It has been well over 18 months since our broader team (of about 40) was last together in the office. 

We have a Town Hall every Friday at 12. It is optional but almost everyone always attends. It is a small opportunity to reconnect, importantly reconnect with those with whom we wouldn’t necessarily do so on a regular basis, and even connect for the first time with people we’ve never met in person.

I was reflecting on how strange it is that I’ve been working with some people for years but never actually met them – that I don’t really know much about them. Sure there have been several “getting to know you” sessions but to be honest, they often feel a bit unnatural. How do you really get to learn something important about a person? What inspires them and makes them feel alive?

I know my eyes light up when I start talking about my travels so I suggested we incorporate an “Armchair Travel” segment to our Town Halls.

It’s a simple idea. Each week, one person has 3 minutes to share 3 photos of their favourite travel destination or hometown (we have many expats from all over the world).

I kicked it off with a few photos from Japan. I themed my pics on Japanese castles which ultimately led to tiny stories both about them and loosely related to them. For example, my visit to Okayama castle was with friends with whom I stayed and learnt to make gyoza.

I intentionally kept my presentation to three (okay, 4) pics and under three minutes so that people didn’t feel intimated or think that it required a lot of planning or effort.

The next week, another colleague shared her stories of Scotland: her favourite travel destination and home for many years. We learnt about Scotland’s “most bizarre building” the Pineapple and her high school (which looked more like Hogwarts) that burnt to the ground.

She delivered these stories in a carefully thought-out PowerPoint presentation with cute callouts and embellishments.

The next week another team member took us on a map-led journey of her pre-Covid worldwide tour. After that, another shared intimate stories of his family and their annual schnapps production in a tiny, storybook village on the French-German border.

What started as a little escapism quickly turned into a way to not only learn more about – but to understand more deeply these people who we work with. It was lovely to see people talk with a passion and energy most of us don’t normally get to see.

Header photo by louis magnotti on Unsplash

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