Hybrid or Remote, SSI Prioritizes Community and Compassion
by Eveline Hadeweg Scheffer
September 29, 2021
Back in February 2020, I responded with great enthusiasm to a vacancy at Semco Style Institute (SSI) for the role of a consultant. Having already followed the ‘Semco Expert’ program, I knew that I wanted to focus completely on shaping the future of how we work.
Then, in March, a date for my first interview had been set and I was extremely excited as this was a job I really wanted. My eagerness to land the role was fueled further when I met with the team. The role was great — it would need me to focus on the Dutch market and be a part of the global team. My only concern was ‘remote work’ — a term we’ve all come to accept during the pandemic — as a large number of SSI team members live abroad. As someone who loves to be in groups and looks forward to running into colleagues at the coffee machine at work, I wondered how I’d fit into a work environment where I wouldn’t meet my colleagues at all.
A few days after my interview, the Netherlands and the rest of the world went into lockdown. This clearly wasn’t a great time for a candidate to start a new job or for a company to bring people on board. So, SSI and I decided to wait for a little while before I came onboard. A year later, the world as we knew it has changed. Zoom meetings from your kitchen table were the norm now. The people who I was so accustomed to seeing every day pre-pandemic; with whom I had shared triumphs, losses and post-work drinks were now faces behind a screen.
When I began working with SSI a year after my first interview, I immediately knew it was a great opportunity. However, this was a new team, and I had to get to know everyone virtually. Fast forward to 2021, the world was slowly beginning to open up again, and a ‘hybrid’ work model came into play. Now, both remote and in-office work are seen as acceptable. The questions that zipped through my mind, at this point, ranged from — “Do I really want to go back to the office?”, “How many days a week am I expected to go to the office?” or, “Can I choose these days or will instructions come from above?”
At SSI, hybrid work has always been the norm. For example, SSI has an office in Utrecht in the Netherlands, but with half the team living abroad, a lot of the meetings happen via Zoom. In fact, all my initial apprehensions vanished after the very first meeting, where I was shown so much warmth.
These days, I find myself going into the office regularly, especially to meet my colleagues. Sometimes, I go there for some peace and quiet so that I can work without having my three kids around me! Though I don’t get to physically see the whole team, we have virtual team meetings twice a week. And, during these meetings, we go beyond work and really get to know each other. We make time to steer clear of work and talk about ourselves —something that’s helped me greatly, especially during my initial days at SSI.We use Slack to discuss substantive matters, but to also keep each other updated on things going on in our lives. Once a month, there’s ‘Friday afternoon drinks’, which is of course not actually afternoons in everyone’s time zones. We use this time to really let our hair down and learn about each other in new, creative ways. The Semquiz, two truths & one lie, and Semco cribs are some of the techniques we have used to build trust and openness among ourselves.
This sense of community came through particularly strongly when I was having a personal crisis right after I joined the team. My father was hospitalized and subsequently diagnosed with cancer. His condition deteriorated rapidly, and within just three weeks, he passed away. This was a very hard time for me, and I desperately needed the support of friends, family and, of course, my colleagues.
It was incredible how supported I felt at SSI despite the fact that I’d just begun working there. During my father’s last weeks and after his passing, I was given the time and support I needed before I could jump back into work. And, that’s a big reason why I’m so glad to be part of this community!
A remote or hybrid work formula may not be for everyone. Communicating clearly with colleagues, understanding each other’s interests, experimenting, evaluating and compromising when necessary are all part of the job. It all needs to happen regardless of physical proximity and digital meetings. From my experience at SSI, I can definitely vouch that the time is ripe for all this and more to happen.
When we have common goals in mind and practice what we preach, we can decide where and when we work.
This article is written by:
Eveline Hadewegg Scheffer
As a senior consultant, Eveline is involved in in-company customization and facilitates training programs. An experienced team coach with expertise in people’s motivations.
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