Season 6 Wrap Up!


When I kicked off this season it was with the intent to reconnect to the roots of our namesake COMUNiTI, and it has not disappointed!

This season was to encourage us to take a broader look at what we should be focusing on to encourage people back to our workplaces.  After first answering the pre-vailing question “Why?” we need to then consider that creating a workplace worth going to, requires more than a fantastic fitout! 

Across this season I have shared a framework for building Community within your workplace, the role of place, and in turn its own detailed framework.

I have deepened my own understanding of what it means to design for community.  And what I have learned from my guests is that when we lean into creating places that support people in this way, we are far more likely to build communities than we are to just building businesses.   

This episode is a recap of the thoughts I’ve been left to ponder from each guest and how I can play with these ideas in my own work and life.

Whilst we are living in a highly complex and challenging time, it is also one of the most exciting! 

Togeher, we are reshaping the world of work. 

Reimagining what work looks like. What our workplaces will look like.

And the role that both need to play in enhancing our experience of work and building communities.


I’d love to know, what has resonated with you this season and what have you looked to implement in your own business?

I’m going to be taking a few months break from the podcast now, but I’ll be back later this year with a fresh new season!


Until then.

Mel x

TRANSCRIPT - 148 - Season Six Wrap Up

[00:00:00] Mel: Welcome back and thank you for joining me for our final episode of season six in the Work Life by Design podcast. This season has always been about creating community, how we can build that within our workplaces. And it was really an opportunity for me to reconnect with our roots. As an organization, we are called community, and it was always about fostering the creation of communities where people feel connected.

[00:01:03] So this season was a timely update. Opportunity to go back and look at our roots and really reconnect with what it means to be building communities within our workplaces. There has been so much conversation around return to the office policies, mandates, and I believe that we're really missing an opportunity Incredible opportunity to start looking at our workplaces from a different lens.

[00:01:25] If we can start thinking about our workplaces as communities and what it takes to intentionally build and create and house a community then I think we are on a much more, uh, Engaging humanistic track in terms of creating what it means to be part of our workplaces. Now, throughout this season, I have shared with you a framework for what it takes to build community within your workplace.

[00:01:46] Part of that framework then was a deep dive in what it actually means to create a place. What does it need to create placemaking in your organization? How do we create places where people can come together intentionally together? [00:02:00] Because I think if we create places where people actually want to come to, and we create workplaces that people actually want to be part of, then there is no need for those mandates.

[00:02:09] People will, by choice, come in. They will choose to engage in those organizations. They will choose to share their skills, their experience, and their knowledge because they feel like they're contributing. They feel like they're part of something bigger. And that is what this whole season has been about.

[00:02:25] And I've explored it with a number of different guests, really tapping into their insights around what they believe it takes to create really thriving communities in our workplaces. Now when I've talked about building community, community building is really about understanding a number of layers that we need to be addressing within our workplaces.

[00:02:45] ,my role as a workplace strategist is to help our organizations and our clients really understand those layers, where there are opportunity for growth and bring together the right people to enable them to fill out those gaps and ensure that they're really, really successful. Building out a holistic framework within their own organizations to ensure that there is that really solid sense of community there.

[00:03:09] My role then is to take all of that knowledge, all of that inherent wisdom that sits within these organizations and infuse it into the place. Because our place, as I said, is a container. It is the thing that holds these communities and enables all of these human interactions, our cultures, our relationships.

[00:03:30] And enables them to thrive place is such an important piece of this, but it is not the whole piece. It is this tiny little tip of the pyramid when we're looking at building community, but there are many complexities in how we bring it together. So, to build community in your organization, you first need to understand the purpose.

[00:03:48] The values and the vision of your business. What is it that we're here to do? What is important to us? Why does this matter? We then need to understand the social contracts that exist in our organization. How do we win here? [00:04:00] How do we play the game? What does it look like to be working in this organization?

[00:04:04] How do we come together? What does it mean to be here? How do we progress? How do we grow? How do we deal with challenges? How do we communicate? All of those pieces are really integral to understanding the unique social contracts that exist in your business. We then look at the routines and rituals.

[00:04:21] Now, routines and rituals are those repeatable patterns of behavior that we see across the course of time. Are they daily? Are they weekly? Monthly? Annually? What is it that is repeatable within your organization. It might be our Monday morning meetings. It might be a monthly board meeting. It might be a monthly project check in.

[00:04:41] It's an annual conference. What are those routines and rituals that we look at at an organizational scale? But then what do we look at, at an individual point of view, how do I set up my day? How do I move through my space? What am I actually doing to engage in those routines and rituals? How do we celebrate?

[00:04:59] How do we commiserate? They're important structures within our organizations. And as I mentioned, the final tip of building community, the pyramid, The top of it is place. And place is really that container that holds all of this and enables these activities to be carried out. It is the container. And then I've got another framework that I dived into throughout the course of the season.

[00:05:22] And it is about what does it actually mean to create a place? What is this art of placemaking? And I reference on the book of Priya Parker and the art of gathering, because if we really understand why we are gathering. Why are we asking people to give up their precious time to come here? How is it actually contributing to their lives?

[00:05:41] That is when we are starting to identify the first layer of building a place. And that is the purpose. What is the purpose of this gathering? What is the purpose of. Asking people to come back into the workplace. What is it giving them? How is it actually enabling them to [00:06:00] fulfill their careers more? It, what is it giving them and enabling them to do their work better?

[00:06:04] How is that actually contributing? The second layer to building a place is around brand. What is it? What is the experience that we want people to have when they come here? How do we want them to feel? Because when we can really articulate that, that is then going to guide the materials, the palette, the layout.

[00:06:23] It creates such an important aspect of building out the experience of what we want people to feel when they come into our workplaces. The next layer is around behavior. Now, behaviors are the outcomes or the visible. Actions that align with our values. So when we know what our values are in an organization, we can then start to articulate what are the behaviors that we would be expecting to see our employees engaging in to know that they are working, living, operating in alignment with our values, because when we understand those values, when we can then understand our behaviors.

[00:07:01] That is when we can start to get to the next tip of this pyramid in terms of placemaking. And that is about the tools. What are the spatial tools that we need to be giving to people in order to them to be able to behave in the way that is going to be congruent with what we're doing? Our brand experience and the purpose of why we're asking them together.

[00:07:22] So if we think about our workplaces and we're wanting people to come together to collaborate, we need to give them collaboration spaces, but not just any old collaboration spaces, because collaboration looks wildly different from one team to the next, from one day to the next. We need to understand how we collaborate and then build on that.

[00:07:40] Build the tools, those spatial tools to encourage that kind of behavior. So those are the two frameworks that I took you through in this season. I have entire episodes dedicated to those. So if you miss them, jump back, tune into those, and it will help you unpack those structures within your organization so that you can [00:08:00] intentionally start to think about building community, but also what it looks like to create a place that enables that community.

[00:08:07] What I have learned from my guests this season has been incredible. There has been so much knowledge that they have shared, and there's a few key takeaways from each of my guests that I've really started to lean into and start to play with in my own mind and in my own work, and I want to share with those, with you, because they're really, intentional pieces of knowledge around how we can start to consciously build community within our organizations and not just go about building businesses.

[00:08:37] Our businesses are made up of people. Those people need to be engaged with in particular ways to bring out the best of them. And I've got some really great nuggets that I have captured from my guests throughout the season. first up, I had Sharon Darmody share with me, and she talked about her magic model.

[00:08:56] And the magic model is really about how you can create more meaningful work with authenticity, sharing the ground rules. thinking about the experience that I bring into the workplace

[00:09:08] and how to lead with curiosity. Now, one of the main pillars that I really resonated with from her conversation was around ground rules. And I found that these ground rules really closely aligned with the social contracts that I talk about in my community building model. Because when she talks about ground rules, she's talking about what does it take to win around here?

[00:09:28] How do we play the game? How are we going to communicate? What do we do when things get tough? How do we agree that we are going to handle a difficult conversation, a difficult situation? What are those written and unwritten ways that we engage within our organizations to enable those things to happen?

[00:09:48] And a lot of what I see happening here is really coming back to setting boundaries. Now we're going to talk a little bit more about how we introduce autonomy and choice into our workplaces in some of the [00:10:00] other guests. But what we need to be then thinking about is why don't we put boundaries around this?

[00:10:04] Because if we're going to be introducing autonomy and choice and empowering our people, we need to give boundaries because. If we don't, it's a free for all. And as individuals, we are going to be taking care of our own best interests in the first instance. So we need to be thinking about things from a, what do I need?

[00:10:22] What do we need as a team? And then what do we need as an organization? And I think that really comes down to boundary setting. And so that's really comes down to what she's talking about there in terms of the ground rules. So if you missed out on that episode, jump back, tune in with Sharon as she shares her magic model on how to make.

[00:10:38] Work. My next guest this season was Meredith Wilson. Now, Meredith and I have been following each other for a few years now, and we have some very shared interests and some common ground in terms of what we think about workplaces and Meredith talks about it in terms of the fact that it's got to be a culture worth belonging to.

[00:10:58] And I love this comment because. It's true. Like we need to have cultures worth belonging to. So what is the culture of your organization look like? And is it worth belonging to? Now, Meredith talks a lot about culture. I talk a lot about community and I wanted to get Meredith's insight to this because Meredith works with a really wide, diverse range of organizations in supporting them to really build great cultures.

[00:11:22] And I wanted to know what her perspective Definition or understanding of what are the differences between culture and community. And she shared a really great insight there. She said, communities have cultures, but you would very, very, very difficult to find a culture that had a community. And I think that's the differentiating here.

[00:11:43] There's so many overlapping pieces between building a great culture and building a great community. But community seems to be a little bit broader. It's a greater ecosystem of parts. It could include our clients. It includes our suppliers and our stakeholders and our shareholders. [00:12:00] Our communities are just that little bit more of a ripple outwards.

[00:12:03] And our culture is the thing that sits within it all. , Merida shared a lot of wisdom in her episode with me and particular around her GRASS model. So she's written a great book called Culture Shift. And in that she shares her GRASS model. Now GRASS stands for Gathering, Ritual, Action, Symbols and Stories.

[00:12:22] there are elements of all of those, , that I really resonate with. But in particular, we dove into her examples around symbols. And symbols are The thing that I continue to reflect on, and particularly in the work that I do, because what merit of the shares is that our symbols are actually in my framework of the placemaking, they're the tools.

[00:12:42] So they are the physical things that we are landmarking around our workplace. Places to influence people and to give them cues on the type of behavior that we expect for them. So if we are creating officers and workstations, we are giving people symbols of hierarchy. If we are giving someone the, you know, the prime parking spot at the front door, again, we're reinforcing those symbols of hierarchy.

[00:13:08] But if we want to think about this in a more egalitarian way, when we start to think about symbols in our workplaces, it comes back to the tools. So if I'm giving you lots and lots of desks and not a lot of quiet rooms and not a lot of collaboration spaces, the symbol that I am sharing with you there and the meaning that is sitting behind it is that we value people sitting in a workstation, Doing their work.

[00:13:32] We don't necessarily value collaboration because we're not giving the appropriate tools to be able to engage in that. And we don't really value deep, concentrated work here either, because we're not giving you the tools to be able to engage in that effectively either. So really thinking about what are the symbols that are existing in your workplace?

[00:13:49] How are the spatial tools that you are providing for your people? Influencing their way of thinking about the type of work that they do, because [00:14:00] all of these little subtle things that are happening in your workplace are guiding behavior. And at the end of the day, work is about behavior. It's how we get performance.

[00:14:12] It's how we use discretionary effort. So really thinking about what we're doing there, because we really want to be encouraging people to gather in a way that is supportive and congruent to the objectives and the strategy of the organization. What are we trying to achieve here? So how do we give people the tools to be able to do that and to work in a way that is going to support and enable that?

[00:14:36] Now, my next guest was Imelda Miller. Now, Imelda is a South Sea Islander and she works for the museum and she's bringing together this really beautiful cultural perspective to the conversation around what it takes to create community and how we use our places.

[00:14:55] Imelda's conversation was really, really interesting because there's such a historic nature of place with our Indigenous cultures. And what she shared with us is how as a displaced community, because they, uh, were brought in from Vanuatu and other islands in the area, they have really started to then consider, well, what does it take to create a place and to build a community in a place that doesn't actually historically belong?

[00:15:25] To you, and she shared some really beautiful examples of the way that she has worked to build community through the work that she's doing with the museum through artifacts. So, she talks about creating memory in place, and she does that by tapping into the memories and the stories again through the rituals and those social contracts of what it means to be part of her community and the communities that she is in as a wider group.

[00:15:53] And it was just. Such a beautiful conversation around how, by leveraging and leaning into some of these more [00:16:00] historical community, cultural practices, and by activating these practices and then curating events that leverage and lean on these, um, artifacts, she creates these beautiful connections and it could be as simple as sharing tea with someone like finding what those little rituals are and really embracing them and then amplifying them to build community.

[00:16:27] And it was just fascinating to learn how she has gone about creating community with that connection to place, but also how it's been. I love it. Extremely healing for them as a people and how that's been able and to enable them to share those stories and to learn more about their heritage. Just a beautiful, brilliant, perspective on what it can mean to build community and how you can still build place when it isn't a place that necessarily

[00:16:53] belongs to you by historical nature, but by tapping into those artifacts, highly recommend that one as a listen. It was a beautiful, beautiful example of what that means. Now, my next guest was the absolutely engaging Sharon Parker. Now, Sharon is an ARC Laureate. She's a professor at the Curtin University, and she also leads the Center for Transformative Work in WA.

[00:17:18] And I asked my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Meg Hooper, to talk to us To join me on this episode as my co host, because it's only thanks to Meg that I actually even know who Sharon Parker is. And now I'm an incredible fan of her work. It explores so many different aspects of work and work design and workplace design, how we can motivate people and how we can create.

[00:17:42] An environment of thriving for our people. Now, we talked about work design, which is very much around the very essence of work itself. How do we craft the roles in which our people in? So, job crafting, how do we design the work to support the different skill sets? [00:18:00] This is very granular in terms of understanding Individual skills and the roles that we are trying to put people into and how we build those roles to be more congruent with what the skill sets of the people are that we're trying to hire.

[00:18:14] a great example of this is if we are trying to hire for one particular role, but if we break it down, this really five competing skill sets that sit within that role, trying to find one individual that's gonna be able to service all of those aspects of that role is gonna be very challenging. But if we have got the capacity to split that into five individual roles.

[00:18:34] And then hire individuals that are, have those strengths in each of one of those five areas, then we're going to create a much more, effective role for the individual and the performance of that individual is going to be far better as well, the performance of the team, because they're all playing to their strengths.

[00:18:51] So that's just an idea into work design, but it's far, far broader than that. But in this conversation, we actually explored her smart work design model. Thank you. Now her SMART work design model stands for stimulating, mastery, agency, relational, and tolerable. Now this is about creating really stimulating work that I feel like I have a sense of mastery over, I'm really good at it.

[00:19:15] You're giving me agency, I have choice and autonomy about how I go about doing the work that I get to do. I'm getting to build really great relationships with the people that I work with, and I'm getting to choose who I work with, and that the demands of my work are tolerable. My workload isn't more than I can handle.

[00:19:31] And so that's really the premise of what it means in terms of the context of creating work design. And the bit that I leant into from this conversation was really around this idea of agency and autonomy, because this is something that we've been exploring, Meg and I, in the, in the work In the work that we've been doing with a number of clients is how do we create more autonomy and choice?

[00:19:50] And this again comes back to the idea of if we are mandating return to the office, we are really taking away that choice. There's no agency there, there's no autonomy. So [00:20:00] it's about really understanding where are we giving people, agency, where are we giving them that autonomy and where are we giving them choice?

[00:20:06] Because in my, my view of this, when we do, that's when we get loyalty. It's a reciprocal relationship here. If I'm extending autonomy and choice and agency to people, then there is a level of respect and there is a level of loyalty that comes with that. So it's really about leaning in to understand that.

[00:20:26] And particularly when we're talking about flexibility at work, what does flexibility really mean? And in the work that Meg and I have been doing, it really came back down to choice, because if we can think about what that means, it's about giving me choice in terms of how I work. Where I work. When I work.

[00:20:44] And with who I work, and it's really tapping into that smart design model. So thinking about how do I actually create a culture of that? And then what does that mean in terms of my workplace? And this is where, in my perspective, we're really starting to lean into these hybrid work models because we've got an ecosystem of places to work with.

[00:21:03] I've got my home, I've got the workplace itself, perhaps I've got clients offices, the local cafe, a myriad of other places in between I'm choosing Is the best place for me to do the tasks that I need to do. I'm choosing what I actually need to do based on what I know and my skill sets are, because I've got this sense of mastery about it, how I do it.

[00:21:24] I've got choice in when I do the work. Am I an early morning riser and want to get into my work early in the day? Or am I a night owl and I work better than thinking about when's the best time for me to work? And then having that choice over who I get to work with, who do I want to engage in my team?

[00:21:40] Who do I want to seek counsel from? Who do I want to get mentoring from? These are really interesting aspects of thinking about how we bring in agency and choice into the work that we do. So fascinating conversation with Sharon Parker. Now, my final guest for the season was a bonus guest because I did only promise you eight [00:22:00] episodes this season, but I have already broken my own promise and I gave you a bonus one.

[00:22:04] And this bonus one is with Jeremy Pollack from Calvin. Kelvin is a digital platform that supports organizations in coordinating both their people and their place, but with the added focus of building community.

[00:22:17] So the intention here is that we're not just taking a standard desk booking system and allocating people's seats in the workplace and making sure that we're managing our capacity. That's the premise, that's the base foundation, but what Jeremy and the team at Kelvin are doing is taking that to another level.

[00:22:34] It's about thinking about, well, what do I actually want to come in for? How do I create opportunity that I am in, that I'm in with my team? And we're building that team relationship that's happening in that space as well. It's about understanding what my personal preference are and what my ways of working are so that the, I can be guided to come in the office on particular days and engage in particular activities.

[00:22:58] Now, What I'm really liking about this particular concept is that it starts to unlock all of these ideas about, well, what if the technology could actually do this? What if the technology could let me know when the rest of my team are coming in, or when a majority of my team are coming in and then encourage the rest of us to come in on that day without.

[00:23:20] Necessarily having to specify an anchor day. What if that platform could tell me about what activities were happening in the workplace, or it could gather data on how I'm interacting with the workplace and what my personal preferences are and feed that information back into our Workplace experience coordinator so that they could then put a yoga session in on a Tuesday at around nine 30, because that's what I'm getting in and I've got a gap because that's where I've scheduled some really sort of time for me to get in and understand what I'm doing in my working week.

[00:23:54] And that's a great time for me to be able to go and do that yoga class. And oh, by the way, there's five other people that are [00:24:00] engaged in that similar practice as well. So this was a really interesting episode because it started to think about how can we start to personalize work? Because we live in this really hyper personalized world where Netflix knows and makes recommendations based on our viewing history as to what we should watch next, Spotify's curating our playlist for exactly the same reason.

[00:24:20] It's like, you like this song. Why don't you try this one? Our workplaces know nothing about us and Meredith actually talks about this hyper personalization in terms of employee experience and this, platform that Calvin are creating is another layer to that. It's about how can we start to curate and coordinate our people.

[00:24:38] In a much more intentional and effective way so that we're really leveraging our environments, because we know when people are coming together, when they're engaging, it's elevating our employee experience. It's enriching their lives. It's enhancing the quality of the work that we're doing because we're bringing people together for the same reasons at the right time.

[00:24:57] It's so interesting to see what is going to be possible. And we are only just touching and scratching the surface on what could be, as we start to look at what technology can do to start to support our experience of work into the future. this seems all very complex and difficult to curate as an organization. And one of the conversations that I had with Jeremy was really about, well, we've got all these expectations now, our employees want to see this and they want that, and this hyper personalization, like that's a lot for an organization to be delivering on, but wherever the.

[00:25:31] technology can start to support that. That's where I think there's a big uptick, , for the organization, but it's also demonstrating that there is a direct return back to the organizations. Organizations that are investing in this wellbeing of their employees, the activation of their spaces, the creation of community, are actually starting to see a return on that investment.

[00:25:55] it's worthwhile for organizations to start exploring this. Now, throughout the [00:26:00]season, I shared my models, my ideas, and my frameworks for intentional placemaking, how we can start to create workplaces that are really humanizing and connecting to the hearts, the minds, and the bodies of our people, and how we are living through one of the most radical shifts in our working ways in over a century.

[00:26:22] Now that is extremely, Scary, but oh my God, is that so exciting as well? Like, this is like the industrial revolution. We are getting to live through this seismic shift in the way that we work. We are getting to recraft the way that we work, the way that we see our organizations, the way that we see our workplaces.

[00:26:44] I'm absolutely in awe of this period in our lives because we are, we're given such an incredible opportunity to shape the next iteration of what work looks like, when we work, where we work, how we work. And everything that we have discussed this season has all been leaning into really understanding what these opportunities are.

[00:27:06] And so I think we. Have an incredible opportunity here. We are re imagining what work looks like, what our workplaces will look like, and the role that both will need to play in really enhancing our experience of work and in turn building communities. Now that's it for the season. That is it for season six.

[00:27:26] Season six, all about fostering community. If you haven't listened to all the episodes, go back, tune in. If you are looking to create and enhance more community within your workplaces, reach out to me, send me an email melissa at community. com. au. That's spelled C O M U N I T I. Check out the show notes.

[00:27:47] There's links in there to me on LinkedIn, Instagram, send me an email, shoot me a DM. I would love to have a chat and see how we could support you and your organization to really enhance community. And then to [00:28:00] create a place that is going to really take that to the next level and start to create an intentional place for your people together.

[00:28:08] But until next season, that's it for me. Thank you so much for joining me again this season. If you have found this season particularly of interest, I would absolutely love it. If you would rate us, review us, share it with a friend, the more people that know about the opportunities that exist in their workplaces, that's the only way that we're going to be able to really inspire the human potential in all our organizations and elevate our experience of work for everyone.

[00:28:34] Thank you very much for joining me. I will see you in a few months.

Placeholder Image