This summer, Leff colleagues from around the world convened at the office in Chicago for a two-day, in-person event. We held department meetings and lunches and small-group dinners; we worked side-by-side; we listened to a guest speaker. And we capped the two days off at a Ukrainian Village venue where we got to enjoy a bar, yard games, a button-making station, an artist painting a canvas live, food trucks, and a vaudeville performance. I laughed more that night than I did in the six months prior combined.
It was also a huge shock to my system. After the first day, I couldn’t believe I had another full day of socializing ahead of me. But as someone who worked at Leff long before we went remote, it was so nice to be reminded of how much I like my colleagues and how much fun we have together. And it got me wondering…What do new hires think of all of this? I can’t really imagine walking into a room of 45 people you work closely with every day but have never met in person before. Talk about exhausting!
I asked two of my newest colleagues, Becky and Clair, who are both project managers and who work closely with staff across Leff departments, what the experience was like.
How did it feel to be working all together in the Leff office?
Becky: Honestly, it was a little overwhelming at first. Like many people, I’ve spent the past 2.5 years working remotely, and walking into the office that first day at full capacity…There was so much energy (and volume!) that it took me a minute to wrap my head around this new setting. But after everyone settled into their groove and I was able to take it all in, it was refreshing to feel like a part of this team.
Clair: For most of my career, I have worked in an office environment but have historically dreaded it. The AC was always set too cold, water cooler talk felt awkward, and you could always hear a pin drop. Having worked with Leff as a client prior to joining the team, I went into the gathering with high expectations—and they were beyond matched. Having a staff full of diverse and interesting individuals creates a buzzing atmosphere different from any other office I’ve worked in previously. La Croix was flowing, vinyl records were playing, and people were chatting about work and life in every corner.
What were the benefits of working in the office compared with working remotely?
Becky: I went through onboarding remotely, so it was the first time meeting most of my colleagues face to face. You can really get to know someone while sharing lunch or awkwardly waiting for the elevator. Plus, it was nice to listen to good music on the turntable throughout the day instead of my husband’s conference calls, which typically take place 10 feet from me in our makeshift home offices (read: kitchen).
Clair: I love my home office setup and don’t see myself reverting to “old ways.” But working in the office has its benefits, and I looked forward to these two days, since going downtown isn’t my regular routine. Being able to turn your chair to discuss a quick question with a colleague is irreplaceable, as are the small things you get to learn about one another by being together in a shared space.
What surprised you most, or what did you experience that you weren’t expecting?
Becky: I got to experience live how different and special Leff’s culture is. This wasn’t your typical company outing. Lots of shenanigans of which we shall not speak…
Clair: Though I was prepared for a good time, I did not expect Leff’s leaders and our colleagues who volunteered to organize the events (thanks, KC!) to put so much thought into this gathering. For most corporate events, you get treated to a dinner and some sort of swag like a notebook. But Scott and team put a lot of effort into treating everyone well and making sure that we know how much our work is appreciated. There was a donut truck, after all. Need I say more?
Is it important for Leff to continue to make time for these get-togethers?
Becky: ABSOLUTELY. Building nonwork relationships with colleagues goes a long way. Having had the chance to get to know my colleagues better, I feel more at ease when I need to reach out with work questions or need help with something. And who doesn’t appreciate a chance to discuss Malört cocktails and how painful it is to touch your eye after cutting a jalapeño pepper, amiright?
Clair: If I had to choose one word to describe Leff, it would be “collaborative.” I think it would be impossible for all of us to be as good at our jobs if we did not feel a sense of connection with one another. When you work as closely as we all do, it’s important to know your colleagues on more than a superficial level. At the end of the two days, I felt closer to my colleagues, and I left with a greater enthusiasm for the work that we do—and the people I get to do it with.