Americans often spend between a third and more than half of their waking hours working. Work is therefore inevitably the place where many of our bonds and friendships are formed. The old way of mixing work and fun had its problems – golf, after-work drinks and other enforced “fun” activities aren’t for everyone, especially parents or those who don’t drink alcohol. But there are ways to get to know coworkers who feel more progressive — from potlucks to book clubs, to just grabbing a coffee or taking a walk with a coworker during the workday.
What will work and life look like after the pandemic?
I know that if I had stayed at home early in my career, I would have missed finding the friends and mentors who have been essential in my life. The office was also where I learned how my industry worked, the nature of power hierarchies, and how to get along with all kinds of people.
Staying at home may seem easier for workers who, for one reason or another, do not feel comfortable in the office, but it can also allow employers to bail out when it comes to to make the office more inclusive. If the social movements of the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that showing up and talking about what’s not working can bring about meaningful change.
Business leaders also have a lot to learn. I advise them to listen to their employees and learn from workers at all stages of their careers and lives what they need to perform at their best. They also need to learn to trust their employees and give them more autonomy and control over how they do their jobs. They would do well to remember that when the pandemic forced many people to work from home, their employees remained largely engaged and productive.
Inclusion must be intentional. Hybrid models shouldn’t create new hierarchies that prioritize in-person time, and companies should create work experiences that give people real reasons to move. These can include meaningful opportunities to socialize and celebrate wins, well-designed facilities, and a welcoming work culture. Some companies are experimenting with ways to reshape the office experience for the hybrid era, creating new systems for meetings that don’t exclude remote workers, or even considering installing video conferencing screens in corporate kitchens. offices to allow those who work from home to engage in small talk and “water cooler chats.”
I don’t remember exactly how I responded to this new recruit at Goldman who asked me to bring her “whole” to work, but since then I’ve had to answer versions of this question multiple times. . Now I appeal to you, young office workers: bring your whole being back to the office. Don’t come back for your boss; come back for you. Embrace what you love, work to change what you don’t, and help create a truly rewarding and supportive workplace.