Reconnecting the Office Organism
Back from the pandemic
Every office is a type of community. Colleagues grow and identify with each other within their workplace. They exchange ideas; they learn from each other. A smile felt from across the room may just be exactly what you need to get through a current task. Offices are organisms; a type of life unto itself.
Businesses from all across Toronto, Ontario, Canada and everywhere are now returning to the office from the pandemic. All of us, from employers to employees, will be focused on ensuring the health and safety of the individuals within the office space during this time. What most of us will overlook though is the fact that new regulations within the workplace will create a new experience for those working within it.
- How will the rules surrounding masks or social distancing affect the work experience?
- Do these necessary measures place boundaries between colleagues?
- After being so disconnected throughout the pandemic, how will individuals adjust to a return to the office?
While implementing rules and regulations will be the top priority, how individuals respond to, and experience, their new workplace is a different type of concern, and one that should not be overlooked when returning to the office. Indeed, a return to the office means getting that office organism back into a groove, and that means reconnecting the team in meaningful ways.
How to get the office back into a groove
There are a number of ways to get your team back into a groove; reconnected and comfortable together. My favourite strategy though is to arrange an ‘Empathy Walk.’
An Empathy Walk is a walk, preferably outdoors, with two members of your team, each taking turns speaking. The idea is to allow one member to speak, uninterrupted, for 15 minutes; the other member simply listens. During their talk, they aim to answer 3 questions:
- What is your origin story? Provide where you are from, your family overview, any early significant memories, and any traditions that are important to you.
- Share a life challenge you have faced. What impact did it have, and how does it inform who you are and how you live today?
- What does your future entail? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? What are your dreams, aspirations, or goals?
The exercise is about building empathy between the members of your team, and walking provides a more stimulating environment for openness. Sharing one’s story, and listening to the other’s, connects the individuals in more concrete and, indeed, empathetic ways. The Empathy Walk will help team members discover the hopes, fears, and motivators of their colleagues. It will build trust and connections.
The exercise works well over the phone, if being together is not possible for certain team members (both members can still walk outside though!). I suggest trying it out with members of your team as they return to the office. Getting employees connected and comfortable with each other in the office is the most important factor for a return to the office to work smoothly, and for getting the office organism back into a proper groove.
Never too much
Additionally, Forbes Magazine provides more insight for a return to your office:
Forbes Magazine – 5 critical factors for Hybrid Return to Office
So, let me know in the comments how the process went for you and your team. And if you have further questions about the Empathy Walk, a return to the office from the pandemic, or hiring or recruiting in Toronto or Ontario, please connect with me here. Good luck with the return, and have fun with the Empathy Walk!