Returning to the Office Starts with a Conversation
I recently had a conversation with our team about working together in person. I feel it’s critical for people to be in the office for the right reasons. That they see the value in it and want to be at work in person.
For our conversation, I focused on what I believe is important for the business and for the team as professionals.
I wanted our team to know how much I value seeing them all. How much I miss them when I only see them on a screen. Work just isn't as much fun when they’re not here. I also let them know that working together in person adds to the work experience. To our creativity, productivity, culture, and innovation.
I shared my opinions openly and listened to theirs. I listened to what the team valued about in person meetings and what they felt being at the office added to their work experience.
Hybrid is the right model for most businesses right now
Everyone volunteered those benefits without me having to prompt. People know work is better when they can be in person. They said they felt more connected, engaged, and happy when they could see each other and work together in the same office.
We also felt it was important to plan our day with our cohorts when we’re in the office to make our time together as productive as possible. So we asked the team to organize themselves to maximize collaboration.
And we talked about the impact on our wellbeing and our work when we just “show up". We can always do the easy thing and stay home, but we almost never regret showing up and seeing people.
Our team includes people in Montreal, Kelowna, Toronto, Oshawa, Port Hope, and Milton. We acknowledged that not everyone has the same distance to travel. That when some people come in, they leave their families for several days. Hybrid is the right model for most businesses and jobs right now, and we decided it’s the right one for us.
Give everyone the chance to feel seen and heard
The conversation was great. It allowed us to view back to the office from several perspectives. It gave everyone a chance to feel seen and heard. It helped us think through what can be a challenging balancing act for the business and everyone who contributes to it.
The team expressed how much they really cared about each other and wanted to see each other. And together we developed a shared goal and committed to achieving it. Each person developed a schedule for coming into the office that was sustainable for them.
Here’s my follow up note to the team:
Team, good conversation today. I’m glad you all enjoy working together as much as David and I enjoy seeing you all. Please come up with a schedule you can commit to. Share your plan with Elaine.
Planning and predictability is important to making in person meetings meaningful and productive. Especially for the people who have to travel far.
I think it’s really important Morna, Martha, Elaine and Stephanie have good coverage across the days. Thanks all. Go Stars! (Dallas Stars for non-hockey fans) 😀
And if people don’t want to return to the office…
There’s no short cut to making change happen. It takes time and conversations and a custom approach for everyone. Especially these days, after the last tough few years of the pandemic.
And change must be made because people want to change and they value the change. Offering free lunches and incentives cheapens the conversations. It is a short cut that isn't sustainable.
Open conversations that allow everyone to express who they are and what they value are important for a return to the office plan that will work long-term.
And if people don’t want to return to the office, it tells us something about our leadership team and culture. It shows us there’s more opportunity for listening and communicating. Rather than a closed door, it offers a jumping off point for more conversations. And more change.