaborative work,” “phone booths,” and so on. This new definition of zones has enabled employees to decide where they want to sit in order to be the most productive every time that they go in.
Organizing their offices into zones with clear intentions helped ACME move away from employees simply sitting with their teams each day. Before using Café, employees struggled to meet with colleagues who weren’t on their teams but who were involved with the same projects (for example, certain projects require collaboration across the product team, the engineers, and the customer success team). Choosing a desk based on a zone helps employees connect with others who aren’t on their direct teams and who they might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. It has helped break down silos and increase belonging.
Maximizing internal adoption with high visibility
A hurdle that was encountered early on in the deployment of Café with ACME was that executives and leaders were too busy to use tools like Café on a regular basis. To solve for this, Café designed a way for each Executive Assistant to log into the tool as their executive to reserve workspaces and opt into events on their executive’s behalf.
Allowing EAs to use the tool on behalf of their executives was a major step forward in visibility for employees. Employees can now see when their execs will be in the office each week, and can tell which events they will be at.
Centralizing Office Information
As is common in distributed companies, a significant population of ACME employees travel on a regular basis. It can be intimidating to travel to a new office, especially considering how different locations have different access instructions and different floor plans.
Café has become the source of truth for employees on-the-go to understand how to get into a new office, figure out where to sit in that office, and see events happening at that location. Café also consolidates information about connecting to wifi, using the printers, and other amenities that are unique to each different office.
To conclude, 6 months after switching to a strategy focusing on genuine connections and workplace engagement, the organization has seen a substantial increase in connectivity. Providing their employees with a smoother booking process, a social experience at work and more visibility around people and places has been key to accomplishing their objectives.
Learn more about companies building people-first cultures
- Veepee: Crafting a successful return to office policy with Café
- Team Vitality: Customize workplace experience with Café public API