In a recent blog post entitled “Missing from your job description”, Seth Godin made a list of tasks that people who work in an office should adopt as their job responsibilities. It included items like starting a club, feeding the plants, adding energy to every conversation, and even helping invent a product or service”. He concluded by saying “Now that it’s easier than ever to outsource a job to someone cheaper (or a robot) there needs to be a really good reason for someone to be in the office. Here’s to finding several.” There are certainly some things that you can only do when you’re physically in the office and some things that you may still be able to do if you find a good hack. Let’s take a look.
Improve the office environment
Don’t underestimate how much you can contribute to a atmosphere in the office just through simple things such as making coffee, bringing a special treat for people to share, or chatting about TV shows or vacations. Small gestures such as helping with stocking the fridge, opening the door for someone, picking up a piece of trash, or asking someone you can bring them back a snack or beverage from the kitchen or cafeteria take zero effort but can contribute to fostering a positive environment. You can also enhance the office physically by bringing in plants or pictures or cleaning out the fridge.
Start a bonding initiative
Short activities with teammates often create a welcome break and can foster team spirit. A few years ago, our engineers at Hannon Hill started a couple of exercise routines by meeting at a specific hour to do pull ups or squats. Another team member founded a juice club, where participants would bring fruit and vegetables to the office and share their healthy concoctions. Our book club has been meeting every few weeks over lunch for the past two years. Other ideas include going on a wellness walk together, starting a running club, playing a game of foosball or ping pong, or meeting up for an afternoon tea break.
As a manager, you want to be able to always be aware of your team members’ levels of engagement. It’s not just about whether they are meeting their goals, but also about whether they understand how they are contributing to the success of the company, whether they feel supported and appreciated, and whether their objectives are in alignment with those of your organization. While those things can and should be part of your quarterly check-ins, be sure to pay attention to your team members’ body language, their tone, and their interactions with their colleagues and your customers on a daily basis. Find ways to make managing by walking around work for you. If you notice something about someone who is not on your team, share those observations with the appropriate manager. And always, always give praise and shoutouts when you witness something great, whether you overhear your support engineer provide amazing customer service or a sales rep going above and beyond for a prospect.
Offer ad hoc help
Another thing that is significantly easier when you’re physically in the office is to offer ad hoc help when you see that someone is stuck, is frustrated with something (or someone), or is just having a bad day. Sometimes you can help with your technical expertise, by sharing how you solved a similar situation or by asking questions, and sometimes, just by listening.
Collaborate and learn
While there are certain projects and tasks that require a heads-down approach and are best done in a quiet environment, there are many instances where working together in the same physical space as your coworkers makes more sense. For instance, most sales reps tend to do better in an energetic environment with lots of feedback. Marketers need to learn as much as possible about your customers, so sitting close to the sales team and listening to their calls is an absolute necessity.
Integrate new team members
The importance of properly integrating new team members by being together in the office is something that I can’t stress enough. Bringing a new employee on board is a huge investment, both for your company and for the new person. Don’t diminish the investment by trying to cut corners in the on-boarding process by working from home. As a manager, be sure to be in the office every day until both you and your new hire are certain that the integration process has been successfully completed. If at all possible, have your entire team come into the office as well in order to not just ensure complete knowledge transfer, but also to make the person feel welcome, to give them the opportunity to get to know their coworkers, and to absorb and embrace your company culture.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the ability to work from home can be an attractive perk and often renders outstanding results. However, there are certain things that can either only be accomplished or better accomplished in the office, especially as a manager.
What about you? What are your thoughts on the value of being in the office?