Centering Human Connection in the Decentralised Office
Decentralised offices, also known as satellite offices and hub-and-spoke workplaces, are branches of an organisation that are in physically different locations than the main office.
Whether they’re across town, in the suburbs, or spread across countries, the main goal of a satellite office is to support employee flexibility. Even the spaces themselves can vary in size from a small department of one or an entire department with hundreds of people.
Hub-and-spoke models have many benefits from cost savings and recruitment appeal to new market proximity and networking opportunities.
Since they can help limit the number of people in office at a given time, satellite offices also have health and safety use cases. The office type is ideal for flexible working environments and hybrid models popularised during the Pandemic.
Companies who use a decentralised approach to officing do have a responsibility to keep everyone connected. These communication best practices are designed to help you do just that.
Keep Inter-office Collaboration
In the same way no man is an island, no truly great office is a silo – satellite or not. Inviting employees to recognise the ways they’re interconnected and keep them collaborating is essential for any strong, effective team.
Some experts recommend creating a mix of departments even within satellite offices. Doing so leads to more organic conversations and creates face-to-face opportunities to come together.
You can help even your most remote teams find ways to connect through events like hackathons or other company-wide problem-solving challenges that reward collaborative innovation.
Leverage Communication Tools
If remote work was a sports team, technology would be its main sponsor. So much of what makes satellite offices possible are the live communication tools that unite us. We’ve moved from an email-centric model where sharing documents is clunky to real-time communication that makes presenting and connecting across distances more streamlined than it’s ever been.
Keep in mind that the tools in your satellite suite count for a lot, but they’re not everything. Your people are also effective communication hubs.
Biz Space encourages decentralised companies to consider having, “at least one remote communication coordinator in each of your satellite offices. In exchange for a small pay rise, their responsibility should be to check in with all of the teams and departments at their location on a regular basis, making sure that they’re not struggling to get through to other offices and that no employees feel like they are cut off from the rest of the business.”
Make Time For Fun, Too
During the pandemic, we all practised having fun together while being apart. It’s an essential element of a healthy workplace, even when (and maybe especially when) not everyone is in the same place.
If you’re looking for ways to help build cross-company rapport, try setting up less formal spaces for folks to connect. Those might include:
- Virtual book or film clubs
- Non structured gatherings for meal sharing
- Online game or innovation competitions
- Team building communication games
- Trivia nights
The idea is to help colleagues relate to one another on a personal level, so they feel safer and more social with their remote teams.
Done intentionally, satellite offices have a lot to offer the modern workplace. So long as leaders continue to prioritise communication, decentralisation doesn’t have to mean the end of human connection.