People miss colleagues, not commutes

It’s no news to anyone that COVID-19 has forced businesses to upend the way they operate, including how and where people work. Working from home has normalized for many ‘non-essential’ workers, leaving little to no more time spent stuck in traffic during daily commutes or next to coffee machines alongside colleagues.

The Ups and Downs of WFH

For those who are lucky enough to work in the comfort of their homes, there have been numerous benefits. “WFH life” has helped many people feel safer amidst a pandemic, spend more time with loved ones, sleep in a little longer, and deepen our collective appreciation for our essential workforce.

However, as with anything, there are its trade-offs. For starters, working from home has stopped colleagues from spending quality time with each other and therefore from fulfilling what is for many a vital source of community. When most if not all things are handled virtually –from onboarding new hires to executing major projects– we are also faced with delays and bottlenecks that wouldn’t normally (or at least not as easily) arise during in-person interactions, especially since work isn’t the only facet of our lives that has had to move at least mostly online.

Our children’s schooling, our social lives, our sources of entertainment… So many vital parts of our society have had to suddenly all exist within the same virtual space. This, in turn, has blurred the boundaries between work and life outside of it, inhibiting the mental shifts that would usually occur when moving between the office and the home. Companies around the world have had to make big changes to adapt to the ongoing and uncertain situation around the pandemic.

Finding the right balance

In LeadFabric’s case, we asked ourselves after many months of working from home: What kind of policy are we going to apply from here on out? Work from home? From the office? A mix of both?

We asked our employees what they wanted through a company-wide survey, and most of them told us they wanted a hybrid situation. The majority wanted to WFH on most days, with perhaps one or two spent at the office. After deeper discussions, however, it became clear that what matters is less about whether we had a physical office, but more about how supported our people feel emotionally, mentally, and socially in relation to their work environment.

Do they feel like they can be flexible with their schedule and spend enough time with their family? Are they getting a good enough sense of community and belonging from the workplace, or is it socially lacking? Can they easily separate work life and home life when both are spent in the same place?

With these insights we decided that the best option was to let our people work remotely (from their home, abroad, etc.) as long as their location didn’t have a negative impact on their Wi-Fi connection, team, or output. Our aim is to ensure that our employees feel that they can work in an autonomous, flexible, and fun way without having to compromise their work quality, performance, and sense of community. It’s been important to realize that people don’t miss commutes; they miss colleagues.

“Work from Home +”

We’ve let go of our offices in BeNeLux, and instead use the rent money saved on education programs and unique team off-sites such as weeks spent in Ibizan villas, meals out at Michelin restaurants, after-work drinks, and many other travel opportunities (all according to COVID-19 regulations, of course).

Throughout June 2021, different teams took turns enjoying an all-expenses-paid trip to Ibiza to work, build team morale, and celebrate new beginnings.

Throughout August 2021, colleagues across Europe traveled to Belgium and Romania to discuss short- and long-term company plans, goals, and opportunities.

This way, we help facilitate critical team building and a strong sense of community, as well as a healthy degree of flexibility at the workplace. Investing in memorable yet productive experiences gives us the opportunity to welcome new hires in a special way, to strengthen team relationships, give many the chance to meet their colleagues face-to-face for the first time, and to build an enjoyable and enriching work culture.

LeadFabric is excited to continue organizing business travels and events in a safe and controlled manner, keeping in mind COVID regulations and the safety and comfort of others.

As we navigate “work from home +” on a full-time basis, we remain grateful for all the opportunities we have to safely gather together and enjoy delicious food, good wine, and a bright future ahead.

Team meeting in Bucharest (August 2021).

About the Author

Zoe De Preter

Consumer Psychologist and Buyer Insights Consultant at LeadFabric, aiming to offer a refreshing, analytical and creative perspective on marketing challenges.

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