Keeping the cultural spark alive, one year after the pandemic

close-up of a sparkler

The office culture at The Hodges Partnership is our secret sauce that keeps retention – and spirits – high. For many of us, our roles at Hodges take up the largest chunk of our resumes. And if you were to ask those of us who have a splattering of other positions elsewhere, I bet we would tell you that cultural issues were a big reason for us not being there anymore.

March 16, 2020 was Hannah’s first day at Hodges. We had a delicious lunch from Salt and Forge, we did a meet and greet, then one by one we grabbed our things and left. And most of us haven’t stepped foot in the office since.

Since then, we’ve hired two more folks (Julia and Anderson), and even though we’re in 16 different workspaces all around Richmond, in some ways, we’re tighter than ever.

As we celebrate the one-year mark of working remotely, here are the three core ways we’re keeping our office culture alive.

Engage and support

The last year has been a trying time. For some, it meant a particularly lonely period, isolated miles away from loved ones. For others, it meant an entire family under one roof, all trying to work and learn remotely. We’ve been sick, we’ve had babies, we’ve onboarded virtually. Through it all, we have been here for each other, picking up the slack and bringing people back up to speed when they needed a moment to catch their breath.

My kiddo, Henry, watching me on our then-daily staff meeting, March 2020

Outside of our client work, we’ve taken the time to bring a passion project to life. The Phil launched on Giving Tuesday and to date, we’ve uncovered dozens of stories and voices that are new to many of us. We’re constantly learning new things and we’re so inspired by our neighbors, which brings us to our next point…

Learn and grow

Our Slack space has not only served as our primary form of communication, but it has amplified our DEI efforts. We launched an #unlearninghistory channel where we share articles and resources that are educational and conversation starters. It’s also a safe space for us to come together to share experiences and perspectives. For example, many of us engaged in conversations about the Meghan Markle/Oprah interview, and what that meant through the lens of race.

A shot from one of Meg’s favorite self-care activities (she wrote the post on it, afterall)

We have had more trainings and professional development sessions in 2020 than we’ve had in the last several years combined. As a team, we’ve stretched ourselves to have uncomfortable conversations about important topics from unconscious bias and microaggressions to learning about becoming better facilitators and creating more accessible content for our clients and their audiences.

Surprise and delight

Saving the best for last. Who doesn’t love an unexpected reason to smile? And there have been some days that have been incredibly hard to smile, but our team finds a way to bring joy to the everyday. Over the last year, we’ve had several themed dinner nights where Hodges picks up the tab. Together, but separate, we’ve indulged in pizza night, sampled BBQ for Memorial Day and, most recently, we supported local Black-owned businesses for Black History Month. Spoiler alert: we’re big Lillie Pearl fans.

The Ocampo’s Black Joy movie night, fueled by Lillie Pearl and “Soul”

Additionally, the J’s have granted us small stipends to help with our work from home environments. Some of us have used them for uber practical needs like increasing internet speeds and getting ergonomic desk furniture, while others have used it to purchase houseplants and paint an office space to bring some joy to the day.

The biggest takeaway about our office culture from this last year, is that we are very intentional about it. It takes a village to keep that spark alive. Not every day is rainbows and butterflies, and in the words of my toddler, some days we may have “big feelings,” but that’s what helps us continually learn and grow.

Would I rather be back to normal? Of course. But I can’t think of a better group of folks I’d like to be remotely working with.

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Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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