Effective vs Efficient: Thoughts on Remote Work and Building Culture
Aside from my tenure at Chick-fil-A, I have the distinct pleasure of being a co-owner of a chain of seven shared workspaces in Atlanta, called Roam. Roam is home to several hundred businesses and nonprofits as well as over a thousand members. At Roam, our mission is to renew and inspire how the world does business as partners in the stories of accomplished dreams. We focus on creating a culture of service and hospitality for all our members and guests, whether that’s entrepreneurs who need a place to work, or Fortune 500 corporate teams gathering for an offsite.
This past year has certainly been one full of challenges, which created lots of opportunities. We had to rethink and reimagine how to serve our members and figure out what people really wanted as they started to return to work and meetings. Because of our close relationships with many corporations, teams, groups, and our members, I would like to share some of the insights we’ve gathered at Roam about how the future of work may be changing after 2020.
Prior to the past year, many companies were hesitant to offer remote work. Others offered it on a limited basis, and a few had it as a regular part of their company experience . As a large portion of the workforce quickly shifted to remote work in March of 2020, we all saw many of the benefits. Being at home allowed for more flexibility, more family time without commutes, the ability to cook more and get a quick workout in during the day.
But with all of that also came a major downside that we are all really starting to feel: we lost some of our ability to have and build community and connections. Because many companies had been in-person for so long, employees had “relationship bank accounts ” that were full. They were filled from in-person meetings, culture events, hallway conversations, and regular interaction over time. Unfortunately, over the course of the year, that bank account started to become depleted.
Recently, a coworker at Roam shared the story of someone being on-boarded to a new job: their first day was simply receiving a computer in the mail and being told to turn it on and start working. Those who started new jobs missed out on the team lunches, onboarding experiences, and overall contact and team building that helps build strong cultures.
As I reflected on this, it appears that the past year of being fully remote made us more efficient in getting work done and adapting to a new situation. But the equally important question to ask is, did it make us more effective? High Performance organizations are equally concerned with BOTH effectiveness and efficiency!
At Roam, we are seeing in-person meetings return, members coming in looking for a change of scenery, and companies exploring ways to use shared work spaces to create a hybrid work environment.
Many have realized the importance of being in-person, especially as we begin to feel the impacts of empty relationship bank accounts. Working virtually certainly has its benefits, including making us more efficient in how we manage our time, but to be effective, many people need to be around others and engage in-person.
As we all move towards a new work model, whether it’s a hybrid structure, hub and spoke, or another type of flexible work environment, the importance of relationships in building and maintaining a sustainable culture are even more critical. We see that office space and in-person meetings will be more for collaboration, celebration, and training. This is one way employees will fill the relationship bank accounts which will allow them to be more effective and engaged in their work.
There are so many lessons we have learned in the past year, and I believe more are still to come as we continue to reflect and learn from the past. But it is increasingly evident that companies need to remember their employees should be looked at as customers too.
What employees need in terms of the interactions, support, and mentorship opportunities that come naturally when together with coworkers are just as important as thinking through the interactions, care, and level of service extended to paying customers. Having a strong culture that fosters this type of engagement for employees will then allow them to be effective in their role.
I would love to hear from you on ways you are rethinking, enhancing and becoming more intentional about your culture going forward. Are you back to working in the office, or have you adjusted to a new work model? Share your thoughts – I’d love to know!