Judging by the significant increase in morning commute times, I know there are a lot of people returning to the office on a more consistent schedule. Beyond the traffic, this means the development of new norms around in-office days, remote days, and establishing a new rhythm of work.
One of the norms I hope never returns is the rush to the desk, put your head down, and run the meeting marathon for the day squeezing in e-mails and document creation with a sandwich in your hand. If there was ever a time to be intentional about culture, this is it!
If some level of office life is now a part of your work week, it’s easy to slip into old habits and assumptions, such as the idea that working in the same office building helps us become a more cohesive team. But does it? While periodic physical presence with each other is a good thing…
Proximity alone doesn’t improve culture, but presence does.
- We can be present when we’re actively engaged in the conversation, whether we’re in the room or on a video call.
- We can be present in our hallway time between meetings.
- As managers, we can be present with our employees – talk with them, listen to concerns, and understand their point of view.
- As team members, we can check in with each other and engage in conversation outside of meetings and e-mail.
It’s easy to let mere proximity to the people around us check the box of an office day. As much as I want to be efficient with my time, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to really engage with my co-workers who also took the time to pack a lunch, endure the commute, and put on pants with zippers.
Getting into physical proximity with our teams isn’t hard, it just take time. To be present isn’t hard either, it just takes action – like engaging with the people around you as they begin or end their day, or take the long way to the restroom/kitchen/mailroom with a smile (and not heads down on your cell phone!)
On remote days, I do love a good heads down chunk of time for deep work with minimal interruptions. On the days I do trek to the office, I strive to remind myself why I’m there – not just be in proximity to others, but to be fully present, to be engaged, and doing my part to create a work culture that values the results AND the people delivering them.