When Worlds Collide: The In-Office/Remote Working Balance

In the beginning of September, Hixson allowed one fourth of our 120 associates to return to working in the office as part of a careful, phased effort, and I happily volunteered to be part of this transition.  So what is it like being back here? Quiet. Social (at a distance). And still on-line.

That’s right: Coming back into the office has welcomed another new norm, one in which we have one proverbial foot in the office, and one still working remotely.  And to be honest, this interaction between the two worlds is a bit strange in a few ways.

First, when all of us were working from home, every interaction was planned and scheduled, since you couldn’t just walk down the hall to someone’s office, or happen upon them at a coffee station.  Now, with some of us back in the office, spontaneous meetings are coming back.  Walking around the building, I am seeing people I haven’t seen in person in a few months – people from all over the firm, not just my department.  These organic conversations in which we catch up and discuss what we are working on are helping to increase collaboration and interaction.

Second, throughout this period, Hixson has done a great job at providing an increased amount of open, honest communication and visibility. When we were all working from home, this really helped us to feel more comfortable with everything going on in the world, and provided us with a sense of normalcy.  Since the transition back to the office is occurring slowly, the level of direct, transparent communication is helping create a bond between those of us in the office and those still working remotely.

Third, being 100% online and at home created a challenge with time availability. Doing so can limit a team from seeing if a person is available because their status may be set to ‘busy’ or ‘away,’ or they may be fully booked in meetings. I’ve noticed since coming back to the office that those of us who are here are walking around more and talking about projects, updates, and availability.

Finally, as we are still faced with the restrictions placed on larger gatherings, we are still meeting remotely even when we are in the office. Here at Hixson, we have the benefit of having larger spaces for group meetings, but with multiple team members still working from home, and to address the comfort levels of all, all meetings are still conducted online. This raises the question of whether we are as productive as possible during online meetings? Are you paying 100% attention like you would if it were in person and when people can see what you are doing? Are you participating as though you were in person? My belief is that this is, perhaps, one of the strongest arguments for the need to be back in the office.  In-person meetings are key to driving strong participation and engagement from the team. And they are an integral part of creating and fostering a company’s culture.

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