LinkedIn’s Penry Price on why 'in-person meetings need to count for more'

Maybe you’re going back to the office full-time, sometimes or hardly ever. Whatever the scenario, LinkedIn vice-president of marketing solutions Penry Price offers two key insights for a successful return.

My colleagues and I have been talking a lot about what we call ‘The Great Reshuffle’ and how the world of work is changing before our eyes. People are not only considering how and where they work, but why they work.

This fall, a lot of brand marketers and ad agency creatives will head back into the office after a year and a half of working from home. Others may continue working from home every single day. And some are still deciding. The one thing we are all considering, regardless of where we do the work, is how we get the work done in a way that’s best for everyone.

I actually started going back into the office once or twice a week more than a month ago, and I’ve learned a few things that I thought might be helpful to share as you consider how you choose to work in the coming weeks and months.

We’re all creatures of habit – especially in the office

When you start going back in, you may quickly start to realize that you are a creature of habit to a certain degree. For me, it was to a surprising degree – quickly, my pre-pandemic routine came back to me like it was second nature. It was as if I had just come back from a two-week vacation. Everything from what I got for lunch to how often I took a water cooler break was just like before. The desk I sit at is different from the one I was using pre-pandemic. I have a different laptop now compared to early 2020. The action items on my schedule have been updated. Yet, within an hour of swiping my security badge, I was doing the exact same things I was doing 19 months ago. The atmosphere had that kind of psychological impact on my behavior. It’s a little disorienting at first, and you should be prepared for it.

Given what we’ve all been through, this realization truly came as a head-scratcher to me. After all, according to Glint’s September 21 report, we saw a twin dip in employee happiness and a spike in burnout as a warning signal that very few people want to return to pre-pandemic work, so that had me wondering: how was it possible that all of these old habits came rushing back when, really, the past year changed all of us in so many ways?

Before you head back in, start to think about what you want to get from your time in the office. Is your goal to grow your relationships with your team, is it to collaborate on a project, or do you just need a change of pace? Before I started going in, I had not stopped to think about what I was trying to get from the office, but rather I just thought about the work I was looking to accomplish that day. If we’ve learned one thing, for many of us, the work can get done anywhere, but the office offers something very specific for each of us. Figure out what you need and change your habits to maximize that office time.

Rethink in-office meetings

Employees are enthusiastic about the mix of virtual and in-person: Accenture found 83% of them see the hybrid workplace as optimal. But in order for it to work effectively, employers need to sort through some logistics issues, such as the availability of desks and conference rooms – not to mention the issue of attendance policies.

I am not going to pretend to have all of the answers right now, but I am certain about one thing: do everything you can to align your schedule with colleagues so your weekly meetings and check-ins happen on the days you are all in the office. I had this realization one day because I was having a video meeting in the office with a direct report who was not in the office. And I thought, “Why am I doing this here?” Since I could have also taken that meeting at home, it didn’t feel like the best use of my office time.

When we are in the office from now on, the main goal should be to take advantage of that in-person connection and the creative spark that can only happen when you’re face-to-face with colleagues. Coordinating schedules to make the most of our in-office time is going to be a work-in-progress. While this idea will be especially important for advertising agencies that need creative juices to flow in a critical way, it will also hold true for anyone in fields of innovation.

All told, from meetings and how you collaborate to where you sit and when you take water-cooler breaks, one thing that has become crystal clear to me since I started going into the office is that the default action or instinct every Monday through Friday morning should not be to go into the office because of optics or because we are creatures of habit. When we work in the office or from home, it should have a purpose and strategic value to our companies and ourselves.

Penry Price is vice-president of marketing solutions at LinkedIn.

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