If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that digital media and communication tools cannot replace the real-office world as we knew it before COVID. They may take over a large part of the everyday necessities such as planned group discussions, presentations, and regular updates. Thanks to technology, the audience can even span the globe.

Digital coffee is bitter

But soon after the start of prescribed remote work, it became clear that something was still missing. For example, informal small talk at the coffee machine or casual feedback across the desk. The loss of these supposedly banal things left some employees frustrated and lonely at their desks or dining tables at home. Others, surrounded by the nursery- or school-age children who had also been banished to their homes, experienced a completely different mental abyss.

Digital attempts to compensate for the lack of social contact soon clogged our calendars. One appointment followed the next. Next to the informal looseness, time for focussed work now became a scarce commodity. At some point, a decision had to be made: “digital coffee chat” or proper conceptual work? 

Change in empty offices

Suddenly the job was reduced to essential professional aspects. Sometimes, only fragments of any former team spirit, cohesion among colleagues, or a living corporate culture remained. Long-time companions left the company almost unnoticed. Newcomers got onboarded in their own living rooms.

As COVID restrictions fall, the agency life of the old days is now returning to our offices... or so we thought. But in fact, it is a different life, because the pandemic has changed our agency significantly. Edelman Germany hired almost 160 (!) new colleagues between March 2020 and March 2022. 160 new personalities, experiences, expectations and ideas of what life and work at Edelman is all about. In addition, there are numerous team members who already helped shape our agency pre-COVID. They had all (somehow) come to terms with the remote work, but now many of them finally wanted to experience their team, their agency, in analog, face-to-face and in real life again!

Experiencing corporate values

At the end of June, the time had come: After a phase of getting to know each other with individual team offsites, a few office breakfasts and after-work office drinks, team Edelman Germany – from Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, and Munich – came together in the capital for a cultural festival 23rd-24th June. Two days dedicated exclusively to getting to know each other and meeting again. No figures, no strategy workshops, the focus was exclusively on the team idea and the fun factor.

Our corporate values functioned as a thematic framework:

  • The Freedom to Be Constantly Curious: As a warmup, we started a city rally in 30°C weather. The teams were chosen randomly so that people were mixed up and could get to know each other while competing against the other teams.
  • The Commitment to Positively Impact Society: In a “skill auction” we used the diversity of our talents. Anyone who wanted could offer a special skill for auction. These ranged from crochet animals to poetry, city tours to investment advice. At the auction, participants outbid each other to dizzying heights, not least because the proceeds were donated to the German Red Cross. Over €1,300 were raised for a good cause, and some colleagues got to know a whole new side of themselves.
  • The Courage to Do the Right Thing: The keynote speech and subsequent discussion with Ralph Zimmerer, one of the initiators and publishers of the book, Generation Rainbow, was somewhat more serious, but no less exciting. In his rousing speech, Ralph made clear how important visible LGBT*IQ role models are in companies. In the recently published book, whose launch Edelman worked on pro-bono, various personalities from business, media and the public describe their experiences with their own coming out.
  • The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence: What makes Edelman special? Our diverse, dedicated, curious, smart, reliable, persistent, critical, and creative talents! From numerous nominations, an internal jury pre-selected the winners of our Edelman Excellence Awards, who were duly celebrated on the event stage in Berlin.

What will we take away from these two days spent on ourselves? Probably a good portion of togetherness, a little more life in the offices, and joyful reunions in the corridors and kitchens. Perhaps also a little bit of certainty that we at Edelman all live by the same values and stand up for the right things, despite – or precisely because of – our diversity. But we will certainly take with us the gratitude of having had these two days all to ourselves. For #OneTeamEdelman.