Composing Our Own Closure: Getting Back to Work Life After Two Years of Isolation

Donut’s Employee Experience lead Courtney Stratton chatted with Josh Levine, culture expert and author of Great Mondays, about getting our groove back and finding more energy through connection at work.

For this episode of Donut’s podcast, we’re trying something different. This one is a little longer than usual, and features a conversation between Courtney Stratton, our Employee Experience lead here at Donut, and Josh Levine, author, consultant, and company culture expert at Great Mondays.

Josh and Courtney chatted for just about an hour about something that many of us have been feeling, but it’s hard to name — much less talk about. That feeling could probably be best described as dissonant: how come, as the world starts opening up a bit more, do things still not feel back to normal?

It’s a big human question, and that makes it a big business question… because, after all, what are companies if not people? Listen to the conversation between Courtney and Josh, and read the full transcript below:



Courtney Stratton, Donut: To introduce ourselves. I am Courtney and I work on the employee experience side over here at Donut. I’m located in Colorado Springs. It’s very snowy, very cold today. I was telling Alex earlier, I think it was like negative 4 when I woke up this morning. Very cold. I’m really excited to be here, and I will let Josh introduce himself.

Josh Levine, Great Mondays: Hey, everybody! My name is Josh. I’m calling in from Portland, Oregon. I wrote a book called Great Mondays, have an agency called Great Mondays, and if you can guess from the title, I’m passionate about helping other people and companies find passion in the work that they do. We’re in the business of helping high growth, technology and social enterprise organizations build, strengthen and activate their company culture.

CS: Awesome so to get started today and get everybody warmed up and chatting—I saw some people already sharing—we would love to know where you’re calling in from and a quick two-word check-in. If you’ve never done this before, it’s very easy, kind of gets at the heart of “how are you really feeling?” But in a lightweight way! It’s something that I’ve seen some teams doing at Donut and it has worked really well.

So for me, my location would be Colorado Springs and my 2 word check-in would be… today, I’m feeling excited and perplexed.  So you can be very honest about what your 2 words are! Drop your 2 word check-in. How are you feeling? You don’t have to give any explanation for why you’re feeling excited or perplexed.

(Thank you, Josh. I was just about to ask you yours.) So, Josh popped his in right there!

JL: “Good exhaustion” is where I’m at right now. It’s almost, I don’t know, like at the end of college exams you’re exhausted, but feel good about it. I think that’s where I’m at.

[Josh and Courtney respond to listeners’ check-ins.]

CS: I love it, thank you all for participating in this. I love seeing everyone’s very honest, vulnerable, authentic answers about how you’re feeling today. Whether you’re feeling awesome or not sure, this is a great way for us to start here today, given what we’re going to be talking about.

So what are we actually going to be talking about? Just a quick overview here: we’re going to have a little bit of a real talk about this idea of getting #backtoworklife (I love this hashtag), and then we’re going to have a lot of time today for open discussion and idea sharing. That’s why I’m really excited to see so many people chiming in and participating: because I know this is going to be a great conversation with everybody really sharing your thoughts and ideas.

Toward the end of our time today, we will wrap with some next steps, some ways that you can keep the conversation going. Because we’re hoping that you’re going to leave this conversation feeling inspired, maybe inquisitive. Maybe there will be some next steps, some questions you want to ask yourself, your team, your community. Hopefully, there will be a sense of, now I know what I’m going to go do next from here.

So with that, I know every time we do one of these Office Hours sessions we have people joining who are familiar with Donut, less familiar. Maybe some of you have heard of Josh and Great Mondays, maybe some of you haven’t, so I’ll just spend a couple minutes here just telling you a little bit what we do and why we’re talking about this. So, Donut, if you are less familiar with us, we’re an app built on Slack that helps people build community across their organization, and there are a lot of different ways that we do this.

I’m not going to be going into every single one of these today, but you can see here on this slide that there are just a lot of different ways that we help connect both within your team, but also across your entire organization. We also even have Slack communities that use this, professional communities; we’re really all about helping people build community and strengthen relationships.


Donut overview

I think that’s a super important element of what we’re going to be talking about today, and it’s one of the reasons that I am excited to be having this conversation, because I think once again we’re sort of standing on the edge of “Oh, my gosh, what comes next and how do we do this?” And it’s very central to what we do here at Donut, thinking about, how can we help people facilitate those kinds of connections and relationship buildings.

So that’s just a little bit about what we do; if you have questions at the end, we’ll give you some contact info that you can reach out if you want to learn more specifically about how you can do some of those things with Donut. So, Josh, I’m going to turn it over to you if you want to share.

JL: Yeah, totally. So. I’m a brand strategist actually by trade, but I got into culture about 15 years ago because felt like there were not a lot of people helping organizations deliver on the brand promises that my brand strategy was helping build. I felt like culture, was the next evolution of that—the question is, how how do you do it? And no one had a really good answer. So I worked with some colleagues to come up with a framework to do that.


Great Mondays intro

I wrote a book on it, and this is the framework: purpose, values, behaviors, recognition, rituals, and cues. This is the process we take our clients through and help them work through both the design and activation of company culture. If you haven’t gotten a copy of the book, grab one now!

CS: Thank you and yes, definitely definitely grab it! I’ve got a copy of it on my bookshelf, Josh… I’m not sure if it’s signed, next time we meet in-person again….

So this is what we’re talking about today, and I know I can be a fast talker, so I want to pause on this. We’ve heard this, I think we’ve heard it so much that maybe we’re not actually always internalizing it or processing it: this idea that, wherever you are today, it’s ok to not be ok. It’s been a lot in the last couple years, so let that sink in. Let yourself really sit with that, and you know then this second piece here, it’s also ok to want to get “back to your work life.”

So “let’s taco bout it.” [Quick chit chat about tacos 🌮] We are going to spend some time talking about this today, and Josh, I want to hear from you, and also from people in the chat, what does it mean when we say, “get back to work life?” What comes to mind for you, and also for people in the audience?

JL: Well, when we were figuring out what we wanted to talk about and thinking about what what was really in the air, it seemed to me (and there’s some studies that are coming out) that people are closer to their immediate team, but are further from their extended team. And the problem is that businesses are built on relationships, and we also thrive as humans, we’re pack animals, they thrive based on relationships. And we don’t have as many of those existing. We had built them, they’re kind of atrophied, I guess would be a good way to put it.

And when we think about even outside of our organization, I mean I don’t know about you, but before the pandemic, I was going to you know conferences and meeting people, and you know I’m an extrovert, so that’s a natural fit. There’s just all these benefits! Like, the whole point of conferences is not necessarily the content, although that’s good too, it’s actually meeting the people… that’s why I go! We just haven’t had that opportunity to continue to build and strengthen relationships outside of those immediate people. That to me feels like a really, really big piece of getting back to, or advancing into, a more healthy, new sustainable work life, and no one’s talking about it. If we don’t do it, it’s just going to delay our capacity to grow as individuals, grow as teams and organizations, increase our skills, and just to be able to feel fulfilled.

CS: Yeah. Josh, I love that you said that. You started to say “get back to”—and now I’m almost thinking that should have been the name of this session—but then you said “advance into.” I love that you specifically called that out, because I can only speak for myself, and also people that I’ve talked to in my role here at Donut and in my community. But something I’ve heard and personally experienced is almost this sense of waiting for “when is it time to get back to work life” or waiting for “when is it going to feel how it felt before,” or waiting for some sort of magic green light that’s going to turn on that’s like… NOW is the time to rebuild your work life, or rebuild your community, or rebuild your rituals.

JL: I don’t know that we’re gonna get that!

CS: Exactly!

JL: That’s what I mean when I read about some of the, I don’t know, epidemiologists and people that have been talking about this, it’s like… there may not be! And that’s what I understand to be one of the hardest parts of this is that we’re gonna have to compose our own closure.

I was listening to an article or newscast about how community traumas like a hurricane have a beginning, middle, and end, and as devastating as it is, you can at least go, “that’s what happened.” But we don’t have that. And it’s basically—to tap into in our pre-chat—how do we start to create a plan? Or a way of advancing into this new post-pandemic world that we can thrive, independent of whether there’s another f*cking wave, and everybody shuts it down—or not! Like, what is your plan? We can’t rely on others, so how do we create our own closure and then decide I’m gonna move on? (I’m not suggesting, you know it’s like different communities and different people have different levels of comfort, whatever that might be.)

But how can we build resilience into our own work lives, because I don’t know about you, but I mean for me it’s unsustainable to continue in this way of just, I don’t know, Zoom forever. Right? Like it’s just not for me. I don’t know.

CS: Yeah. I love that you talked about conferences and being an extrovert, because I’m sure we have people who are extroverts on the call, maybe some people who are introverts. I consider myself a true ambivert, so I love an opportunity to go to something like a conference. I thrive off some time, you know, really being able to socialize with people.

But I think the pandemic has put me in the habit of doing more of this Zoom stuff and just not in-person as much, that even I have found myself struggling with, okay, how do I get myself back to the level where I feel energized? My extrovert half of myself, how do I get her to feel energized by these interactions instead of feeling like, oh, this is daunting because I don’t know what to do anymore. What do I do with my hands? No I’m kidding.

[Shoutouts to other ambiverts in the chat!] I found that pandemic life has kind of made the introvert part of myself so used to this being the norm that it’s I have to relearn how to really exist in a more, I don’t want to say chaotic, but you know, exciting space. Because when you’re with other people, there can be a lot of excitement and a lot of stimulation, inspiration, excitement. That’s something that I used to thrive off that I think I have found actually harder to immerse myself back into. I see a lot happening in the chat, and I don’t want to miss it…

JL: Yeah, I mean think Alex is picking up on a point that is starting to emerge in in the chat, which is remote forever. There’s going to be a set of the working population that are just going to not have an office to go to. I mean there’s plenty of organizations that are 100% distributed, and that’s a reality, and so what are the ways that we can build and strengthen relationships in a new way? And maybe this goes back to advancing, right, like, let’s be proactive and design, and imagine what that new future is like because we’re going to have permanent forever distributed offices, distributed workers. That’s great! We’re going to be able to see the capital flow more broadly, it doesn’t have to be in superstar cities, but there’s still going to be a lot of power in those cities, and a lot of people that will be part of that.

And then there’s going to be the hybrid worker. So what you’re asking is, is okay, what about fully distributed organizations? How do you do that? And the next level is, how do you create those relationships across all of those kinds? That‘s what’s going to be hard, because there are a lot of ways for distributed people to to start to connect, and we can talk about those in a second, but if you have a hybrid organization—and by hybrid, you’ve got to expand the definition beyond “I’m going in part-time as an individual”—hybrid means, there are gonna be people that are working  100% distributed, and there’s people that are gonna be in the office, and so what does that mean for those people? I think that’s gonna be the real challenge for these organizations (they haven’t realized it yet): how do you build those relationships that are both digital and IRL.

CS: Yeah. Yeah. The question I want to ask you, Josh is: what would you advise? This is something that I’ve seen people asking themselves is, “well, we came up with some rituals that worked while we were fully distributed. But now x percent of our team is going to stay remote, x percent is going to be in the office.” Exactly like you said, it might not be that they come into work 2 days, it might be, “the girl in Colorado is 100% remote, and then some people are in office.” How do you build rituals that really facilitate building a relationship in person versus the one or 2 people who… it feels very daunting.

JL: Yeah, yeah, I mean so let’s just knock off the the easy one. So if we’re coming back under the office once a week, then  what we’re gonna see is purposeful gatherings within that. You come in on Fridays or whatever it is, not to do the work, you can check your emails, but to actually do the brainstorm or the in-person relationship building.

Look at Salesforce: they’re building a retreat center, right? Not everybody has that kind of money, but like that’s the point. Looking at organizations like Razorfish, the advertising agency who shut down their very expensive offices, both in San Francisco and New York, and then spun up really small creative hubs. That’s an easy one. And then 100% distributed, well, then, you use your distributed tools.

So obviously you can have what we talked a little bit about, social gatherings around, shared interests. The Dungeon and Dragons group that’s gonna have a Discord channel about that, play online, right? Or there’s the moms channel where it’s like asynchronous connection. And I think finding things that people connect with outside of their work opportunities is great. And/or you know, “let me let me help you learn this new tool,” mentoring things like that… I’m just gonna knock those off, right, those are known. I’m not saying they’re easy to do but they’re known problems.

What you’re asking about and what I think the real challenge is going to be, the sort of scaled-up version, like all of us as conference goers right? How do we actually connect the real life and the remote, the digital? I think that’s the complex part? I hope the answer isn‘t the Metaverse. But I don’t know!

CS: Oh gosh, we could have a whole session, just to talk about the future of the Metaverse. So there’s some awesome side conversation going on that’s related to what we were just talking about, Josh. I want to read a couple of these just because I think it will help guide the next phase of this chat. Jennifer said, “not having the casual pop-up. conversations that organically came about in the office has been difficult. Interactions have become just work, work, work.” And then she talked about how they use Slack and have built some fun channels to encourage levity, but it’s not a total replacement.

JL: Nope. Interstitial… collisions, I think is what that is. What are the moments that just happen? I think there’s just more friction. Courtney, if you and I aren’t working on the same team (I’m just making a story up) and we show up to the office, and I’m just like, “Hey good to see you” and then we catch up later on, right? That moment is really important.

There’s a bunch of research, and I cite some in my book, about that sort of meaningless chit chat that makes up 60% of our conversations and the importance of that! So what are you gonna do? “Hey Courtney, can we schedule a meeting to have some meaningless chit chat?” Just not gonna happen. It’s a great point… How do you decrease the friction to allow for the more collisions to occur? Because the way that these tools are currently built, Zoom and calendar, there is a start and there is a stop. There’s no  passing in the hallway.

The best I can do, one thing that I tried which I think is really interesting, was essentially just have Zoom open as a co-working experience. We were doing that the other day, we were doing a workshop, and we were just sort of hanging out, like “oh we have a half hour, I’m just gonna leave my video camera on and the speaker open, I’m just gonna be typing away.” And then I can go “oh, Courtney, I don’t watch that show!” So that’s not and a permanent solution.

CS: It’s not a replacement, exactly as Jennifer said. Something I have found to be… not a replacement, but something that might be valuable for anyone who’s struggling with this same thing: if you do use Slack, which I know a lot of you probably do, since you’re here, and you’re learning about Donut, I have found the Huddle to be quite a useful instrument ever since they rolled that out. Which is so funny because it’s honestly not that different from picking up the phone and calling someone, but the reason that I found it really valuable is, I have been able to reach out to a co-worker without scheduling anything, so then it doesn’t feel like a scheduled “we’re gonna have a coffee chat to talk about nothing,” as you said, Josh.

Instead, I can reach out to someone and I can say, “hey do you have a couple of minutes? I’m having a cup of coffee, and I’d like to just pick your brain about something.” We’ll hop on and sometimes it’s totally un-work related. I have actually even messaged someone before and said “surprise Huddle? But only if you’re free right now!” [Josh laughs] They loved it! They said, “I felt like you stopped by my desk!” That was as close as I could get to actually being able to stop by someone’s desk and just be like, how’s it going.

JL: Vanessa just posted something which makes a lot of sense to me. Discord is a communications platform that my son uses, so it’s definitely popular with Gen. Z. What Vanessa is saying is that it’s just audio, so you just leave it open, groups hang in a Discord, and it’s way better than having your video on. You can just have that as an option… and I guess you could do that with Zoom, too, but there’s something about Discord. I haven’t used it myself but it does feel like there’s something that discord that is working in a very interesting way. The audio piece is really interesting without the video, that’s really good. Thanks, Vanessa, for for putting that together.

CS: Yeah, I think it cuts down on some of the exhaustion you feel from having to look at your camera the whole time you’re having a conversation, and so that’s why I’ve used the Huddle in Slack. I have used Discord, not at work, and it is a pretty cool platform.

Another thing we have used internally at Donut is something called Gather—I don’t know if people have heard of it, but it’s kind of reminds me of a little cartoon virtual office. So you can actually move spacially toward a coworker and as you get closer to them, you can hear them. So that’s kind of cool because it feels like you’ve moved into a room with someone to have a conversation with them.

There was something that someone said earlier that I wanted us to circle back to Josh, because this is on my mind as well, and I’d love to hear your perspective on this. Spencer had said, “I feel like the general sustained level of overwhelm, exhaustion, etc. directly undercuts efforts to create moments of connection or fluff, if you will, because folks want to steal every free minute, they have to take care of their laundry or kids work out or just unplug.” Would love to hear your perspectives on how to keep that simple for campaigns or initiatives that
you’re going to try in your org.

JL: The piece that immediately comes to mind, the advice that I’ve been doling out, is: managers and leaders, you need to be much more purposeful about these connections, and you need to be doing it in a thoughtful way. When you host actual work meeting, make sure to start with some kind of check-in or sharing, or something like, you know, something that we did, just moment of just “hey what’s going on.” It could be the 2 word check-in. It could just be in the chat, doesn’t have to take a lot of time.

Or, it can could be the first 15 min and be like we’re gonna go around and talk about, like, “Bring your favorite object from your (home office),” or whatever it might be. Introduce your kids, or  your dog. What that does is reduces the load, the scheduling load on the individuals, and it just requires a little bit of forethought and willingness to not think that you need to fill every space, every moment in time with “music.” You have to have space to hear the song, and that’s a really critical piece of it. I don’t think that’s the only way, but that feels like a very… I don’t know, easy, I’ll say “easy” way to start to build some of those things. But I’d love to hear some other opportunities.

CS: There’s some others coming in right now! “I’m leaving the last 10 minutes of monthly staff meetings for fun hangouts. We already have scheduled, so why not?” Oh that’s nice, that’s reserving some time that people already have on their calendar, so it doesn’t feel like an added lift have to have some social interaction with the team. I like that!

One thing that I have found in my role at Donut, since I’m working on our employee experience here, is that if we leave it to chance, it’s not going to happen. It’s just not the same as it was before, like this person really likes games, this person really likes types of food, music. There, let them run with it… it’s so much harder than it used to be. I’m finding that I have to solicit input more from people. I’m like, what do you actually want, how can we actually support you in being able to build these kinds of spaces within our org?

Because for some people they want a monthly craft night… I’m actually gonna raise my hand. I wanted that! I was like, I want a craft night with people who like to craft. Other people just want a bi-monthly social, literally like the old school early days of the pandemic. “I want to have like a bring my own drink happy hour where I just chit chat with my coworkers,” and then some people want something that’s more, we as a team together are gonna do a cooking class. I mean there’s so many different tastes and preferences of what people want, and that felt easier to facilitate when everybody was in person. Knowing that people are distributed/hybrid that feels like the lift, for that feels heavier.

JL: I want to underscore something you said, which is the importance of enabling people to do their own groups or their own connections. How might you support the emergence of these possible opportunities for people to connect? How might you provide time or permission, or whatever it might be? What are things that might be happening already that you can then amplify? So as opposed to, “Hey, everybody how do you want to have some mandatory fun?” it’s how do you see what may already be happening? Or what could be bubbling up right, so give them the opportunity to create their own ERGs that may be about… cooking, or whatever it might be. I think that’s really important, and I think probably permission to take some time and encouragement even further is going to be one of the most valuable ways that a manager can support that.

CS: Yes, yes, absolutely. I would like to even build on that by saying that recently I have seen that giving permission by itself is not enough. Saying, “yeah, we support you doing this, great!”… right now, people are so burnt out and overwhelmed that they’re like, “great, I have permission to do this. But now, what do I do?” And so going that extra step to figure out how you can support them: if there are a handful of people at your company that are already doing something, they’re having a baking class that they do together, maybe there’s a way you can help them build that out into a ritual that they can also share with other people on the team.


Cookie Watercooler

JL: Well, that’s what I think about. I think there’s the things that give you energy and things that take away energy. So how do we identify the things that give you energy and use that as a launching board? So if you are baking sourdough bread, and you want to do that, “here’s this opportunity to share my passion with some people.” Cool! That sounds really interesting, and that way it’s just welcoming people into your kitchen. So what are you already doing? What is it that’s happening that you could expound on? And you know, play games, or whatever it might be.

[Sighs] The exhaustion is real, and it’s really hard. This stuff is really important. and I think the one thing we have to realize is, it can’t all come back all at once, and then we have to do it a little bit at a time.

CS: I think that’s a really important call-out. This actually came up in the AMA that we did on Twitter. Someone had asked something along those lines, and you were like “a little bit at a time.”

JL: Yeah, “how do we make this happen?” and it’s like… a little bit at a time, and see what works. A couple little things here and there, and maybe your organization is built for this or that.

I wonder: we were spending a lot of time talking about within the organization, and is that is the most applicable. But there’s also the more extended connections that either we have and want to reconnect with, or meet new people. I wonder if anybody has had any experienced or observed any possibilities of, how do you reconnect with people that you don’t interact with on a day to day that are kind of in your work sphere, or meet new people? What is that?

CS: What is that looking like now? I’m excited to see what people drop in the chat, and I wanted to shout out Kathleen because I noticed that at one point in the chat she dropped her LinkedIn and said “if anyone wants to have a virtual coffee chat, hit me up,” and I just want to shout that out because I have done that as well sometimes in webinars or online conferences that I’ve been in. I know that’s a really small one, but I have actually built some really meaningful connections over the last year by just pushing myself to be brave, and just drop that LinkedIn and say, “hey, we’re all on this webinar together, so we probably all care about this topic, which means we probably already have something in common. If anyone would like to connect and grab virtual coffee or get on a phone call, let me know.” So I just wanted to shout out Kathleen because I saw saw that link get dropped and I think it’s great when people do that. So that’s definitely one small thing.

JL: Let’s do that, that sounds good. That’s a good point, right, there are people that I am seeing more on LinkedIn and I’m making some connections with and relationships. And it feels a little different, in that it takes a little longer and more repeated touches because they’re smaller touches. Yasia is saying Clubhouse was great. And Twitter has Spaces. I think that’s really interesting, because that does start to expand that. And if you’re in front of a screen, and you can actually connect with other people on that app that does feel interesting, like “oh, we both have a shared interest in whatever this topic is…”

CS: So you just brought something to mind for me Josh: shared experiences. That’s the piece that can be missing if we’re just talking about, “oh, I’m going to find people in thread somewhere online, I’m gonna find people in a space somewhere.” I know the thing that comes to mind for me: I’m in a ton of professional communities on Slack and they’re great. They’re an awesome resource! But I don’t find that I’m building very strong relationships necessarily on those without being super intentional about it. I’m not saying you can’t, certainly not saying you can’t.

JL: But it doesn’t happen as easily.

CS: Yes, exactly. What I have found is that when I can find groups where we’re going to have a shared experience, like I’m going to join this… I don’t want to even say it has to be professional, right like if there’s a hobby you really enjoy—it could be related to your job, it could not. But you’re joining an online class or you’re actually going and doing something in person. As soon as you have that shared experience moment again, it becomes so much easier to exchange contact info with someone and cut through those 10 touch points you might have to have on LinkedIn before it leads to  an actual coffee, to being to connect with a person on a deeper level.

JL: Yeah! In the before days, if I was looking to meet people, I would look for a way to work with them on something and collaborate on an article. There’s definitely the “hey, just hit me up, and I’ll get to know you” way, right, and you just have to put your Calendly link. I meet a ton of people that way. And that’s great! And if you really want to get to know them and you’re like feeling that spark then, “hey let’s work on something together!” And you know, it takes energy and time, but so do relationships. So I think that’s that’s a possibility as well.

A colleague of mine made an introduction to someone who just moved from the Bay Area to Portland… okay, someone’s in the area, we have shared interest, let’s go on a hike! This afternoon we’re gonna meet somewhere, I’ve never met him before, but we’re gonna go for a hike, grab a beer. I’m like, oh it’s physical! Actually, who else is in the area? Which is, I think, also another future facing opportunity. If you’re in a globally distributed or organization, who is in your area? Can you do some co-working? Can you get together with those people for no other reason than they happen to be there? Let’s let’s look for those opportunities get together in a way that is comfortable and makes sense. That’s a possibility!

CS: Yes! Oh, love what Alex just said: “100%. This makes co-working feel like an opportunity, not something you have to do.” Yeah, I think for me, that’s the shared experience! We literally went and shared a physical space together. Pull the headphones out, have a conversation, take a break at the same time in a way that has felt, I don’t want to say abnormal, but it kind of became abnormal.

JL: It definitely did, definitely!

CS: So there was one other question that I wanted to ask you. Maybe this is like me being selfish, this is my own question I want to ask. So we keep hearing people say  “I miss X Y Z from the before times,” and I know some of you who may be on the call, maybe you’ve had people say that. It could be anything from office things you used to do together to just the ability to run into someone. So we know that people want this personal connection. They want to interact. They want these opportunities to run into each other and have these casual conversations. But then I think sometimes, when we’re brainstorming ways that we can facilitate space for that, the response might be… what someone said earlier about fluff, right?

JL: And the response is, ughhh.

CS: Yes, Do you have ideas for getting people past that? Because I know for myself, I know I was talking earlier about being an ambivert and my introverted self. Once I get over that reaction of “ugh,” it’s like…

JL: … “This was a good idea, glad I showed up!”…

CS: … “This was fun!”…

JL: … “I really didn’t want to go out, but…”

CS: [laughs] Exactly! I think a lot of people are feeling that. Do you have any advice for how managers and even just anyone in the company can encourage other people to get past that initial reaction?

JL: For now, I think my answer is right back to… well, I think we need energy. I think we need things that feed us energy. What are people inherently interested in doing, and excited about, and can work into their schedule? Right? So I like being outdoors and getting exercise. So I was like, instead of going to get coffee, I’m gonna do a hike! You know, like, Josh at this organization is saying, “hey, everybody, I’m gonna go for a walk at this time,” and we can all go for a walk, separately together. We can do a walk and talk, and that’s great. It’s like a live podcast where you have your own crew.

Or, if there’s a specific app or game that you like to play, or crochet… to me the proof of this—and it hasn’t evolved much further beyond the dogs channel or the moms channel or the parenting channel—is that shared experience, that the shared opportunities we can connect on that we already have similarities on. (That’s the thing: people just love their pets. That just looks like, oh, my gosh! I’d love to see a picture of your pet!) We haven’t seen the evolution of that yet. I haven’t seen it in a big way, and it doesn’t have to be a Slack channel.

But to me that’s kind of like picking that up that kernel and expanding that to something even more: “I want to be doing this anyways; how do I bring people in? How do I do my create my own club or organization?” So not top down, but bottom up. What are the emergent things that we need to allow for? And then we can figure out what the what the channel! Like, I want to play World of Warcraft, and that’s going to be on Discord, and we’re gonna have a session… that’s what I’m doing anyways! I’m going for a hike; might as well do that, anyway!

CS: I think I’m hearing two things here that are standing out to me. One is, it takes a little bit of bravery and a little bit of vulnerability to be the person who’s willing to invite other people in. You have to go into it knowing that people are tired, this might not land for everyone. That’s okay! You may only have three people that take you up on your World of Warcraft session today. Maybe next time you do it, maybe there’ll be a few more. That’s okay. So I would I would say, don’t be deflated by that,

JL: A little bit at a time.

CS: A little bit at a time! And you also have probably been the person that has seen someone post or shout out or email, “I’m gonna do this,” and you’re like… that sounds fun, but I’m just spent. And that’s okay. The other thing is flexibility, be flexible. I know some people who you because of their family schedules, they’re not going to be able to do a happy hour after work, and so maybe we need to offer them something during the day that they can connect around, and that’s cool. And other people, that’s not their cup of tea because they’re not early risers, and they would rather sign on for the happy hour at 6 o’clock in the evening. So being flexible and kind of like allowing there to be different different modalities!

JL: So now I think what we are seeing here is this, two sides to this: so how our work community can expand. I mean, it benefits work creating these collaborations, expanding beyond work. And so that means you’re talking to coworkers later, later at night, outside of work, hours. Blurring that boundary, which is I don’t think either good or bad. But also like what if I did a yoga session like normally? I’d be going to Yoga, at the place down the street, and if I continue to show up, I build those relationships there. But now I’m saying, okay, what what if I did it virtually, and then see if people in my office want to want to join? Is that good, is that bad?

There’s this really interesting kind of blurring, and I know people are like trying to, and I’ve advocated for, creating your own boundaries, because you know you’re not going into the office anymore 9 to 5, that’s way out the window. I don’t have a complete or even a fully formed thought…

CS: Right, and what I would tack on to that is: different people have different boundaries, and it’s gonna take a lot of work because they’re a little fuzzy to figure out what they are for you, what they are for your teammates, and how you can use those to your advantage in a good way. You can find where it it feels right to invite people into something that maybe wouldn’t have happened in the same way beforehand, even if you are going into an office. I just think it’s gonna be a lot fuzzier than it was before. I even think some people’s schedules are gonna be completely different than they were before. Because, as you said, it’s probably not exactly going to be 9 to 5.

JL: No, it’s not, I mean especially working cross-time zones and countries. That is definitely not the case.

CS: Absolutely, yeah. So you might go into the office at a completely different time than you did before, and not overlap with someone who also goes into the office.

JL: Yeah, exactly I mean to me the parallel here is, when the Internet first emerged, and it was like, oh! All of a sudden, you know, the whole point of software means that you can just create your own worlds. We no longer have to go and do yoga at the studio. We don’t have to go into the office to do the thing. And so now what we have to do is go, what do I want to do? What’s going to be the best way to do this? And maybe it’s great, maybe you do welcome your coworkers into this and there’s people you develop relationships with outside of work, and that’s fine. Or maybe you want to be like no, I need some time away from all that energy and I need to be over here. It’s gonna be a long decade of purposefully experimenting and building what those communities look like.

CS: Yes, and I guess knowing that because you are experimenting, what works today might not work in 6 months.

JL: For sure.

CS: Not even because of the pandemic right, barring whatever wacky other wave… But yes, for you personally, what works today may not work in 6 months. You may draw whatever your boundaries are, you may invite people into certain spaces and then realize, you know, that worked for a time, and that’s awesome. But now it’s time to try something else this isn’t working anymore.

Since we have less than 10 min left—this flew right by, this has been so fun! I do want to pull our slides back up just because I want to leave people with one actionable thing (I mean hopefully, you’ve gotten some ideas from this), but also something that you can try, either with Donut, it’s also something you could try without Donut. It was something we brainstormed to help your people start building some new cross-team rituals as you’re thinking about, “okay, but how do we help our people do this?”

So this was an idea, a brainchild that came out of all of our discussions and prep for this. This is called I Made This. So the idea here is what Josh was talking about earlier: what gives you energy? What makes you feel passionate and energized? For a lot of us, that might be something that we have made. It could be the bread that you made. It could be a project you worked on. It could be something work related, something not. And so the idea here, how it works within Donut if you do decide to try it that way: you’re putting people together in a Slack channel and encouraging them every so often (in this case we have it set up every week, groups of 4) to get together and get ready to share something cool that you created. So we’re just giving people that permission and that space to be excited to share something that they created.

So it could be, you know, this watercolor painting, look at this child…

JL: Look what I did!

CS: [Laughs] Literally anything that you’ve created that you’re proud of, that you want to share. It’s lightweight but it’s something that might help people bring that energy back to their week by having that time to connect over this. So again, you can do it with Donut. you also could institute something like this without Donut as well if you’re not using it. This is gonna be in the leave-behind materials, you can try that out. We definitely encourage you to do that.

[Chatter with listeners] A couple things more here: we want to encourage you to join our own Slack-based community. I know how I was talking about I’m in a lot of Slack communities, and it’s hard to get past the “just chatting” phase. If you want to hit me up for coffee, please do. That is okay! We have a special channel called #office-hours, and if you join that channel right now, we are going to be selecting someone who’s gonna win a 30-minute consultation with Josh. I know a lot of people here would be really excited to get that opportunity.

JL: Come, get to know me!

CS: Yes! So please, join our Slack community. Keep the conversation going. Potentially win that consultation, and you can always reach out to us if you have questions specifically about Donut. Josh, is there anything you want to say about any of the resources that you’re leaving behind here?

JL: I send out a monthly newsletter called One Minute Mondays, if you’re interested in keeping up to date on what we’re doing, what we’re thinking about. My book’s available in all the places that you can buy books, audio if you love the sound of the dulcet tones of my voice, you can also do the audio one. And at, ton of free stuff and exercises, all the tools in the book. If you haven’t gotten your hands on a copy of the book, all those exercises that I have built into the book are on the webpage. You can download them for free as PDFs.

I see my job as getting more people to build powerful cultures as business tools, so I’m trying to try and just move the whole conversation in that direction. Definitely LinkedIn is where I’m at, so please, please connect.

CS: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Josh. We technically have about five minutes until we end so I’m not gonna close this, we’re gonna hang around if anyone has any other questions or things they want to throw in the chat. But also understand if people want to get those five minutes back to take your break between this and whatever your next meeting is.

I’m gonna go ahead and take this opportunity again to thank you, Josh, and to thank everybody who has been super interactive in the chat. It’s been great to hear from everyone. So thank you all so much.

JL: Courtney, what are some other non-work-related communities that you’re in that you’ve started to feel like you’re getting some connections with?

CS: So I really love watercolor painting (I’m terrible at it, I feel like I should disclaimer!)

JL: That’s okay!

[Editor’s note: she is not terrible at watercolor painting]

CS: I love art, and I discovered, some time during the pandemic—actually I found them on Facebook… I feel like I’m dating myself: do you still use Facebook? That’s how old I am. The young people don’t use it anymore—but I found a community of people who do watercolor painting, and they do tutorials, and they teach each other, and they help critique.
I mean very nicely, they’re never like oh, that’s terrible! They give you advice on things you could change or fix, and so that’s one that for me has been really impactful.

And that’s actually been entirely digital! I have not met any of them in person, but I feel like there’s a few friends I’ve met through there that I can always go to them specifically for advice, if I don’t want to drop it to the whole community. Because we’ve just interacted so much that I feel like I’m starting to know them. Yeah, that’s that’s one of my favorite ones

JL: Oh, that’s great, I like that. I can’t say that I’ve actually done that. Going back to our earlier part, I did use Clubhouse to listen to a conversation from a conference that one of my colleagues who teaches at the same program I teach went to, an actual conference. I was like, well, that sounds really interesting. So the conference was put on by the House of Beautiful Business, and I saw them on on Clubhouse, and I was like, oh, I want to participate in that. So I listened in, and feel like I could have made some connections but didn’t follow up on that. So that’s my opportunity.

I think there’s some good ideas: I’m definitely gonna start to think about that Discord thing, that’s that’s really powerful. So the audio only, that’s that’s our future.

CS: Now I’ve had a laugh a few times about how I feel like the idea of basically a phone call is somehow novel now.

JL: It is!

CS: I mean I know it’s different.

JL: [Jokingly] Call me!

CS: The idea of actually only talking on audio… I’ve done it a few times recently with people, and I’m like wow! This is so refreshing! Remember when we used to do this all the time?!

[Thank you and goodbyes as listeners leave] Thank you everyone who’s saying thanks and and saying goodbye. You can reach out any time to us at [email protected]. I guess since no one has submitted any more specific questions, we can wrap up.

JL: Let’s wrap this up! Let’s create our own closure.

CS: All right that’s great. We’re going to walk away with that as we go into our week. Everybody create your own closure. Thank you so much, Josh. I hope you have a great rest your day and a good week.

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