Stop talking location, start talking connection

By March 23, 2022 Leadership

The year is flying by, isn’t it? Someone stole January, February disappeared in a cloud of smoke and next week will see the start of April. Organisations like yours are juggling a busy workload with all the fun and games of adapting to new ways of working, mainly where we all work post-pandemic. Hybrid working trials have taken place and now we’re trying to bed in longer-term patterns.

This isn’t working out as well as everyone hoped.  It is really difficult to keep all of us happy on the subject of location. Some were and still are champing at the bit to get back in to a shared working space. Others are less keen, preferring working remotely. Business needs must be met but no one wants an unhappy team.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again.  We are great proponents of remote working.  And we should know – we’ve done it for 3 plus decades.  You get more done in less time without hours and money spent getting to and fro. When it is combined with the kind of job that involves some out and about activity and no lockdowns, it’s a recipe for a happy work and life. And it is how we are positioning the out and about element we may be getting wrong right now.

We keep talking about location – where that should be, keep the office, lose the office, convert to a shared work space.  Two days a week in, weekly ratios of 3:2, everyone in on Wednesdays, no more than two teams in at the same time and so on. It’s an emotive discussion and understandably, hard to get people to agree.

So, let’s change the narrative and start talking about why – not where we want to meet up. We want to meet up for connection. We don’t need to be together to plug in and sit silently side by side doing our individual work.  We can do that anywhere that has the necessary resources.

We do want to be together for connection. This might include any or all of the following:

  • To share ideas and discuss issues where we want the conversation to flow naturally, no one has to raise their hand or go on/off mute to make that happen and where the group input yields more value than going it alone
  • To gain wisdom and learn from each other in an informal way and sometimes quite by chance, by observing a colleague do something really well for example
  • To understand better the team and purpose you’ve joined; to get a stronger sense of the culture of your organisation; to influence that culture
  • To be informal and spontaneous with each other and pick up the gains of just spending time together outside of a formal meeting
  • To build relationships with real people not well-behaved online box dwellers.

When you look at it like that, it’s less about rules and more about reasons.  We aren’t “coming into the office”, we’re meeting to discuss, relate, learn and get better. And whilst that may involve an office or agreed meeting place, we’re doing it because it makes sense, not because the policy says you have to be in X days a week.

We are meeting to do what is better done in person. Over the last two years, that was stolen from us and whilst we all coped admirably, there was a cost.  Not to work output but to – and here’s the word again – connection.

So, the key message here is – stop talking location and start talking connection. It will help you work out when it makes good sense to bring people to a shared space and when it doesn’t. Involve others in that conversation because you aren’t talking about the where, you’re talking about the why. People always react better when they feel listened to and are encouraged to input to something that makes sense to them. This makes sense. And with any luck, cooperation will follow.