Long live Friday afternoon drinks!
How do we get more staff to come for Friday afternoon drinks? This is what I talked about with two other secretaries and a representative of our study association Lucid last week. It’s not only Lucid who feel informal interaction between staff and students could use a boost, we do too. This is the ticket to making our department a close-knit community once again, where students, teachers and researchers can learn from and inspire one another. But only if they are actually around each other.
Industrial Design is likely not the only department struggling with COVID’s huge impact on community feeling. It’s remarkable how many workstations in Atlas have remained empty after the lockdown ended. A new part-time teacher who visited the building for the first time last Friday was surprised to find only three out of twenty desks reserved for ESA at ID were occupied: “Where is everybody?” I replied that everyone had to work from home during the lockdown and some colleagues simply haven’t come back.
I myself also work from home for two days and on campus for three. At home I finish reports, put together newsletters, or simply get a good amount of work done without being distracted by colleagues or students. My time on campus is spent on informal meetings, catching up with colleagues, or sharing some laughs. Because if there’s one thing I’ve missed while working from home, it's interacting and, more particularly, laughing with my colleagues.
Of course, Atlas’ lay-out doesn’t encourage bumping into each other. Our department is spread out over floors 4 through 8, on the south side of the building. Lucid’s communal area is in the basement. In practice, most people won’t go to other floors if it’s not absolutely necessary. The only place you’re likely to meet colleagues from other floors is on the staircase or in the elevator.
The open office plan also makes it difficult to have a chat while other people around you are working. Due to a shortage of meeting rooms, online meetings often take place at the desks. Sometimes it’s impossible to find a room big enough to have our team meeting, which means we either have to move it online or to the lunch table in our open space office. All of this isn’t exactly making it easier to return to campus.
How different things were at Laplace – currently being overhauled into Neuron – where our department was located during the renovation of Atlas. Okay, upstairs it was sweltering in summers and freezing in winters, but we did mingle all the time. All student workstations were on the first floor and all the staff and master graduates on the second. We’d meet each other over lunch at the central canteen and over a coffee or a beer at the Lucid bar, which you'd pass on your way out.
Which brings me back to: how do we get more people to the current location of the Lucid bar in the basement of Atlas? We’ve decided for drinks on a pre-announced Friday every the month, to be actively promoted by all of us: newsletters, messages on Teams, maybe even some illegal pamphleting. And even more importantly, just go up to your colleagues on Friday afternoon and say: “Come on, Friday’s here at last! Turn off that computer and let’s go grab a beer.”