One of the biggest losses we experienced when everyone was working from home was the lack of what I call fringe conversations. Passing in the hallway, overhearing a conversation and having something to add, etc.

Agencies who are back in the office are sighing with relief to have these critical conversations back. Agencies who decide to stay virtual will need to find a way to replace this vital tool.

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Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute, coming to you again from beautiful San Diego. I’m up on the balcony of my room and right below me is the restaurant, and the voices sort of loft up when I sit out here. And I have to admit one of my – we can call it a skill, I guess – one of my skills is I’m a great eavesdropper. I love listening to other conversations and piecing together people’s stories. And honestly, that’s a skill that has served me well in agency life, as well. One of the things that’s missing for us if we are still working remotely, is that we are missing out on all of those fringe conversations that happen inside the office; that you overhear somebody talking about a project or a client, and you can say, “Hey, wait a second, I know something about that. I can add into that conversation,” or as you’re walking by somebody, that accidental bumping into someone and saying, “Hey, I meant to tell you this, blah, blah, blah. Just got off the phone with a client, yada, yada,” whatever it is. The fringe conversations, the overhearing of conversations, and sort of accidentally participating in the work, that’s one of the things that we are not able to recreate on Zoom or in GoToMeetings. And so if you’re going to still refrain from going back to the office, you’ve got to figure out a way how to replicate or duplicate or substitute for those moments of eavesdropping or those moments of, “Oh shoot, I forgot to tell you,” that happen all day, every day at the office. That accidental collaboration is a big part of how we communicate with each other, how we work, how we keep projects moving forward, and right now a lot of agencies are struggling trying to figure out how to bake that into their day when they aren’t physically in the same place. So, I will tell you, the agencies that are back in the office, they are loving that they have that informal way of communicating with each other again and they’re pointing out that it is benefiting themselves, it’s benefiting clients, it’s benefiting their work. So if you’re thinking about staying remote for a while longer or, for some of you, staying remote permanently, the question is how are you going to replicate or duplicate or substitute those accidental conversations, because they are often sort of the sticky points that weave together the work that we do and I think we take for granted how often they’re valuable. So give that some thought, all right? I’ll be back next week. See you then.

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