Evolving to a Hybrid Workplace with Colleen Murray, Director of Operations for Perkins & Co
For the recent episode of Think Beyond Space | The PDX Workplace Insider podcast, I was grateful to speak with Colleen Murray, Shareholder and the Director of Operations for Perkins & Co. In the episode, Colleen and I discussed how they are evolving their workplace to a hybrid model to ensure they meet the needs of all employees.
Transitioning Back to the Office
As Colleen’s team at Perkins & Co started planning for reopening their office, they knew there would be a lot to contend with, and having a detailed, thoughtful plan was essential to communicate. “We’ve thought about it extensively in our reopening planning. How do we make people feel ok about this? How do we give them the space to re-enter (the office) that works for them and their family?” Colleen said. Giving grace to employees to figure out the timing that works best was also built into their planning, with Colleen adding, “employees might need to wait until schools start to know what routine they are going to have. We wanted to create enough structure so that it is not complicated to come back. That there is clarity and it feels planned, but also creates enough flexibility.”
From an operational standpoint, there are challenges of integrating a hybrid work environment to ensure it is inclusive for both in-office and remote employees. Colleen’s team invested in outfitting their office with technology that worked for both. Colleen discussed how the technology needs to be seamless for situations where meetings might include a few people in the office, and up to eight employees working remotely. “We want to do this in a way that we can anticipate the challenges and try to set the tone at the beginning. The challenges being, if the office is populated and (we also) have a third of people remotely, do they feel like they are not heard or connected? That is absolutely not acceptable,” Colleen said.
For onboarding new employees as Perkins & Co evolved to a hybrid model, Colleen emphasized the importance of creating a seamless experience. We were thoughtful, but have a lot to do to make it better. The perspective is this is something we want, not something that is forced upon us now (from the pandemic). We want to be good at onboarding someone fully remotely, building relationships, connecting them to clients, and helping them thrive and have a great career. I don’t ever wish for a pandemic ever again, but it really accelerated our timeline to get here,” Colleen said.
Communicating the Plan
Perkins & Co recently communicated their office reopening timing and plan to all employees. Colleen saw this as an opportunity to make their communication more holistic and accessible, saying, “one of the things I’ve appreciated out of the pandemic is that we are communicating more frequently and in more ways than we did before. We were too reliant on being physically together. Now we have to make sure everyone can see things. I love that evolution for us and sophistication for our business.”
Through the communication process, Colleen noted how it has challenged the entire Perkins’ leadership team to engage differently. Colleen reflected on the process by saying, “there was a facilitator at one of our partner retreats before the pandemic who said, ‘you need to be ready for everything to change, except for your core values.’ I’m thankful that we have that (as a leadership team) at Perkins, because it is the grounding point for when we are making a decision.”