President’s Corner

Protecting Culture & People – Our Return to the Workspace

Published October, 2021

By Fiona Hutton

Everyone’s talking about return to offices, including how to reflect new models and adjust to varying employee desires, the economy opening and changing business and consumer landscapes. As a mid-sized public affairs firm, we have a unique perspective, unique client base and unique workforce.

With a mandatory vaccination policy in-place, our offices are now back open and we have implemented a new hybrid work model that seems to be working well. It took time, investment, and a willingness to listen to bring people along the journey and understand what was best for our team, but also our clients and work products.

Our process was spread over several months and included:

  • Employee survey
  • Client survey
  • Analysis of industry trends and invaluable conversations with peer CEOs
  • Roundtable employee team meetings
  • Consultation with legal and HR
  • Careful adherence to local and state safety guidelines

For us, we learned that returning to the office environment was important for several key reasons:

  • Team building and creative collaboration
    • Allowing for better mentoring, teaching and onboarding new employees
    • Ensuring we have a space (physically and mentally) to be creative and strategic – without the (let’s be honest) distractions of home
    • Preventing us from becoming stale and isolated
  • Overall wellness
    • Providing better work/life balance (the pandemic clearly blurred the lines of work and homelife)
    • Offering important human interaction – we’re a company and industry built on human interaction. Lockdown is just not in our DNA
  • Intention
  • Renewing our sense of energy, curiosity and creativity (and hope for the future!) We are looking forward to growing, learning and leaning in as a united team
  • Booking a solid base of important work
  • Sharing an excitement to see our clients, friends and colleagues in-person again

Ultimately, we settled on an updated flexible model, offering two days of work from home and three days in the office. Some functions (such as bookkeeping) are permanently at home and visiting the office once a week or so. Recognizing that this is unique to each office culture and that each team member approaches their individual needs differently, our team is clearly happy to be together again. They missed the camaraderie. I see young staffers stretching and growing faster with the direct and quick interaction with senior leaders – all supported by a level of trust and flexibility for their personal time and balance.

It’s a work in progress. We’re constantly assessing, but I’m pleased with where we are today and how we’ve held firm as a team through the past 18+ months with grit and grace.

Onward to 2022!