Come Together with Purpose: Why Flexibility and Balance are Integral for RTO Success

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Come Together with Purpose: Why Flexibility and Balance are Integral for RTO Success

Is your organization based on people or on place?


This was a question I posed on stage during a recent Female Quotient panel event at Advertising Week New York and it’s one that I encourage all my fellow leaders to ask and answer, especially as they implement policies related to RTO [Return to Office]. This phrase - Return to Office - has, particularly in the last year, been a touchy subject for a number of employers and employees, unfortunately leading to a significant divide in the workplace. This divide will only get bigger if organizations continue to push rigid, inflexible rules that stifle creativity and collaboration - two things that are essential for success in and out of the office.

However, success is dependent on knowing the answer to the above question. If your organization is a people-based culture, it’s about finding ways that those relationships can thrive. If your organization is a place-based culture, with emphasis on weekly Happy Hours or communal lunches, you should find deliberate habits and rituals for your organization to gather around and organize that way. While neither is the wrong approach, ensure that you make a decision based on what drives your organization and your values and then be clear in how you are implementing that approach. And perhaps most importantly, involve your employees in these decisions so there is full understanding - not a mandate.

As one of the partners and CEO of independent creative agency FIG, I take an active role in not only understanding the needs and wants of our employees but helping create an inclusive and flexible environment that is built on the values and beliefs that drive our organization. I have to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the broader community. The thing I try to avoid is telling people what to do. Instead, we clearly communicate our values and beliefs: that creativity requires trust, and that trust is best garnered through purposeful relationship building, sociability and casual gathering together. To be able to be truly creative, people need to feel safe - safe in their relationships and with each other, and working and being together in person is the quickest way to build those physiological safety nets. Therefore for us, it’s a logical outcome for the majority of people to be in the office the majority of the time.

As leaders, here are three key things to remember as you look to come together with purpose and promote balance within your organization:

1. Boundaries are Important. Create and Hold Them for Yourself and Your Employees.

It’s a leader’s role to not only advocate for boundaries but also respect them. For me, blending work and home roles leads to inefficiency and burnout, which is why I separate the two. I’m very proud of the transparency and trust that exists at FIG which allows me to share this openly with everyone across the organization including my direct reports and people that I mentor. I’m also proud that we can have open, honest discussions about what works for them as an individual and that I can help them stick to these boundaries.

2. Be Clear and Consistent. Communicate Your Needs While Listening to Theirs.

At FIG, Mondays and Fridays tend to be popular remote days. The majority of us are in the office on a Wednesday, and we know that not everyone will still be there at 6 p.m. Some people might need to leave at 2:30 to take care of commitments at home. While the needs of the individuals might flex each week, our clear and consistent communication around why we gather together in service of creativity does not. This goes back to the transparency and trust I mentioned earlier. Remember: communication is a two-way street.

3. Prioritize Creativity and Collaboration. Create a Safe Space for Risks and Rewards.

It’s fair to say that we care about creativity at FIG. However, this is only possible when collaboration, sociability and relationships are prioritized at every level of the organization. One of the concepts that we believe in is psychological safety or the shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking as defined by Harvard Business School professor, Amy Edmondson. Trust is at the heart of this concept and employees are only going to be truly creative when they feel free to take risks and be comfortable being themselves.

Whether your organization is people or place-based, it’s about creating meaning and purpose. Never stop taking ownership for the things that you and your employees want within your organization in order to be successful in and out of the office. That way, everyone wins.

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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