I strongly believe people do business with people, not businesses. I'm having some fantastic conversations with health colleagues on services for rough sleepers, but I think these are largely possible because we have got to know each other in person in previous months.
This is one of several tweets I added to a Twitter thread last week and it’s the one that Housing LIN’s CEO, Jeremy Porteus, contacted me about, to ask if he could include it in the next Housing LIN newsletter. The thread was my way of trying to record and make sense of a few thoughts I was having whilst reading various articles on what life is going to be post-lockdown – which is that we’re all moving to the country, never entering an office again and conferences are a thing of the past.
Don’t get me wrong; working from home works for me, my pre-lockdown work day included a 2 hour round trip to the office so I much prefer only having to navigate a flight of stairs. And I don’t think anyone would dispute offices are very unproductive places due to all the interruptions, distractions and gossiping that goes on there.
"Whilst I might struggle to concentrate on that 10 page report I need to write in the office, there is no better place to put a face to a name, pick up on what other’s are working on, kick an idea around with colleagues"
But perhaps that depends on how you define productivity – whilst I might struggle to concentrate on that 10 page report I need to write in the office, there is no better place to put a face to a name, pick up on what other’s are working on, kick an idea around with colleagues, find out someone lives down the road from you or is also interested in a flower arranging class (true story).
These moments are where we build what I’m calling ‘Relationship Capital’ (I’m not sure if this is a widely used term, but it was the best way to describe what I meant in a few characters!). And I believe that most of the great lockdown conversations I’ve had with a range of colleagues internally and in partner agencies is because of the relationship capital we’ve built up in the last 12+ months of working together.
"I believe that most of the great lockdown conversations I’ve had with a range of colleagues internally and in partner agencies is because of the relationship capital we’ve built up in the last 12+ months of working together"
We’ve been able to get to know each other beyond our job titles in the minutes waiting in reception areas before a meeting, or walking across a car park afterwards, or having lunch at the same time and discussing weekend plans. We’ve also had time to go off on tangents in meetings, to have side conversations and not have to rush off to the next video call. We’ve been able to ‘grab two minutes’ with someone as they pass you in the office and it reminds you of something you need to share with them, or we’ve overheard a conversation that is super interesting and could join up with something we’ve got planned so we pull up a chair and find out more.
I’m starting to wonder how long this relationship capital might last without a real life top up? Even a one on one phone conversation with someone doesn’t quite have the same effect. The tricky thing is that you can’t miss the things you didn’t know you were going to have so it’s easy to think these moments aren’t needed, and as a result, declare the office is dead.