Indoor dining is reopening, mask guidelines are loosening, and there is talk of a return to some normality in 2021.
I'm visualizing Factor’s return to work like a feel-good movie montage. A scene of people laughing in an office kitchen. Slow crossfade to an in-person board meeting. Pan over to a client comfortably shaking hands with our lawyers and project managers. The title appears: The Great Reopening.
Then, the massive grain of salt descends on my fantasy and I realize this future isn’t up to me. Something fundamental has changed.
The days of employers mandating where individuals lived their lives are shifting. Until recently, employers opened offices and employees figured out how to structure their lives around where this office was located. This reality has shifted because of two key reasons. Firstly, people proved across cities and industries that where work is done is less important than we assumed. Factor served clients, doctors saw patients and teachers ran classes all in a remote and distanced set up. Secondly, people's comfort with being in close contact with others is a deeply personal choice based on their health profile and risk tolerance and this choice must be respected by employers.
Part of my job is to make decisions, but what does it mean to make decisions that now so clearly straddles the professional with the personal lives of over 500 colleagues?
As a leader, I’m contemplating what this means for the future of work, our client engagement and our employee experience. Yes, part of my job is to make decisions, but what does it mean to make decisions that now so clearly straddles the professional with the personal lives of over 500 colleagues?
I’ve written before about the importance of finding the personal in the professional, and that could not be more apt for me at this moment. Here are a few of the big questions I’m grappling with as Factor plans for the next iteration of what work looks like:
Spontaneous interactions get woven into the cultural fabric of the work experience
What is the purpose of an office?
As much as technology enables freedom and flexibility, it can’t replace the feeling of walking through the office. A spontaneous conversation between meetings leads to collaboration, and a chance encounter in the office kitchen leads to a memorable happy hour. These spontaneous interactions get woven into the cultural fabric of the work experience and this is something we can’t afford to lose.
How do we welcome new team members into the fold?
Factor welcomed 200 new team members in 2020, and we expect almost as much in 2021. We are quickly approaching a point where half our team members will have never shared a meeting room or walked to grab a coffee together.
Ensuring we can connect these colleagues meaningfully and increase cultural cohesion across our teams is top of mind.
What does collaboration look like?
The hybrid model of in-person/virtual work is here to stay, and we have to learn to work within it. How do we respect personal choices while keeping work as efficient as possible? Right now, common refrains in virtual meetings are “you’re on mute” and “it’s hard to hear you.” It’s challenging, and technology is going to play a strong role here. Until it catches up to our new way of working, leaders have to acknowledge and respect personal choices individuals make informed by testing, vaccines, travel and so much more. Let's invest even more in structuring these gatherings to maximize collaboration, engagement and experience and not default to “meeting = collaboration.”
There is so much to learn and figure out and these are just some of the big questions I’m wrestling with. What are yours? Leave a comment below. Regardless of what these answers are for Factor, which I plan on finding slowly, thoughtfully and collaboratively, we have to ensure we use The Great Reopening as a chance to humanize work again.