As I left the NP offices for the last time before the lockdown back in March of 2020, some of my last goodbyes were to the two indoor weeping figs trees we had in our office. After experiencing working amongst trees, I thought to myself how I would miss their calming and refreshing energy with me while at work but figured like many that we would be back to working from our office within a few weeks.
For the last five years, NP has made its home on the corner of SW 1st Ave and Arthur at the Crossing at First office building. Like many non-profits, our office space is made up a mixture of private offices spaces, an open room with several cubicles and two conference rooms, kitchen and a lounge area.
In late 2020, our thoughtful Director of Operations Karie Herrlinger reminded us that our lease would be ending at the end of August 2021 and we’d need to make a decision about continuing to lease our physical office space. Like many organizations, we had not returned to regular work in that space since March 2020—and didn’t anticipate being able to before the lease was up. So should we stay or should we go?
With this question at hand our team took our equity agreements, including examining our intent and impact, doing things differently, experiencing discomfort, and perhaps most of all to slow down with our decision making. Doing this around our office space has given us the time and a process to rethink the way we work, and to think about how our physical space is set up to support and care for our ourselves and our colleagues in support of our goals and mission. And it became clear that the team didn’t think the best way forward was automatically going back to a “normal” office environment. We had all both gained and lost things in the remote work model, but everyone knew that a 5-day commute and 8-5 in an office didn’t sound supportive or nurturing. And paying rent for an office that nobody really knew when we could again use safely seemed like a costly security blanket. And while we didn’t know what we did want, we were fairly certain it was no longer that space. Our commitment to slow down helped us see that adding the huge project of a property search into the mix of our already full calendars, right as legislative session heated up would mean both overburdened staff and most likely a poor decision making process that was not inclusive.
As with many decisions at NP, the question about what to do next was charged to a staff equity subcommittee which formed to lead planning for an office decision. Through a collaborative process and checking with those most impacted—our staff—the committee recommended and as an organization we decided to continue our remote working and go “office-less” for the next 9-12 months. This decision allows us to take the time needed to continue an inclusive process for determining what a hybrid work model that meets our staff where they are at, and creates a productive and supportive working environment.
It’s clear that the upheaval COVID-19 has brought has shifted the way we think about the nature of work and how we do work. These shifts have made space for us to question why we do things, and here at NP doing things differently leads to centering people and leads to equity. Let’s continue to question and ask why, let’s continue to push for more equitable practices, policies and systems that support those most impacted. I invite you to reach out if you are also going through a similar process or have ideas about what has worked in your organization. I would love to connect, learn, share ideas for shifting to a supportive hybrid work model.
Last week, we hired a moving company to take our office furniture into a storage unit while we go through our process. My home was their last stop. They delivered the two weeping figs trees that were in need of a temporary home. I’m excited that while we go through this process of determining our new hybrid model I’ll get to care and support my new tree friends!