Meeting your colleagues face-to-face again
There’s a good chance that you’re doing something this summer that you haven’t done in a very, very long time: Meet.With.Colleagues.
Whether socially, at a team-building event (I’ve heard some wonderfully random ones: sheep herding anyone?) or a breezy summer barbecue… Or, professionally, slowly dipping your toe into those first team meetings again, with some or all of your colleagues in the same room. Live.
In a world where we seem more connected than ever, technologically, it’s time to re-connect, for real. Sure, the need and desire to work in offices again varies greatly from one person to the next. And, we can endlessly discuss the benefits of office working as well as homeworking. However, there seems to be an agreement that there are ‘some things’ that just happen when gathering physically together in one space that can never be replaced digitally.
For me, this is summed up in three words: serendipity, spontaneity, and visibility.
‘Making fortunate discoveries by accident’… obviously this happens best when you are physically together in a shared space. It’s an important driver for creativity, innovation and for building working relationships.
“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.”
‘not caused or suggested from outside, not forced’… This last word, “forced” is something I hear a lot when people describe virtual meetings. Having to miss out on all of your organic contact and arrival moments, being able to gravitate towards one or two colleagues instead of ALL of them AT ONCE within the confined space of a few inches of screen. With a strong focus on meeting objectives and efficiency there is little room for spontaneity.
So, when back in the office, let the spontaneity flourish as it allows for conversation and connection. Both essential for establishing common ground. And why do we need common ground? Because you are heading in a common direction, as part of the same team within your shared organization. It makes it imminently easier if you have some common ground to start walking from.
Differences should also be celebrated. And, for that matter, establishing and appreciating each other’s differences is also only possible by interacting with each other. And should ideological differences need to be bridged this is altogether a little bit easier to do when there is… indeed, common ground.
Whilst you have been able to literally see each other throughout your online meetings, we all sense the different energy and chemistry when we see each other again in real life.
I guess you’re just going to be more in control of not only people seeing you back in the office, but also how they see you. Your ‘professional’ visibility can help you advance in your role or organisation, or to build working relationships. And leaders: this is your time! Save your focus and thinking tasks for homeworking and really utilise your presence in the office. Walking, talking, drinking, lunching… Anything to enable encounters, conversations and to see all of your team members again. Your behaviour sets the tone and rubs off on the rest of the team.
Needless to say we are all different, and for some the ‘Return to the Office’ may be daunting, or even terrifying. While others will jump at the chance. A place where serendipitous and spontaneous encounters happen, and where no-one is left unseen, creates an engaging and meaningful working culture. And that, I believe, is terrific!