It’s been 48 weeks since our working world was forever changed. Why do I know the specific number of weeks? Because my colleague David Wills has been sending a morning email to everyone in our office every day since the beginning of our work-from-home reality. His email includes what week of pandemic living we’re in, an insight into the news of the day, and a share from a fellow MP’er. These “shares” started as music, but now include podcasts, books, shows, workouts and recipes. I love them because they reveal a little something about my colleagues that I may not otherwise have known.
David started this email as a way of replicating our in-office experience. Media Profile’s office is open concept and as folks stroll through the door, you can hear conversations about the morning news, last night’s Bachelor episode or what people are having for breakfast (and thinking about for lunch). This email is something we look forward to in lieu of that in-office community. It has become a new Media Profile ritual.
I recently attended one of Rotman’s Big Ideas Speaker Series events, featuring the authors of the book, “Rituals for Virtual Meetings: Creative Ways to Engage People and Strengthen Relationships”. As a creative agency, we thrive in that open concept setting and I was looking for virtual ways to connect with my colleagues. Actually, I was hoping for a way to get the in-office experience while at home. Surprise: there isn’t one. But it got me thinking more about intentional conversations and rituals to kick-start a meeting that can be applied now and after the pandemic is behind us.
Here are my three key takeaways from this Rotman Speaker Series session on rituals and virtual meetings:
1. What is a ritual? According to authors Kursat Ozenc and Glenn Fajardo, rituals are “actions that a person or a group does repeatedly, following a similar pattern or script, in which they’ve imbued symbolism and meaning”. Perhaps the most visual ritual of all time is the New Zealand Rugby Team’s iconic Haka, performed at the beginning of games. The team, which has many rituals including “Sweeping the Shed” (cleaning up the dressing room post-game) apparently holds the highest winning percentage of any professional sports team in the world.
2 . Why do rituals work? Ozenc and Fajardo suggest rituals work because they synchronize our mind and bodies. This is especially true of physical rituals, like the Haka example, but they can work with smaller rituals like David’s daily email to the office. I see his email come through my inbox and immediately think, “Okay, time for work.” There is science behind the benefits of syncing our minds and bodies. My colleague Jeri wrote about one of these benefits last week. And Steve Jobs swore by walking meetings. But ultimately rituals can clarify the goals and purpose of a meeting, dial up the energy and help make the everyday mundane just a little bit special.
3. How can we incorporate them in-office (and while at home)? At Media Profile we host office-wide brainstorms to tap into the collective intelligence of our agency. Some of the most successful brainstorms begin with an assignment or question that has nothing to do with the brainstorming task at hand. But it gets the creative juices flowing and participants feeling comfortable and connected. This is a ritual, that can be incorporated while working from home. It can be something as simple as starting a staff meeting with a shout-out for a job well done or asking everyone to change their virtual background to a place they wish they were visiting.
So no, we can’t entirely recreate the office vibe at home, while we’re miles apart. But we can be intentional and thoughtful when conducting meetings. And perhaps the rituals we create virtually can be incorporated whenever we get to return to the office.