“When was the last time you were in the office?”
It’s a question that prior to this year we were rarely asked.
Boston Trust Walden’s office in downtown Boston has always provided employees a collegial work environment, and working remotely was generally the exception to the norm. The conveniences and amenities of working in the office were numerous: we could walk to countless highly-rated lunch spots, gather after work for a quick drink, and have access to a full-service gym on the first floor. The one amenity that was perhaps taken for granted was one we all now find ourselves missing the most: the sense of community fostered between colleagues.
As we transitioned to a remote work environment in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sense of uncertainty and concern among colleagues: Is everyone healthy? Are their family and friends healthy? How long will this last? How will our routine and processes be affected? How will we stay connected?
As it turns out, how we stay connected was the easiest question to answer.
Before the pandemic, informally scheduled happy hours were a staple of the Boston Trust Walden social scene. When the Massachusetts Governor instituted a stay-at-home order, colleagues were quick to respond. Almost immediately there were virtual happy hours, Netflix “watch and discuss” meet-ups, fitness challenges, morning coffee meetings, and numerous other interactions. These gatherings were a hit from the start. Held both before and after normal working hours, they provide an opportunity for us to connect in a casual way with those who may not be part of our day to day interactions.
On the more active end of the spectrum, Boston Trust Walden has competed in two industry step challenges, hosted Zoom running events and a wall-sit challenge, and coordinated informal exercise groups. The step challenges in particular have had strong participation. Case in point: Meghan Doherty’s competitive fire was re-lit when trying to keep up with (and more importantly, beat) others in the step challenge. She felt encouraged to get back outside (safely) and keep moving. Meanwhile, others got their laps in while walking their dogs: Matt McKay’s dog Copley averaged four walks a day (yeah, Copley has had enough). You can read more about the active lifestyle of many BTW employees here.
With our social calendars cleared out due to COVID-19, these events have become something we now look forward to. It has been refreshing to welcome colleagues into our homes and to be introduced to children and significant others, hear dogs barking—all giving us a glimpse into each other’s lives that we may not have had otherwise. We discuss life updates, coping advice, and—on more than one occasion—baking tips, as we have attempted to stay busy at home. While it is not clear when we will all be physically together, we have found a sense of normalcy and happiness in the fact that the remote community we have fostered is thriving.