It’s not about RTO Mandates. It’s about Fostering Community

"If we’re still talking about getting people back to the office, we’re having the wrong conversation”.

I don’t know about you but I’m getting frustrated with all this RTO talk! I think those that are stuck in this vortex, are completely missing the point!

What we should be talking about, is what makes a workplace a COMMUNITY.

In the work that I do, creating a workplace where people WANT to be is key, BUT while the physical environment plays a large part, it’s not the whole story.

“For centuries our communities have centred around sharing an imagined reality crafted out of words, which has enabled large numbers of strangers to come together to coordinate effectively.”
Yuval Harari, Author of Sapiens.

At COMUNiTI, we use our Workplace Dynamics Blueprint to dive deep with our clients to understand the purpose of place and the fundamentals that needs of a place. By using our five pillars we can identify the opportunities and the gaps across the organisation to co-create a space that lays the foundations to building a community.

In today’s episode, I’m sharing with you the framework that I’ve developed to building community in organisations, from the foundations up!


TRANSCRIPT - It's not about RTO Mandates. It's about Fostering Community.

 [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Work Life by Design. Now, this season, we are focusing on what it takes to create community within our workplaces. Because one of the conversations that I am continuing to hear being had is we're still talking about how we're going to be getting our people back into the office.

And I believe that if we're still having this conversation, then we are having the wrong conversation. We are completely missing the point. I think what we should be talking about is what it takes to make our workplaces a community. Because in the work that I get to do, I am creating environments where people want to be, is absolutely key to their success, but it isn't the entire story.

The physical environment plays a huge part in that whole process, but it isn't the ultimate end game. There are many, many other moving parts that need to come into play here. So organizations that are continuing to mandate these return to the office days, days in the office, I think are really missing the point.

I think there is so much more to work and our ability to do our jobs and simply forcing people to come back into the office. It's really about creating something far bigger than me and far bigger than all of us. Something that we feel like we are part of, we feel connected to, and like we'd be actually missing out if we don't show up and we don't be part of that movement [00:02:00] that is happening.

Now, author of Sapiens, Yuval Harari. Says that for centuries, our communities have centered around sharing an imagined reality crafted out of words, which has enabled large numbers of strangers to come together and to coordinate effectively. Now, this imagined reality has centered around myths and legends.

So if we think about it, it's about Washington being the gods, the sun, the moon, the spirits. And the reality is that it is no different in today's modern world. It's just, instead of those myths and legends of the sun and the moon and the spirits, we're actually seeing these things show up and they look much more like our company values, our purpose, and our brands.

These are the myths and legends. These are the symbols that we look to as a collective to feel like we're part of something, to be able to buy into something. It's that collective belief that we have in something greater than us. And it's that thing that we all buy into because we believe in it and we see ourselves in it and we see ourselves as part of it. So if we're going to start thinking about this in the context of our workplace and the role that our workplace is performing, we really need to start thinking about its purpose. And that purpose first needs to be informed by the purpose, the values, and the vision of the organization.

This is our collective sense of belonging, our collective sense of meaning. This is what we are coordinating our people around and getting them to buy into and feel like they are actually part of. So we need to be thinking about what is it that we're here to do? What is the impact that we are making?

And what is the difference that that is then having on the world? Who is it that we are actually serving? And why does that even matter? We need to understand what is important to us. What do we care about? And how do we show that we actually care? How do we behave? How do we communicate? How do we collaborate?

And most [00:04:00] importantly, how are we going to work? Because where we are going as an organization, what we are going to need to do to get there is all really critical. And that's actually understanding what our workplace needs to look like. Because until we can start to answer these questions, Then we can't really start to truly understand the purpose or the role that our workplace is going to need to play in supporting our organization to achieve its goals.

And therefore why we even need our people to come back into the workplace in the first place. We really need to understand these principles so that we can answer some fundamental questions that really then go to supporting our organization. Now that's the premise of it. And this is a framework that I'm going to share with you for how I've started to unravel and understand and my understanding of how to build community in organizations has continued to evolve since I rebranded the company to community back in 2018.

The story behind that was that I went on a trip with the Hunger Project and Business Chicks to Malawi. In South Africa. And what I witnessed there was a deep sense of community. I saw how these people collectively came together, how they all believed in something and together they made a new reality for themselves because they could believe in the vision of what was possible.

They had these elements that make this possible. True, and so I want to help you understand and unpack that so that you can start to build some of these elements back into your organization as well, because this framework centers on a platform of understanding what your purpose, your values and your vision is for your organization, because when we understand that very foundational layer, then we can start to build these additional layers on top, continuing to support that to build our community in our workplaces.

Now, the next layer of this triangle is about [00:06:00] how we can start to understand the social contracts that exist in our organizations. And these are often the shared stories, they're the experiences that give us that sense of belonging, they're the rites of passage that exist. So if we think about this within our organizations, they're typically hierarchy, the Things that we need to move through the way that we onboard people, the steps that we need to go through before we earn our stripes within our organization, they become our shared experiences.

Those things that we have collectively achieved, the stories that we share, the things that bind us together and make us feel like we have this sense of belonging, like we are part of something bigger together. This is what helps us build connection. This is what enables us to help feel like we are part of something that's much bigger than ourselves and shows us the expectations of how we move and how we connect and how we progress within our communities inside our organizations.

Now, the next platform that we need to be building in our triangle to get us through this idea of building our community is to define the routines and rituals that encourage the purposeful repetition and reinforcement of these social contracts. So this could be everything from your weekly Monday team meeting through to your, project completions.

Maybe it's how about you celebrating winning new clients. Because when we know the rhythms that we are expected to be a part of, that are forming part of these social contracts within our organizations, then we get empowered with choice. And when we are empowered with choice, then I know how I can work within the gaps.

I know what is expected of me at a team level and how I'm expected to contribute to that team. And then how for our team is expected to contribute to that organization, which then enables me to With choice, I can then determine how I can work within those gaps, knowing what the expectations of the wider business are of how I'm going to show up and how we play the [00:08:00] game.

 Now, if I know that our weekly routine is that on a Monday morning at 10 AM, our team comes together, we come together in reality, in real life, so that we can build those social networks with us, then I know that I can start to plan my working rhythms. Around that anchor point, I know that that is an anchor point for our team and that therefore I can plan around that.

So let's say I'm coming into the workplace on a Monday, because I know I've got this team meeting that I need to be part of. I get to have that social interaction with my team, with my colleagues. I get to connect back in with the wider business and therefore I can make the choice to ensure that my Mondays become my social day.

That's when I get my social work done. That's when I'm able to connect back in with the wider team, with the rest of the business, with my colleagues, I can connect back in. And then maybe on a Tuesday, that's when I work from home and that's when I do my deeper, more concentrative, deeper work that I need to do where I can just get in the zone.

This is all about defining those routines and rituals of how we work, how we play the game in this organization, because it's critical then in understanding how and when we come together. Which then informs our need for place. If we know why we are coming together, what it is that we're doing when we come together, how we're going to interact, what are the types of tools and things that we're going to need to actually enable that interaction, then we can start to think about our place.

And that leads me to our final level in the framework. And this is about how we start to create that. This is how we start to think about place and the art of place making, because what we want to be doing is creating a place where people actually [00:10:00] want to go to. We want people to come here of their own volition.

We want them to feel like they are part of something, like it's bigger than them.

Now at Community, we actually use our Workplace Dynamics Blueprint to really dive deeper into actually understanding the purpose of place and the fundamental needs of those workplaces. Now, by using the five pillars of our Workplace Dynamics Blueprint, we're actually starting to identify the opportunities, we're looking at the gaps across the organization, so we can start to co create a space that lays the foundations for building that community.

Now, our Workplace Dynamics Blueprint, Looks at these five pillars. The first one is about re imagining the future. We need to start thinking about what is possible. What does that crystal ball on the horizon look like? What are we aiming for? Where are we going? How is technology going to change? How is our business going to evolve?

What is going to change in terms of our team structures? The way that we work, the clients that we serve. All of those things are fundamental and actually re imagining what is going to happen for us into the future so that we can start to plan for that and be mindful of some of the adaptability that our workplaces are going to need as we progress into the future.

The second pillar in the Dynamics Blueprint is Now, when I talk about brand, I'm not purely talking about the logo that we pop up on the wall and the feature color paints that we stick on the wall because that matches our Pantone palette for our brand in marketing. I'm talking about the experience that we want people to have when they come and they work with us.

How do we want people to feel when they are doing business with us? Whether they're working for us, whether they're engaging with us as a client. Um, What is that we want them to experience and how do we want them to feel? Because when we understand that, that is when we are then able to start to embed that into our culture, because we know how we want people to feel.

So we're going to need to do certain things and start to lead the development of that culture to enable that feeling to [00:12:00] occur. Now, the third pillar is values and behaviors. Now, the reason we look at values and behaviors is because this is what underpins our brand and culture. When we know what we, how we want people to feel, we know how we need to operate as a business, the systems and processes that are going to make that possible.

And then we can start to look at, well, what is it going to be that is important to us and what are those rules of play? What are the values that are going to become those guardrails and those signposts for us to know how we are going to play the game to win, and what it is that we need to do, and the way that we need to behave in order to support Us in achieving those values, how we're going to be behaving in alignment and living in alignment with those values so that we can make all these other pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Now, our fourth pillar is about wellbeing. Now, wellbeing in historically has been, as I say, a little bit tongue in cheek.

more than just a fruit box. It really is because When we start to look at well being, it is something that needs to be systemically embedded into our organization. We need to be looking at our physical, our mental, and our emotional well being across all facets of our organization. How is that showing up across everything that we do, the way that we work, the way that we operate, the way that we communicate, and finally, In terms of how we are going to build that in terms of our place is how we're going to support that and signpost that and create symbols that well being is important to us as an organization and how we're going to enable that in our physical work environments.

Now, the final pillar in the Workplace Dynamics Blueprint is around employee experience. Now, employee experience is looking at all of us as individuals, all of our diversity. How do we make sure that we feel like we're included, that we feel like we belong, that our individual needs are being addressed, our generational differences, our gender Individual personality types, our preferences for how we want to work.

All of these things come into play when we start to look at our employee experience, [00:14:00] because we need to be ensuring that everybody feels safe. They feel comfortable, they feel welcome, and they are empowered to be able to do their best work in this place. And so that's our Workplace Dynamics Blueprint.

And that is how we start to dive deep on what it's going to take to create a Because placemaking is about Creating places where people gather. They operate as an anchor point, a central destination that draws people in. We only have to look back at the ways of our First Nations people and how they used to use place.

They use place for ceremony and for ritual. Place was purposeful. It had meaning. People collectively chose to travel to these places, to participate, to engage, and to belong in something far greater than themselves. But it wasn't the place alone that did this.

It was the social contracts. It was the rituals. It was the purpose that underpinned all of this. It was what gave it its importance, its gravitas in their lives. this is what we need to unpack in every organisation. To understand the unique drivers of what makes and what can enhance your community. Making those back to the office policies completely redundant. Because people will want to come to the office. They will want to come to this place because they will want to reconnect not only with their colleagues, but with their business.

Now, this is just the fundamental beginning of what we are going to be discussing for the rest of this season. It is all about how we can build community in our workplace, what the symbols of those communities look like, what the structures need to be look like, and how we can use place As a foundational gathering point and reframe what it is that our workplaces are actually doing the purpose that they're serving in our organizations so that we can create a different conversation that [00:16:00]enables people with choice and opportunity and the desire to come together and to meet in our workplaces.

So that's it for this week. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate you tuning in and I would love to hear any thoughts that you have on this episode and any of the other upcoming episodes in the season. This is something that I am extremely passionate about, as you may have gathered. It is very close to my heart.

It is the namesake of our company here at Community. We are all about fostering the creation of communities where people feel connected. And that is the the things that I want to be out there. I want to be talking about. I want to be sharing this because I think it is possible. I have seen it work. I know that it can happen, and I know that it can only strengthen the cultures of our organizations and place is just one small part of that.

It takes a much bigger conversation with so many other moving parts to make this truly come to fruition. And so I want to encourage you to be those agents of change in your own organization to start these conversations, because we can start to have a completely different perspective on what it's going to take to bring people back.

Because there is so much value in people coming together. We know this, we know that our bonds strengthen when we are together in real life. But there needs to be reason there needs to be purpose as to why we do this. And so these are the fundamental foundations that sit behind why we need to create our workplaces and how we are going to form our communities and use our sense of place as an anchor.

So that's it for this week. Thank you very much. I'll be back next week. I look forward to speaking to you then.

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