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The Week in Pieces #10 - Interpretive Dance in the Workplace

Hello again.
I am quite late to the back-to-the-office party, but it finally happened last week. For months I’ve been seeing pictures on various social channels about teams who are meeting for the first time, or who have been reunited after months or years. These images informed my expectations of what my first day in the office for since January 2020 would be, and I expected the whole day to be one long smiley photo opportunity. But I had some surprises:
1. I have forgotten how to greet people. If memory serves, I used to be able to select the appropriate words and gestures to say hello to someone without troubling my conscious brain. Now, I mentally scroll through a whole range of options (nod, handshake, hug, fist bump, waving the elbow about a bit), before settling on an odd combination of all possible movements that has more resemblence to interpretive dance. Hope that one settles down soon.
2. There are some differences in the commute. The standing room only train from South East London to Victoria has been replaced with this one from Brighton.
A train with hardly anybody on it last week.
A train with hardly anybody on it last week.
A genuinely relaxing journey, as opposed to the sensation of being a chicken who barely has time to get a coffee on the way to the battery farm. All in favour of this change.
3. Face to face conversations differ wildly from screen to screen ones. I caught up with people formally and informally, one to one and collectively. For each conversation I felt involved and engaged, and each one felt like we’d achieved something in a short time. This doesn’t say anything about new modes of working or human psychology, as much as it says something about me. If you put me in front of a screen then my attention does its best to wander. Fortunately, human beings do not have browser tabs or flickering notifications. It’s making me think that some conversations live online but some need to happen in person.
4. Connection is a feeling, not a state. Across the day I felt connected to a group of people with shared goals in a way that I haven’t for some time. I’m coming to the idea that this isn’t recreatable in remote working, and instead of banging my head against the wall trying to achieve the impossible I should be making remote collaboration as painless as possible and trying to create new opportunities to foster the feeling of connection. The novelty of being in the same room together won’t last forever, and we need to think about how we best spend what time we have together.
This weeks links include a post from Rishad Tobaccowala on returning to the office, and his newsletter is well worth your time, as well as having the best name for a newsletter I have heard to date.
The surprising power of daily rituals - BBC Future
Rishad Tobaccowala: The Jigsaw of Return.
The Future of Flexibility at Work
The Forest Succession Principle - esther derby associates, inc.
And this tweet resonated with me this week:
Conan O'Brien
Audiobooks are a great way to absorb 1/3 of a book.
That’s it! Have a good week, keep dancing and I’ll see you next Monday.
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Piers Campbell

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