The New Day

We all knew this day would come. With mask ordinances and vaccination requirements lifted in many places, those of us who lead organizations are now asking one another, “Okay, what do we now?” And by “what,” I mean how do we reimagine our work together in the post-pandemic environment? (Crossing my fingers on that post-pandemic proclamation).

For starters, affirm what I’ve said before: Hybrid is here to stay. If you aren’t ready to accept — embrace — this presupposition, you might want to consider an early retirement. Most of your workers WILL NEVER return to a “9–5, Monday through Friday, sit in the cubicle until the whistle blows” work arrangement. It’s just not going to happen. If you force it upon them, they’ll go to work for someone else… maybe for me. So, it’s time to lean into the new model — a hybrid work environment, emphasis on hybrid. While some of your people — particularly those not in customer facing roles — may shift into fully-remote work, most of the team will need to balance remote activities with the in-person ones. Your role in this balancing act? Use the in-person opportunities wisely. When the members of your team are onsite, focus on personal development, team-building, and face-to-face one-on-ones, not the administrative, cubicle-based tasks that can be handled from the comfy confines of the home office. Hear that again: Don’t waste the in-person hours on activity that can be completed in front of a screen. Further, don’t relegate in-person work to your floor in the company’s high rise. Get your team out into the community and beyond it to meet customers, learn new things, build authentic relationships, and grow creative capacity. Yes, the hybrid world has plenty of space for legacy gatherings like conferences, trade shows, and business dinners. Get your people in these settings as often as possible. Get on some planes too!

Now the why. In a recent article I wrote for Forbes, I cited the strategic thinking of René Siegel, who serves as the CEO of Silicon Valley’s Connext and a professor of public relations at San Jose State University. Siegel believes that no matter what kind of business one works in, all workers are in the people business.[1] In fact, MIT research suggests that there is a direct correlation between the effectiveness of a team and the number of times the members of the team interact engage in a face-to-face manner. In the same way, customer satisfaction climbs when clients have interpersonal connections with those offering the goods and services that clients seek. Heidi Gardner of Harvard Law adds that trust is nurtured by embodied interactions between people. Those who meet face-to-face have an easier time understanding the motivations of the various parties.[2] If you understand what motivates someone, you can more quickly discern if you trust them. While digital/virtual conferences are convenient, they cannot reveal motivations or nourish trust-building.

Finally, let me add this: We’re genetically wired to be together. Even the most introverted ones among us cannot sustain our lives in a vacuum. While our work has become irreversibly changed to a new hybrid model, technology will not overwrite our need to connect with others in an embodied way. So, let your people do as much work as they can from their personal space. But, when it’s time to meet in-person, use the embodied time to build up your team, strengthen your organizational brand, and satisfy your customers. It’s a new day. Seize it.

[1] Extracted from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/brand-connect/hilton/the-science-of-being-there/

[2] Extracted from: https://hbr.org/2021/02/wfh-is-corroding-our-trust-in-each-other

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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Senior Executive | Speaker | Author | Passionate Diversity & Inclusion Leader | Forbes Council Member | Networking Champion | Board Director

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Victoria Pelletier

Victoria Pelletier

Senior Executive | Speaker | Author | Passionate Diversity & Inclusion Leader | Forbes Council Member | Networking Champion | Board Director

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