Lockdown has done many things, many things we could not have conceived at any previous time in our lives. We have all experienced a collective leap off a cliff with no knowing how we would land. Most of us were terrified at the unknown consequences. We have had to deal with the unfamiliar concept of having no choice or different choices.
It has also upended all our usual habits and routines not least in the workspace. The initial 3 weeks that become 4 months has forced us to establish new procedures from those that we had practised all our working lives. The process of returning to the office is as novel as the first day of working from home
Aside from the protocols of cleansing and temperature-taking, of masks and gloves, of hot-desking and restrictions on kitchen and shower facilities, there is the whole new world of re-integration.
Businesses are not just places of commerce; staff are not just individuals. The differentiator between one business and another is identifiable by the imprecise element of culture. And culture is not manufactured, it is the result of year after year, layer after layer of values, practises, and shared experience. That is where the soul of the business resides and where it is most evident.
Trying to hold on to and preserve the valuable culture inherent within any community is best done in a real time, face to face environment. With weeks of enforced separation, however hard managers and team members have worked to protect it, inevitably has been fractured by lockdown.
By instigating a limited back to office routine to meet Government guidelines means that not everyone will be together for the foreseeable future. At Spider we have opted for a team a day to return in order that there is room to spread out. It will be brilliant for that team to meet up once a week and there is real excitement for it to happen. But that means the agency is working in silos with staff only meeting their own team.
Finding the way to foster an agency-wide team spirit is going to be just as difficult as it has been via Zoom. The exponential value of people working together as a team cannot be undervalued. The news that Twitter is allowing its staff never to go into the office, is not, in my opinion, a cause for praise and awe at progressive thinking. I believe it serves to devalue people if all they are seen to be good for is delivering results remotely. The day will come even sooner when robots will do this better. I believe commercial success is a mixture of talent and deliverability combined with a culture that grows between people and shines through output. One underestimates the soul of a business at one’s peril.