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  • marissabadgley

In Defense of IRL

The more I get into real rooms with real people sharing real experiences in the real world, the more convinced I am that 100% remote workplaces are unsustainable and will inhibit organizations from reaching their full potentials.

There is magic in authentic human connection. Our shared energy manifests creativity, innovation, productivity, and compassion in completely different ways than when we are working in virtual spaces.

But before you kill the messenger…

I know that we are never going back to working fully in-person and I want to be clear that I don’t think that’s the right solution. FOR SO MANY REASONS.

There is no evidence at this point that shows that work quality significantly suffers by giving people flexibility and trusting them to do their work from home. Many jobs can be completed fully remotely.

However, we cannot ignore that functional organizations are not merely a collection of jobs. Instead, organizations are a collection of human beings who are doing jobs in the service of a shared vision or goal. Organizations are communities and communities are formed through the intentional and serendipitous intertwining of relationships and experiences over time.

And here’s the thing. Our workplace communities are suffering more than ever, with more than half of American workers reporting that they are psychologically and emotionally unattached to their work and their company in 2021.

So, while I do not advocate for forcing people together to do their normal jobs or to have strategic conversations that absolutely can be done on Zoom, I do think leaders need to start seriously talking about how to create space for regular and meaningful in-person experiences.

This is not about hosting occasional happy hours, escape rooms, or holiday parties. It’s also not about spending a lot of money on a leadership retreat to Bali.

Instead, it’s about designing intentional, intimate, and responsive in-person EXPERIENCES for people at all levels of organizations to get to know each other, to play together, to work through conflicts or tensions, to breathe the same air, and feel the magic of BEING in a shared space.

It’s about building a safe and inclusive container for people to see each other not as virtual boxes that can be conveniently turned off at the end of a meeting, but as real people with stories and experiences and emotions that significantly impact the way they do their jobs and the way they relate to others.

In this mostly-still-remote age, we need to focus on building community that can be sustained in the virtual environment but can’t truly be created there.

And when companies do this well, ingenuity, productivity, collaboration, and retention are all improved. Mostly, people do not seek to leave workplaces where they have a vested interest, where they feel emotionally connected to the people with whom they work, and where they feel psychologically safe and taken care of.

Of course, there are myriad factors that are contributing to people quitting their jobs at unsustainable rates right now. But focusing on community and humanity is a really good place to start conversations about building the types of workplaces where people want to work and want to stay.

Reloveution recommends considering the following questions as the foundation for designing an in-person employee experience strategy:

What are the activities that feel significantly less effective and meaningful when completed online? What rituals, routines and traditions might be better suited to in-person experiences than virtual ones (and vice versa)?

When and how can our full organization come together in-person to build relationships, norm on vision/values, have fun, and optimize for meaningful, often serendipitous human connection?

When and how can teams, departments, and/or other established internal groups come together in-person for shared learning, processing conflicts or challenges, or getting to know each other?

When and how can individuals come together in-person to initiate or deepen relationships, learn from each other, or share experiences? How can leaders support and encourage these interactions?

How can we systematize and build IRL experiences into our processes and the expectations for employees, no matter where or how they do their jobs? Consider: hiring, onboarding, check-ins, training, brainstorming, etc.

What are the practical, psychological, or safety-related barriers that inhibit us from getting together in-person? How can we plan to mitigate these barriers and ensure wellbeing without sacrificing the importance of being together?

Or…leave it to us!

Building transformational communities is Reloveution’s specialty and we’d be honored to help you and your team effectively navigate this complex moment safely and intentionally. Here are some of the things we can do for you in real life!

Retreats & Offsites

We design and facilitate an unforgettable, human-centered experience for your company, team, or group rooted in your specific needs and culture. We can also facilitate components of the events you’re already planning.

Management Institutes

We bring managers together in an inspiring (not necessarily expensive) place for 3-5 days to learn and safely practice fundamental management and leadership skills, while building relationships and having fun.


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