There is significant value at the water cooler

There is significant value at the water cooler

My teammates and I landed back in the states a few weeks ago from our first official Mended trip to South Asia. As you can imagine, it has taken every bit of the three weeks to process the learnings and experiences.

My last trip to this area was 3.5 years ago when the dream of walking alongside survivors through economic empowerment was born. Since then, we have trained 23 survivor artisans in the art of hand block printing; we have secured investors and board members who care about this work; we have sold thousands of products and we have hired full-time team members.

All from afar.

While we have certainly celebrated these accomplishments, it is so clear to me that I should have made this trip sooner.

There is no amount of Zooms, cross-globe gifts or perfectly detailed emails that can replace the value of being face-to-face.

This has been an inkling of mine since the pandemic disrupted the workplace. The organization I was working for had to pivot to our quarterly retreats taking place virtually for nearly two years. The joy of being together was lost. The casual conversations. The sharing of meals. The belly-aching laughter. Those moments and experiences are the necessary fabric of a cohesive and brilliant team. I'm afraid that this current generation of young adults in the workplace are demanding the wrong thing. They are demanding and expecting remote work options and companies, for the short-term gain of recruiting those individuals, are giving in.

I am convinced that there will be long-term losses for companies that have moved to fully remote work. Should they offer flexibility? Yes. Should it be fully remote? Absolutely not. Do I have research or proof? No. It is just my experience and sincere conviction that our very best -- and most efficient -- work is done face-to-face. There is significant value at the water cooler.

While spending face-to-face time with our artisan partners, we worked as a team for probably the first time. We printed samples together. We solved process problems together. We changed color directions multiple times. And those things were incredibly helpful.

But, most importantly, we laughed and danced and shared meals. And that is what made us a team for the first time. Our business and our partnership will forever be changed because of those experiences. Nothing beats face-to-face.

We will back to the water cooler soon.

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