I am writing this in my sweatpants.
That sentence is probably not even jarring for anyone anymore given the adaptations we have all made in the last 18 months. Gone are the days when we have to put on real pants, pack a lunch, commute to an office, sit in a cubicle for 8 hours, all to do it again the next day. When the pandemic forced us (a jump from 5% to 37% of Americans) to work from home, it changed all of the norms we had come to accept when it came to work. Now we can work whenever, wherever, and in whatever pants we like.
In a recent Forbes study, they found that 97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full time and 61% would rather work remotely than in an office period. Organizations like Twitter and Slack have offered employees the option to remain permanently remote, other companies like Salesforce are offering employees a hybrid model with some days in the office, others remote. The trend is so powerful that it’s not just your typical innovative tech companies offering remote work as an option, but even big, traditional firms like Deloitte and PwC also announced that remote work will be a permanent part of their long-term strategy.
Prior to the pandemic & joining twine, I had an office. It was full of effervescent energy, chatter, and laughter. Our team worked with clients to design, plan, and execute live events. The energy in the office leading up to event days was palpable and nothing compared to the high I’d get from working together with a team to build something as tangible as an event.
I now work completely remotely, with our geographically diverse team only being able to connect on video calls and quarterly off-sites. Remote work has brought a lot of benefits including flexibility to look after my young daughter, less time commuting, healthier eating habits, and much more autonomy in my role.
But I miss the chatter. I miss the office gossip. I miss the moments where work didn’t feel like work because I was brainstorming a new idea with a colleague, having an off-topic conversation that lead to a solution for a client’s problem, or creating a moment of connection with a peer. It is no surprise that a recent study of 61,000 Microsoft employees found that in remote work, weak ties (the ones you have with colleagues who are not part of your core team), diminished, while organizational teams became more siloed.
As well articulated in this Atlantic article, we’re losing all the soft work. The loss of serendipity and unexpected collaboration could be quite costly for organizations in the long-run as creativity, innovation, and risk-taking decreases across all departments. Some organizations are so worried about this that they’ve recently mandated people back to the office. But, this Bloomberg research suggests that organizations who do not offer a remote work option are going to lose out on the best talent, with up to 39% of employees saying they would quit in the absence of remote work options. So, there’s no denying that the way we work has changed and that remote work in some form, is here to stay.
So, how do organizations balance an employee's need for flexibility with the business’ need for connection within their workforce?
This is a big problem - one that has yet to be solved.
Enter the #EventProf. Who better than an event designer - someone who is skilled at creating moments that shift human behaviour - to design experiences that connect people amidst this massive global change in something so fundamental like the way we work. Event planners are skilled at understanding human motivations and what drives them to engage.
Okay, but why should #EventProfs care about this?
- It’s a big problem, and there are big dollars being spent to solve it - organizations are spending massive resources to address this problem. A quick search on “engaging remote teams” shows a whole host of organizations designing training, equipment, software, and tools to address this problem. Investors are spending in this space betting on remote work being here for the long-term and doubling down on any tools that can solve the disconnect we’re feeling from remote work. Event planners who invest time in designing experiences that can connect a remote workforce will be in high demand and paid their weight in gold.
- With Virtual, Everything is An Event - Pre-Covid, many internal, HR initiatives would quickly be classified as morale building initiatives - wellness programs, training, office potlucks, the social committee - oftentimes, not thought of as events. But in the virtual world, everything is an event. Connecting your remote teams is going to involve program design, event technology, understanding the features of different platforms, measuring ROI, analytics, developing engaging content, production, video editing. All of the things event professionals are trained to do and skilled at delivering. No matter how organizations choose to connect their remote teams, we are talking about an event. And when we talk about events, professional expertise will always elevate the attendee experience and yield better results.
- The IRL Events Are More Important Than Ever - As workplaces become remote, the opportunities when teams do connect in person become pivotal and must create impact. Our fully remote team meets once a quarter for an in-person off-site. These 3 days are so important that our CEO thinks our team would really struggle without them. These events have to be designed, planned, and executed with intention and precision in order for remote teams to accomplish the camaraderie, alignment, and morale building that is required. No one is better at designing and planning experiences that support business objectives than event professionals. These IRL events are now the ultimate opportunity for #eventprofs to apply & prove their event design expertise in a way that could be make or break for your organization.
- This is a CEO Problem - Addressing the silos, barriers, and fragmentation caused by remote work is no longer just an HR problem. This is a C-suite issue for many organizations, and solving it is critical to their ability to grow & outlast their competitors - it’s an issue that is keeping CEOs up at night. As #EventProfs, we have constantly been asking for a seat at the table, looking for opportunities to bring our design expertise to solve something bigger than which Santa Claus to hire for the holiday party, and this is our chance. Event planners are skilled at understanding how humans behave, what makes them feel joy, and how to create ways to connect them to each other, and this type of knowledge is going to be invaluable to senior executives.
As we grapple with virtual, hybrid, and in-person events and what a post-Covid event landscape might look like, it is uncertain. But when it comes to remote work, the answer is clear, people do not want to go back to the office full-time, but they want to stay connected. What better opportunity for event professionals to lend their natural design & human connection skills to solve this problem, get sought out and compensated for their knowledge, and prove the power of events to build bridges across silos. If we can understand the challenge, learn how to articulate it, and prove that we can solve it, this may be how we earn our seat at the table.
And hey, you can do it all in your sweatpants.
Connecting remote teams is a problem we're excited to work on and we love talking about it with our community and clients. If you want to learn more about how you can design experiences that connect your remote teams, join us at our upcoming #twineTalks event on October 21, 2021 where we will be talking with different organizational leaders about how companies can get intentional in their efforts to engage their remote workforce.
Anh Nguyen is the Head of Community Engagement at twine.