Actual Recognition That Return To Office Shouldn’t Be Return To Usual

Yesterday Daniel Pink made the following Twitter post about OKRs – Objectives & Key Results (because apparently KPIs – Key Performance Indicators, needed to be replaced with another equally meaningless acronym?) and he suggested some NO-KRs which have plagued work culture to jettison.

Pink provided a link to a website summarizing the Charter Workplace Summit. This was the first time I have seen signs corporate employer making constructive attempts to revise the office work environment and move beyond threats or cheap perk ploys to get people to return to the office.

Some of the things that caught my attention:

Workers should be re-onboarded. “We’ve been spending all this energy on onboarding new employees in a unique and special way,” said Daisy Auger-Domínguez, chief people officer at Vice Media Group and author of Inclusion Revolution. “We need to do the same thing for our current employees.” She sees that as a way to remind colleagues why it’s important to come to the office.

Talk about what’s not working. “We owe it to our people to get really specific about where we’re growing, where we’re shrinking, where we think we have the most risk,” said Francine Katsoudas, Cisco’s chief people, policy, and purpose officer. “In doing so, we give our people a lot more power as well.” Providing transparency about a business’s challenges is also a way to enlist colleagues in navigating an economic downturn, said Kieran Luke, chief operating officer at Lunchbox. “We want everyone to see and understand, empathize, and take a sense of ownership.”

Audit your attention. “The scarcest resource that we have is not money and it is not time. It is attention,” said Didier Elzinga, CEO of Culture Amp. Organizations need to assess what they’re asking their leaders, managers, and individual employees to focus attention on amid numerous priorities. “We can actually sit down and look at it and give ourselves almost a budget,” he advised. “How are we going to prioritize the things we need [a company’s staff] to focus on?”

I particularly liked the idea of re-onboarding, especially if people have been working from home for any length of time because the shift back to the office is pretty much going to be akin to starting a new job in a new place mentally, emotionally, physically and relationship wise. In addition, the time and attention paid to new hires makes you feel special. I am sure a lot of us have resented seeing special offers advertised for new subscribers to a service, but no benefit given for 10 years of loyalty. I have recently seen people complain online about being denied the $2/hr bump in salary being advertised for new hires when they obviously had more experience and wouldn’t require a learning curve. It makes people feel their loyalty is taken for granted.

I also liked the concept that these days attention is a scarcer resource than time and money and that there needs to be clear communication across the organization about what priorities should receive the most attention.  We have all seen the posters wearily asking which of the 10 top priorities is actually the super-secret extra top priority the boss want you to focus on first.

What I was really surprised to see included in the list was the recognition that workplaces being a social environment, there is opportunity for tension. There seemed to be an acknowledgement not only that this may present a problem for people returning from a work from home setting, but that perhaps more could have been done to train people for that reality over the last few decades:

Practice real-life scenarios such as uncomfortable conversations. “We often give people an opportunity to expand their role and become managers without actually giving them the experiences that they need to practice the craft,” said Edith Cooper, co-founder of Medley. One way to do that is to create spaces, such as group coaching environments, where they can practice having difficult conversations without being judged or dismissed.


Physical offices are a place for conflict. “Conflict, disagreement, the brainstorm, the row, the ‘I’m sorry, we’re not on the same page here’” are important to spend time together with colleagues for, said Julia Hobsbawm, author of The Nowhere Office. In-person work—whether it’s in an office, coffee shop, or other location—is also important for training, mentoring, and social connections between people. “To hang out, to learn, or to argue,” is what in-person work time should be for, concludes Hobsbawm.


About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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