Keeping Office Culture While Keeping Your Distance

One of my favorite things about coming to work every day at the Sorenson Impact Center, is our culture of innovation cultivated by collaboration between a team of smart, caring people. Everyone works very hard, but does so with a sense of perspective paired with humor. It seems like just a few days ago we were eating bowls of Cap’n Crunch together in our sunny conference room in celebration of National Cereal Day. Now I'm eating cereal alone in my dark basement trying to get some work done and wondering if I'll see any of my colleagues face-to-face again in the next three months. It's incredible how quickly things change.

In these times of uncertainty and social isolation, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what we can do now so we emerge from the other side of this crisis with our culture, and our sanity, intact. Anyone who has worked more than one job knows that work culture is critical to job satisfaction. Some jobs have it. Others don’t. I’m by no means an expert in corporate culture, but the one thing I do know is that it’s a very fragile thing to maintain even in the best of times, to say nothing of a global pandemic where we’ve been advised to maintain our distance. How do we ensure our office has the same vibe when we are finally allowed to work in the same building again?

The honest answer is that I don’t know. To start, here at Sorenson Impact we are doing all the things that many organizations are also doing: video “happy hours,” book clubs, and a little dark humor here and there. We are reaching out to check on each other and see how we are all adjusting to working remotely. We are making accommodations while also trying to keep to business as usual. While these things certainly help, I’m really not sure how big a difference they will make in the long run.

Instead, I’m placing a bet that the answer is much simpler. When we return to work, I believe that we will all remember the reason we all like coming to work in the first place: to help others. In these trying times, we can all use a little extra help. In the most immediate sense, many of us are now in the position of simultaneously caring for our kids, worrying about our parents, and trying to keep up at work, all while keeping ourselves healthy, physically and mentally. It’s stressful, to say the least. I don’t know a single person that wouldn’t mind a little help navigating through this new paradigm.

This doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of the economic, medical, and social needs faced by many. We are fortunate that our work, and more importantly, our paychecks, will continue uninterrupted throughout this endeavor. We work for a university that is supportive. We are informed and taken care of to the greatest extent possible. To the many who are not as fortunate, Covid-19 won’t be a temporary inconvenience, but the start of a domino effect that will negatively impact their lives far longer than the shelter-in-place orders persist. A desire to have a positive impact on social problems drew SIC together in the first place and the need for positive change will only increase.

We are going through a collective traumatic experience that will undoubtedly change us in many ways. The innumerable downsides are broadcast on our news feeds nearly constantly. But one potential upside is that we come back more aware of, and sensitive to, the needs of others.

Thinking of ways, large and small, to strengthen our families and communities, both local and global, we’re also how our culture can pick up right where it left off. After all, it’s not the cereal celebrations that draws us to the office each day, it’s the desire to have a positive impact on the world and surround ourselves with colleagues and partners motivated to do the same.

By Chad Salvadore, CFO

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