Posted on June 10, 2021 in Consulting
On nearly a daily basis, we all see articles about employees protesting a return to work and demanding to work from home or some hybrid arrangement. Battle lines have formed over the issue. I am not surprised, but I have a very difficult time empathizing with those fighting to stay home. I hate traffic as much as anybody and can see the value in reducing wasted commute time. However, from my perspective, the best thing about going to work is the people I work with and the comradery and teamwork that flow from working near and next to people.
So today I propose my tips on how employers motivate workers to want to be at the office. My suggestions stem from observations at WKPZ watching my colleagues make our workplace an attractive place to be physically present.
Tip One: Meaningful In-Person Collaboration.
I try hard to be a good boss. I model my behavior on how my mentor Bob Bettac interacted with me. A good boss (like Bob) spends quality time in-person with his team listening, strategizing, and teaching. My favorite time each work day was when Bob walked past my door and said, “Let’s go take a smoke break.” I don’t smoke and never have. But I honestly did not mind inhaling a little of Bob’s passive smoke standing outside the building — even in July and August – as we spent 20 minutes or so chatting up the cases or just visiting.
I see really good mentors around me who make presence at the office rewarding and a necessary component of successful employment. Take my law partner Jason Johns for example. Jason truly enjoys working as a team. Undeterred by any pandemic, Jason worked up his construction law docket with an associate, paralegal, and assistant gathered in his office (spread about) talking through strategy. (He also provides at his own expense ample snacks, an excellent selection of non-alcoholic beverages, and a selection of coffee.) Jason makes working a collective effort to deliver excellent results that his entire team can and does celebrate.
People who build a collaborative in-office workplace compel others to come to work to share in the collaboration.
Tip Two: Positive Personal Environment.
An employer needs to provide employees a physical workspace that is comfortable and personal. The office workspace has to rival a home office to create the desire to be at work. I have a perfectly nice home office setup, but at work I have a desk that rises up and down and a super great chair and the physical amenities that provide an atmosphere to focus and be highly productive.
Employer should encourage employees to personalize their workplace to make it comfortable and enjoyable space. My favorite things in my office are my photos from European travel, which you have seen on any Zoom call with me, and an art piece that my kids made years ago with substantial help from a professional artist.
Let employees have some freedom to personalize their work area and spend the money to make their work space an enjoyable and desirable place.
Tip Three: Make the Office Fun.
As many of you know, I had my own law practice for seven years before I joined WKPZ in April 2011. The first thing I noticed after joining WKPZ was how lonely I had been for so long in my smaller practice. I quickly discovered how much I enjoyed being around colleagues. My six months at home during the start of the pandemic reminded me of everything I did not like about being out on my own as Levine & Associates.
In August, my law partner Murphy Klasing announced “COVID Relief Hour.” Murphy enjoys wine and does a very nice job explaining wine. So on random Friday’s at around 4:30, Murphy coordinated a WKPZ wine tasting with some light snacks. The pours were modest, and we kept the event short sending everyone home at their normal leave time. (We obeyed my basic rules on work and alcohol. See https://www.employment-matters.com/consulting/mind-your-manners/) I admit to missing the first one or two, but then decided I needed to see my colleagues. I quickly remembered how much I liked being at the office and visiting with co-workers. These social gatherings are so appreciated, after months of isolation, there are always firm wide emails praising Murphy.
I hope you enjoyed this newsletter and welcome your thoughts on how we bring the workforce back to the office.