When COVID-19 struck Canada in early 2020, it came with a huge shift in how we work, with many offices closing their doors and office workers vacating cubicles in favour of remote work to cut down their risk of transmission.
It was a mass exodus to remote work that had never been seen before. Less discussed is that it also created a mass exodus of those subtle socially interactions that added the richness within the workplace.
I am only now starting to understand the detrimental impact this had to organizations that had embraced many Lean Methodologies. Now they are struggling to reinvigorate and realize the necessity to fully reinstate certain methodologies that evaporated during Covid.
The baseline for all Lean Organizations is"Respect for People", which typically looks like a "no blame" environment operating with an Adult-to-Adult context. so, what happened?
Humans are very social creatures, and we need to integrate on a personal level with other human beings even within formal venues. Try as we may ... to continue with this ambiance using various Media platforms (WEBEX, Teams, Zoom etc.) it just did not work. Yes, the formal functionality did occur, but in my perspective the process seemed insensitive, impersonal which seemed to slow down progress dramatically and although not formally documented these meetings seemed tinged with an element of distrust.
A couple of antidotes comes to mind. 1) Our nephew was enrolled at university when due to Covid his classes were switched from in person to on-line. The content of the knowledge transfer remained the same, but the absorption just was not quite there. More importantly our nephew complained that he missed meeting and getting to know his classmates in person and in a social setting. I am certain the classroom learning extended to the pub where the virtues of the professor were discussed along with select course content that may or may not have resonated with some of the class. It became apparent that much of the richness of learning was happening outside of the traditional boundary lines.
the second ... and this one took me a while to grasp. While studying in Japan I would see the workers being extremely respectful to their supervisor. Ideas were seldom challenged in a formal setting. Employees were so respectful that they would not leave the office until the Supervisor actually left. Then something magically would start to happen.
Somehow the employees and the supervisor would meet at some establishment away from work. Quickly alcohol laced beverages would flow and the conversations quickly migrated from polite and condescending to one that was pretty direct and filled with a lot of candor. Healthy debates ensued and I would watch in awe ... why was this not done within the workplace ... ultimately because of respect and this external establishment was considered a no blame zone. And yes, many of the ideas, would make it back into the organization.
If you are sensing a lack of comradery within your work envelope you are not alone. I am certain that a big part of employers wanting their employees to return to the workplace is because of this. It is something that is difficult to define, which then makes it harder to mandate but it is a very important element of why we want to be engaged with our work environment. Ultimately, we can label it as "Culture"
I am not surprised that companies are reporting such a high percentage of presenteeism where employees show up to perform designated tasks but offer little else. Some of those individuals you will not recover ... a new culture has been defined. Some tasks do not require a team setting or need to be performed within a workplace setting but that person's absence also creates a hole within our workplace culture.
For the others and in your best interest, reinvigorate those meetings that require in person socially inter-active sessions. Revive your Daily Management Meeting in person (Daily Report-Outs), have fun doing Design Review Meetings, get back into doing Team based Formal Problem Solving. Or how about those Friday Team Lunches or an after work social gathering at the local pub ... those were fun !!!
People may grumble about having to return to the office, once there they quickly immerse into the environment and enjoy being with others. People crave for in person social interactions, but unfortunately it is a skill that may need to be re-learned.
If you would like a review and help dusting off those lost gems of socializing contact us for assistance.