It’s been a while since I have published a blog, and I am happy to be back at it. I am not sure about you, but Q2 of this year was busy, and I found myself relaxing during my off time instead of thinking about community. Plus, the beach has been calling, and I was eager to answer its call.
I have heard from some folks in charge of their team’s cultures, that they are worried that people seem checked out. And my response is always; it’s hot vaxxed summer. OK, maybe that’s not the entire reason, but people are out and reconnecting with family, friends, and the things they love. And they should be doing those things! So don’t be stressed if interest seems to be waning. I am personally using this slow period to rest up and get ready for the fall.
As someone who works internally with a community that is about to start returning to offices, I am continuing to question the role of community for employees. Before you gasp, I am not trying to delegitimize the work community managers do. However, I am thinking about the best use of the community members and my time in this hybrid world.
The community I work with predates my time in the role. At its inception, it built upon the camaraderie of young coders working at a startup, so blowing off steam and connecting after a hard day at work, was at the center of the community offerings. Refrigerators filled with beer, catered Carvel sundae bars, and expensive after-party karaoke tabs were the norm. A few years ago, our community merged with a more mature community. We also brought on an awesome Learning and Growth manager (hi Erica), and our culture and offerings started slowly moving away from party town.
March of 2020 ended the monthly happy hours and karaoke parties, and I was grateful. And I have spoken to many others who feel the same. Whether it was community managers or drivers of company culture, there was a collective sigh of relief. I, for one, was happy not to be spending long evenings throwing parties or events in the office. Which often meant cleaning up after everyone and trying not to fall asleep in my Uber. Then getting home and trying to figure out how many hours of sleep I could get before I had to do it all over again.
In-person events are a part of my job, and I accept that. But I didn’t realize how much time it took away from being with my partner, friends, and hobbies until last year.
As we look to office reopening and a hybrid workforce emerging, I am asking myself the following questions about our community offerings:
- How can we continue to make our offerings relevant and enjoyable to a mix of online and in-person community members?
- Do we need to continue to rely on incentives like free food and alcohol for in-person members?
- What have we learned about not having food and alcohol incentives in a remote world that we can utilize in a hybrid environment?
- Is the timing of events adding to the difficulty of people not having time to connect to their personal lives?
- What do our core community members want out of events, and are we working to meet their needs?
- What events and programs can we permanently cut?
- Are there any events or programs that capable community members can build or run?
I don’t have answers to all of these questions, but as the summer progresses, I hope to. We have had this wonderful gift of time away from the old normal, and I am excited about creating a hybrid events environment that doesn’t harken back to the good old startup party days. That means offering highly relevant content to our community members that doesn’t come at a cost to the team, our community members, and healthy connections.
My next post will focus on work friendships, which is a normal byproduct of building community. So stay tuned for what’s great about work friends, what’s not great, and how it can help or hinder a community.