We’re grappling with what our standard of safety will be, the point where we feel comfortable making a call to reopen the office, while remaining flexible for people who aren’t ready to come back. I’m fortunate to have Regina Manza, our very experienced office manager who knows the firm and the office inside and out, and Lisa Nagorny, a former US Navy intelligence officer and management consultant who has an ability to simplify complex systems. They’re part of the team that is helping think through a number of implications as we go through this: Can people do their work effectively in a remote environment? What about our policies around flexibility? How does that affect people of different jobs, or living in different locations? Is that fair?
The challenge is finding something that’s based on best-practices, but also uniquely suited to the work we do and our culture—professional services is very different than a manufacturing company, and our culture depends on interaction. We haven’t discussed moving Brunswick permanently to working from home. That’s not something we considered because it wouldn’t lead to our best work.
That said, this gives us an opportunity to explore some ways of working that, beforehand, we had a natural bias against. Though we had the capability, we never really used video calls aside from the occasional interview. We preferred face-to-face. Now we can see the benefits of being able to collaborate globally in a way that feels more personal and provides much better connection than a phone call. We’ve welcomed two Partners to the New York office since we’ve been working from home: Jane Reiss, Managing Partner of North America for Merchant Cantos, and Peter Dillon, Managing Partner Brunswick Arts. They onboarded virtually and have jumped right in. I speak with them regularly and feel like I know them even though we’ve never met in person.
The situation changes by the hour. Whatever happens, I don’t want us to cloud our ability to make judgments based on local conditions because we feel a pressure to return. New Yorkers tend to be impatient—in a good way—and we all want to get back to routines and the collaboration we miss. And we will. As we learn more about how to live alongside this virus, we’re adjusting and will make a decision. If things continue to go as they are in New York City, I’d say we’ll be phasing in our pilot group this summer and starting to have more people in by fall.
One thing I know for sure is that New York and the team are an incredibly optimistic and resilient bunch. In recent weeks, our city has seen thousands take to the streets in protest, rising up in the face of injustice and brutality. We’ve been coming to grips with what is not a new—but a fresh—grief, anger and sense of exhaustion about how to end the systemic racism that is a part of our culture. In these moments, I stay grateful for what’s in front of me: the gift of time with my two children and husband, a chance to stay connected in more profound ways, and the hope that we’ll be face-to-face again soon.
Maria Figueroa Küpçü heads the New York Office of Brunswick Group and is a senior advisor specializing in reputation campaigns, issues management and social purpose communications. She has anchored the Business & Society offer in the US and developed Brunswick’s global stakeholder engagement offer.