Over the past 18 months we’ve been working with our clients to help their populations maintain as sense of culture and inclusion in the remote and hybrid working worlds. The boom of employees working from home has meant a seismic shift in what it means to connect with your colleagues on a daily basis and has had many of our clients asking: how do we maintain a sense of belonging and inclusion?
Before the pandemic Steps was an office-based organisation – with hubs in the UK, India and the US. The majority of our colleagues based in the UK would work from the office most days of the week. In fact we only just started, reluctantly, to explore remote working as a possibility. We valued the positive impact face-to-face working brought to the organisation in terms of culture, team building and professional development.
However, this wasn’t the case for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved going into the office for all the reasons mentioned above, but my role is less project based and more business development. I was also ‘hybrid’ working before I knew to call it that. I’m the Head of Business Development for the US, but I’m based in London. (It’s a long story, but the short version is I’m a lucky dual citizen of the US / UK and, prior to the pandemic, the aim was for me and my family to relocate to the US for the role, but the universe had other plans and we are in London for the foreseeable).
Prior to the world being turned upside down, I would often hear my colleagues say things like – ‘Oh, I don’t know how you manage working away from the office, I miss talking to everyone’, or ‘I’m not sure meetings over Zoom are the best way to build new relationships’. Sure, it was an adjustment at first, but the real challenge was getting the people based in the office to ‘remember’ those who worked remotely. If something is out of sight it’s out of mind, and unfortunately this can be the same for our colleagues. To remind people of my existence within the company, I would do really strange things like pick up the phone and just talk to them – simply to see how they are doing. Or I would go out of my way to get people I didn’t normally work with assigned to projects I was leading. Sure, it took more effort on my part, but it supported my feelings of inclusion and keeping a ‘one beating heart’ global connection between our teams.
Fast forward to now and those colleagues that were saying they could never work from home are now saying they don’t want to go back into the office. I’m sure as we start to come out of lockdowns and the pandemic begins to recede, more people and organisations will figure out the best approach for hybrid working. But for me, in my role, I’ve never felt more connected with my teams in the US, UK and India. My day is filled with projects that involve global teams, rather than just the people sitting next to me in the office. I’m learning new ways of working and approaches to problem solving that simply weren’t there before. Of course, I get Zoom’d out, but I’d take a little bit of screen fatigue any day over the thought of going back to ‘normal’.