Empty offices during the pandemic, but normal everyday working life will be back before we know it. How best to deal with it.
The pandemic is finally coming to an end and many of us are returning to our old work routines that have been on ice for almost two years. Change Manager Mark Lauzon has some tips and ideas for how we can benefit more from collaborating in the office after this break.
Withdrawing into working from home and collaborating virtually was a huge change for many of us at the start of the pandemic. We set up a peaceful place to work and added the infrastructure we needed. Overnight, we had to coordinate our professional, personal and family lives like never before. Working with MS Teams in particular got a huge boost, in most cases resulting in smooth virtual collaboration.
As the pandemic comes to an end, so does this phase of our working lives. So what now? Do we want to return to old ways of working and patterns of collaboration? Back to the world before the pandemic? No, a new world of work is waiting for us on the other side of COVID-19. With plenty of challenges and opportunities.
New worlds of work: What will stay? What new aspects will appear?
Now is the perfect time to reflect on ways and patterns of working. Which activities work better when we meet in person at the office? Where does it not matter whether everyone is sitting round a table together? Are there situations in which too much discussion is actually a hindrance? Where hybrid working is possible, these considerations help to plan the working week and coordinate with one’s direct environment. Many of us are familiar with the PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) from lean management. This approach can help to continuously optimise collaboration in the team and with other colleagues.
Meeting people as an opportunity
Alongside these organisational questions, it is also worth re-examining patterns of behaviour. I like to use my journey to work to think about what I want to do better.
One issue that arises time and again: I am not open enough. I often hide behind one of my over-large screens and spend my whole working day without talking to anyone.
That is a shame, as I know that meeting people could enrich not only my work, but my life in general. Even during the pandemic, I sometimes chose to work in our often almost totally empty headquarters, as I thought I might go crazy working from home. The few people there formed a kind of community of fellow sufferers – a connection that would never otherwise have come about. I talked to people whom I may have seen before, but never spoken to. It all lead to enriching discussions and opened up new perspectives for me.
Make use of resources!
Now, when I notice that I am slipping back into my old ways of being shy at work, I know that this kind of behaviour means I miss out on opportunities. It does not justify a journey of two or three hours to get to work, nor is it in line with what I see as a modern way of using resources. In lean management, it would be considered “unnecessary waste”.
If I want to benefit from the opportunities offered by the office environment that is now available again, I need to be open. I need to get out of my comfort zone, be proactive and approach people. Since I do not do this automatically, I have put together a checklist that I plan to work through over the next few weeks. I have shared some of it here – perhaps it will inspire you to try out something new, too.
Mark’s tips for more discussion in the office
Coffee with “unknown” - Arrange to meet someone you don’t know, or have only met virtually up to now, for a brief chat over coffee or water. Ice breaker questions: “Do you prefer cappuccino or espresso?” “What did you like most about working from home?” “How is your journey to work?”
Change of scenery in the office (where possible) – Sit in a different department for half a day and get to know new teams, for example at the Implenia headquarters Connect. TIP: Taking a moment to ask the head of department ensures that you will be welcome: “I want to get to know new teams. Can I sit with you all for a few hours?” “Do you have space for a guest?” “I’d love to share my biscuits with a new team.Would you like some?”
Face-to-face visit for errands – Wherever possible, visit colleagues at their workplace when you have a question and take the opportunity to have a conversation face to face. TIP: It takes just a couple of questions to get to know someone a little: “Do you have to travel far to get to the office?” “Do you get up very early in the morning?” “Can you recommend a restaurant near here?”
Take a pedelec ride in your lunch break – Many Implenia sites offer pedelecs free of charge – motivate a few like-minded colleagues to join you for a lunchtime cycle. TIP: Pick a date and time and ask colleagues to bring a friend – that way, you’ll get to know new people.
Organise an after-work beer (with or without alcohol) with people you know and don’t know I’m planning something just like this for our Connect headquarters: On the last Thursday of every month, we meet at the Townhall & Kaffee-Bar for drinks and nibbles, and to listen to inspiring presentations intended to spark discussion. Start: Thursday, 31 March 2022, from 5 pm