#9: Workplace Gameplans: Communication
SERA has set our ever-tentative return-to-office date in mid-September (primarily so we can celebrate in-person our love of the oh-so-wonderful hyphen). No matter your industry or the size of your organization, returning to the work environment will require clear communication and experimentation with new ways to accommodate the high-value (and even the low-value) interactions that we’ve all missed while working from home. While we’re eager to recapture the energy of a bustling workplace, the ongoing risk of Covid-19 and the distance-learning programs of local districts means many people will continue working from home at least part-time. As we’ve learned over the past four months, though interacting on screens is surprisingly effective, physical separation can inhibit the spontaneous, creative collaboration that’s at the heart of the work we do.
Across industries, leaders will want to use the lessons from this months-long work-from-home experiment to reimagine how work is done — and what role the office should play. As we all gain comfort in the new processes and practices, we should begin to sketch out some creative and bold workplace gameplans that will allow us to lay solid foundations for the processes and practices that offer the best of both in-person and remote work.
When SERA’s Workplace studio launched into our new work-from-home lifestyle back in March, the interactions we once had in-person were quickly replaced with new methods of communication and tools that kept our studio and teams connected and engaged.
Here are some communication strategies that have been working for us:
One simple tool we use is Google Slides. This really is our go-to tool for graphic collaboration. In March, we created a deck that we called Quaranteam Plans. This deck is filled with playful memes, workplace resources, workflow tips, and a dedicated slide for each studio member that includes fun photos and a bit of light-hearted personal information, as well as that staff member’s personal office hours and current projects. This slide deck was a fun way to stay connected in the early days of the pandemic as we eased into our new, er, domestic workflow.
Another great resource our firm uses is an internal Microsoft SharePoint website that provides a centralized, secure place to store, organize, share and access information from any device. Last month, our studio developed its own section loaded with content to improve our communication, processes and workflow. For example, studio members can easily jump onto the People page and connect with coworkers, or dive deeper into other resource pages to find project management tools, research & development presentations, code information and other key data. Designing and editing webpages in SharePoint is so easy that it’s — gasp! dare we say it? — fun.
Of course, just like everyone else, we got creative with our team meetings, charrettes and happy hours, and experimented with a number of videoconferencing technologies including Microsoft Teams and our beloved Google Meet. After sheltering guidelines were relaxed, some of us even returned to the office in-person project kickoff and design charrette where we wore masks and maintained proper physical distance. This in-person meeting is a prime example of rethinking how work is done, and which interactions are best served by the many modes of connection. In this instance we came together to create a safe, high-value-interaction environment. One where our team could connect face-to-face to sketch and diagram through complex conversations. After that successful kickoff, we were able to work from home far more effectively.
In the (post-)pandemic world, it is critical to determine what modes of communication will work best for the many unique moments that make up our workweek, and to devise clear ground rules on how teams interact with and use digital tools.
This is a chance to get better at what we do. So let’s not be afraid to communicate, over-communicate, and then communicate again. Together we can leverage our strange, shared experience of 2020 to enact new ways of thinking and interacting — together or apart.
Join us next week when we’ll delve deeper into the importance of clear communication and the overuse of hyphenation.