A few weeks ago, my colleague Shannon Williams wrote an interesting blog post called “The Rise and Fall of the Desk.’ In it, she observed that today’s workplace is different from that of even ten years ago. She noted that with abundant wi-fi, modern smartphones and lightweight laptops and tablets, the workplace could be and is anywhere including coffee shops, cars pulled over on the side of the highway or kitchen counters or even laps at home. Good points, all.
In response, I told her I was going to share another perspective on the desk and, being Shannon, she was enthusiastic about my counterpoint argument.
I just passed the 3rd anniversary of my affiliation with Armstrong McGuire and celebrated the engaging work and wonderful colleagues I’ve come to know as part of this great team. From human service organizations to private schools and arts and religious institutions, I have had and hope to continue to have great clients engaged in important and life-changing work. But for me, the nomadic life of a consultant has had its negatives as well.
Last winter I took on a 4-month interim assignment with a university, working half-time. Since then, the temporary job has been extended to 6 and subsequently 18 months. Since joining the staff as a half-time employee, I have come to appreciate “the desk” in new ways.
Belonging is a fundamental yearning of the human spirit. My sense of belonging to the Armstrong McGuire team is rock solid but, because our primary commitment is to our clients, our corporate gatherings, although regular, are infrequent. So when I joined the staff at my temporary assignment, I began to remember what it is like to have colleagues you see daily, a desk, computer and phone that are assigned to you and an office with your name on the door. It made me realize that I had been missing some things.
As I’ve written before, nonprofit work is a people business. Whether it is Kidznotes introducing under-resourced children and their families to the precision, beauty and discipline of learning to play a musical instrument, Habitat for Humanity encouraging volunteers to build decent homes for deserving families, the Triangle Community Foundation inspiring donors to support causes closest to their own interests and values, or the Raleigh Little Theatre delighting audiences with their creativity for decades, we are communities of passionate, dedicated individuals working for the same cause. The impact we have depends on working together, in groups, in meetings, at retreats, in hallway conversations and in the break room. That spontaneous flow of communication is, at its best, energizing and motivating.
So for me, an empty nester, being with colleagues on a regular basis is inspiring. This morning it was dark and rainy when the alarm went off and I began to wonder about the wisdom of this weekday commitment. But once I got to the office, was greeted by a cheerful receptionist, chatted with colleagues and settled down to emails and phone calls, I was glad I had put on the professional clothing, combed my hair and made the effort.
For me and for now, I’ll take the desk.