The past year and a half have been like no other, dealing with the pandemic and working from home while separated from friends and family, not to mention coworkers. Thankfully, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel and a return to some normalcy in many places worldwide. For me, it has reinforced the importance of communication, collaboration, and connection.
To put that insight into practice, regular check-ins with colleagues to know what is going on across the organization are critical. “Water cooler” moments to catch up via brief conversations or quick stop-and-chat meetings as you pass each other in the hall weren’t viable options and may not be for a while as we transition back to the workplace in phases. We relied on Zoom, Webex, and other online video-conferencing platforms to conduct our meetings.
The most effective ones had agendas and ended at the scheduled time, and all participants kept their cameras on. It encourages more engagement when you can see everyone and not just their picture or initials. Some innovative ideas that came out of our meetings were a virtual student career fair and an “office hours” webinar for CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) Scholarship candidates to help them better understand their benefits.
THE VALUE OF ICEBREAKERS
In terms of staying connected with IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) colleagues beyond work-related meetings, several of the staff got together and participated in icebreakers such as playing bingo, two truths and a lie, and PechaKucha (Japanese for “chit-chat” but used in the sense of “talk less, show more” during a presentation of pictures to showcase your story). They were simple to set up and helped us to get to know each other better.
On a personal note, I’m a part of a book club that has been going strong for more than 10 years. We weren’t sure how a book club discussion via Zoom would be, but we were pleasantly surprised with the results. We were even able to loop back in a few members who had moved away from participating in the reading group, so it was nice to have them join us again for our discussions. We recently held our first in-person meeting, and it was great to see everyone. Book clubs or article discussions with coworkers can be a great way to increase cross-departmental collaboration. IMA offers a monthly discussion of Strategic Finance articles for any interested staff, which helps to boost employee learning and engagement.
ALWAYS BE NETWORKING
Also, 2020 would have been my 35th college reunion (yikes!). I had been looking forward to attending, but obviously plans changed and it was canceled. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to reconnect, especially with those who were a part of my freshman dorm who truly made an impact on my college experience. I sent out a note to those with whom I’m connected on Facebook and set a date and time for a Zoom call. Ultimately, 19 of us got together and caught up virtually from across the globe, reminiscing and sharing stories, pictures, and laughs.
It was a different kind of reunion, but I’m so happy we did it. We did it again this yearand hope that we get to do it in person next June. Reconnecting periodically with former classmates, colleagues, and other contacts keeps you on their radar and may lead to opportunities to collaborate or help each other. Your personal and professional networks are so important in these times of uncertainty—and most people will be thrilled to hear from you.
WORK-FROM-HOME NOW, IN-PERSON SOON
The silver lining of the pandemic is that companies’ rank-and-file employees and leaders alike see the value of work-from-home option and understand that it doesn’t negatively impact productivity. Previously, it was something that in many instances wasn’t allowed organization-wide and possibly depended on your team manager’s preference. Staff appreciate the flexibility to fulfill their job responsibilities remotely and the decreased commuting time and costs. As many professionals begin to return to a more normal routine, many organizations will continue to offer the ability to work from home a few days a week; some have even made it a permanent option.
For new employees and early-career professionals, this may pose a challenge to meet colleagues face-to-face and understand the corporate culture, so companies will have to focus on creating connections during the onboarding process and beyond. At IMA, we started a buddy program for new hires so they can have a mentor to help them navigate the ins and outs of the organization and answer any questions they may have.
I’m very much looking forward to a return to the office and business travel in the coming months. It will be nice to see people in person, stop to have a conversation in the hallways or by the water cooler or coffee machine, brainstorm ideas, share a meal in a restaurant, and rebuild personal connections. That said, I’ve truly appreciated the lessons of adaptability and resilience we’ve learned and the new perspective on communication, collaboration, and connection we’ve gained during the pandemic that will last us a lifetime.