At the REAL+ annual getaway and review in June, I went in with a clear vision – re-engage the team in the idea of once again working from a physical workplace.
But, just 90 minutes into the session at the Sebel at Manly Beach, the executive team and I had completely changed our minds.
When Covid arrived on our shores at the start of 2020, we did as most workplaces did; we switched to a remote office model where the team worked from home.
The belief was that this would be a temporary situation and that once the pandemic was over, we’d all return to normal (do we even know what normal is these days?).
Even as the REAL+ team grew in numbers, up to 16 now, the work-from-home arrangement remained in place, but with the view that it wouldn’t be forever.
While one might expect the team to become fractured and even disconnected while working from home, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Standing at the Sebel in June, I observed a group of highly-engaged, motivated group of humans that were clearly bonded and could really have been mistaken for a family.
As I looked around the room, I heard banter, I saw positive body language, and I felt the genuine buzz of excitement, opportunity and collaboration that was in the air.
For a second, I almost forgot that this team had not spent a single day in the office together over the past 2.5 years. Yes, that’s right, not one day.
As the 16 of us dissected our achievements and built a path for the year ahead, one thing became clear very quickly – the flexible work arrangement will stay in place.
What I initially thought would be a quick exercise to support my existing thoughts on engaging the team in the office shifted abruptly when the team surprised me with their benefits list.
It had the standard items, like time and work-life balance, but what blew me away was the level of professional development they had achieved when working on their ‘own’.
The ability to focus
Our team could reach out to collaborate and isolate when required.
“I knew my team was there when I needed it, and it was ok just to crack on and get something done,” they said.
The team had a clear set of metrics upon which they could measure success. They knew what needed to happen.
“I can set a plan to get everything done.”
Each team member had to trust, rely on and back themselves more than ever before.
“I know I can do it now.”
When you’re in an office, it’s easy to turn to the person next to you to seek a solution to a problem.
On their own, team members sought solutions with training and research.
“I used our online resources, training hub and software for help when I needed it. It became fun to learn how to solve it on my own. I’m so much more confident in my problem-solving abilities now.”
Our hybrid work model will always be a work in progress; its fluidity is what makes it great.
REAL+ headquarters is not a place where people come to work in isolation.
The team comes to the hub for collaboration, connection, brainstorming, and learning.
We come to HQ because it’s valuable, not because it’s mandatory.
Sometimes it takes a couple of days in Manly to remind us we don’t have all the answers, but across a group of connected, committed, aligned people, we are certainly a lot closer.