The Way We Work Now

This is supposed to be my post about how Ingredient will work in a post-Covid world, but as I’m writing it, the news from places as far away as India — where people are getting sick and dying at exponentially increasing rates — tells me “post-Covid” is absolutely a function of geography and living in a country with ample resources. Combined with those facts is the news that some U.S. states are struggling to get their vaccination rates to 50% even as demand for the vaccines decreases and appointments to get the shots go unfilled, and I’m left to wonder if and when even those of us with consequence-insulating privilege will find that post-Covid promised land.

But I shall endeavor to remain optimistic — and there are many reasons to be.

When we entered the pandemic, I recall thinking it would last weeks to months, and then we’d get back to normal. Then it became apparent it would be months and months, and now here we are more than a year later, and it’s clear “normal” has been totally redefined. Not only for Ingredient, but for literally everyone in the country and, indeed, the whole world.

It’s weird to say it, but on balance, 2020 was a good year for Ingredient. We were able to engage with new clients, and we grew by several positions, so even without the pandemic and quarantine, we would have had to evolve. We simply outgrew our existing space. And thanks to the accelerated remote office learning curve provided by enforced separation, we have been quick to adapt to the model that will define our company’s new normal.

Starting July 5, 2021, our office will once again be open to all employees who have completed their course of vaccination. We’ll no longer require temperature checks or masks. However, we’ll continue to limit visits from folks outside the company to strictly necessary interactions, and we’ll follow our clients’ leads with regard to visiting or working inside their offices. Our plans are based on the available science and expected efficacy of vaccines but, of course, we’ll make alterations if conditions change.

That said, Ingredient is now a “presence agnostic” workplace. When we polled our teams, I was surprised to find that a majority of people preferred working from home and only wanted to come into the office a few times a month, or as necessary to perform their roles. So we’ll adapt our culture to this new way of officing. Our shared space will be one where we not only continue to produce beautiful and engaging content, but also come together temporarily to collaborate as teams — rather than as the traditional office that fills up in the morning and empties out in the evening. Most desks will be reservable rather than dedicated to specific people, and meeting spaces will be expanded within our walls.

This opens up some interesting options for both our team members and our company. Many of our employees are now free to work anywhere they want — from a few hours at a coffee shop to a few days at an Airbnb to permanent relocation hundreds of miles away. In turn, we’re now able to recruit new team members from almost anywhere, not just the Minneapolis metro area. I think this untethering of knowledge workers from the physical address of their employer is going to be one of the most enduring and dramatically transformative impacts of Covid-19 on our society.

Part of adapting our culture will be watching out for the unintended consequences of working remotely. We need to ensure no one on our teams loses out on the socialization and the camaraderie that come with being together in the office. Beyond that intangible, I don’t want to lose opportunities for less experienced team members to work directly with people who have more experience. I also want to find ways to recognize the contributions of people who are not physically present to our shared success. Everyone needs to have equal access to advancement opportunities — no matter how they choose to work for us.

So, no, we’re not yet “post-Covid.” As with so many other endeavors, the progress is uneven and incomplete. But I am relieved to be planning for a day when our new normal is what we want it to be rather than a construct thrust upon us by necessity. In the meantime, we’re doing what we at Ingredient have always done well: adapting, evolving, and embracing new opportunities and challenges.

I can’t wait to see my peers again — and I can’t wait to see what new things we achieve together.