Connecting and Reconnecting During New-Hire Week
Working remotely with a small team during a pandemic is vastly different from working in person at an agency with 300-plus people. However welcoming and conducive to business the office may be, any unfamiliar place can trigger that first-day-of-school apprehension we never outgrow.
In February 2020, AbelsonTaylor relocated its headquarters to Chicago’s newly renovated Old Post Office, an Art Deco landmark with a footprint the size of four football fields. Occupying the entire sixth floor of the north building plus a portion of the south building, the agency’s space was strategically designed to foster creative collaboration, provide unprecedented workstyle freedom, and facilitate future business expansion. But the champagne had barely been uncorked before COVID forced us to lock up and go home, leaving our wonderful new workplace dormant.
Fast forward to summer 2022 and AT’s offices are lively again. More and more staff are transitioning back to in-person collaboration in our dynamic workplace. There’s a sense of discovery in the return, even for those who’ve been at AT for many years. For the 49 staff hired since January, the time had come to be integrated into the agency and meet fellow employees in person, many for the first time.
To ease the transition, AT held “New Hire Week” in late June, featuring a variety of activities to introduce new staff to the agency and give veteran staffers the chance to meet and personally interact with their new colleagues.
Agency president Jeff Berg set the tone, giving staff a warm welcome, highlighting AT’s achievements throughout the pandemic, and talking about the joys of working shoulder-to-shoulder again with co-workers and clients. New staff met in person with their managers and teams, getting an in-depth briefing on the agency’s departments, capabilities, and full range of resources. They also met over lunch with AT’s Senior Leadership Team, a five-person committee that advises the agency on key business and policy decisions.
Tours of the AT space revealed an enviable array of options for different workstyles. Although everyone has a dedicated workspace, no one is confined to working there. With 27 focus rooms, 19 conference rooms, 17 flex rooms, five open collaboration spaces, and two large cafes, there are multiple places for doing business. (Fun fact: two of the focus rooms are artifacts of the building’s post office days. They were originally large vaults used to safeguard jewels and other valuables traveling by mail.)
New staff also got a tour of the Old Post Office building. (Another fun fact: the building appears in the movies Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.) AT staff enjoy many on-site amenities as tenants of the Old Post Office, including a bar with a bocce court, a cozy lounge, a large fitness center with a boxing ring, a food hall, and a 3.5-acre rooftop deck with basketball courts, a running track, and open green space.
Capping off New-Hire Week, everyone relaxed and socialized at a happy hour on the roof as well as at a gathering in one of AT’s two cafes. New staff felt connected to the agency in a broader, more personal way while veteran staff felt energized to be back in the office surrounded by old and new colleagues. Because New-Hire Week was such a success, we’re going to do it again periodically to welcome new staff. Orientation has never been this interactive or this much fun.