Are you working with clients who are still in the process of returning to the office - or debating the value of mandating that return? As organizations across the world embrace, reject, or compromise with the work-from-home movement, a year-old reflection from our founder and course facilitator Mark Vincent feels timely. How have you experienced the richness of a comfortable working environment over the past couple years - and how might you help your clients achieve greater employee well-being through an open discussion about the pandemic-sparked new world of remote work?
The past week found my wife and me in an historic adobe home in the heart of Las Cruces, New Mexico. The walled-in patio was so pleasant and so full of birdsong we spent the better part of the day sitting in the shade reading books rather than seeing farther sights and further sites.
Because we were in one place long enough, we began to identify the birds: grackles, white-winged doves, ladder-backed woodpeckers, robins, wrens. Our books rested on our laps as we listened to their squawks and songs, watched them interact, noticed where they perched, and which were most wary of the two elderly little dogs popping in and out of the casa's doggie door to check on things. We were becoming aware of the larger ecosystem that surrounded us.
Pre-pandemic, a good portion of the professional class running our economy lived walled off from natural ecosystems. They were literally compartmentalized inside the walls of the machines where they worked. They could easily ignore the created world because they were did not see it. Their ever-longer working days were surrounded by steel and glass - commuting in traffic, sitting at a desk, working out at the health club, dining with friends and colleagues, or entering their homes.
The swish of exercise machines.
Sounds of dispensing espresso and lattes.
Noise pollution of air brakes and jet engines.
Putting on headphones to further shut out the world while scrolling through social media.
Who had time or space to listen to the birds and enjoy the play of light as a day faded, let alone hear the groaning of creation being over-taxed and depleted?
Having worked from home these many months, people have had to face their inner and outer realities. To manage all our new and returning uncertainties, the healthy ones among us used the opportunity to re-integrate by making comfortable working spaces in their homes, building healthier routines, investing in family relationships, getting outdoors, and prioritizing their time. They are listening to bird song as they work. Natural light surrounds them now, instead of fluorescent. They are getting more air.
Those who sought this opportunity within a pandemic joined with those who had already right-sized their lives. Living a more conscious and integrated life, it is difficult to reclaim any passion for debates about cubicles versus open offices, white noise or Muzak, or whether hotel points and airline miles belong to the company or the road warrior. Done with that!
My hope is that leaders who care about future value and the world's flourishing will now invite further integration among those they employ, the customers they serve, and the larger world that is not yet born. Seizing the possibility to live more health-fully brings momentum for adding even more flourishing as we emerge from pandemic protocols. Here's to more working porches, lanais, placitas and patios.