dispatches from Florida

Duke Remote Work Chronicles

Puppies on Campus Offer Shared Team Experience

Office of Communication Services team members gather for puppy love. Back row, from left: Web Administrator Greg Whitaker; Senior Writer Stephen Schramm. Front row, from left: Graphic Designer Paul Figuerado; Assistant Vice President Paul Grantham; Editor/Executive Director Leanora Minai; Writer Jack Frederick.

Finding ways to foster joy in our workday can be a vital part of employee well-being. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, either. And often, you can find free opportunities right on Duke’s campus.

Last week, our office gathered together for the first time since August in the Student Wellness Center’s meditation garden with Labrador puppies from the Duke Canine Cognition Center. In these times, we all could use a boost whether we are fully remote, hybrid or always on campus, and interactions with dogs have been proven to help us feel better. As I played with Gilda, the puppy in my arms, feelings of stress melted away.

The visit, a chance to help socialize pups Gilda and Gloria, was hosted by Duke Student Affairs and advertised on Duke’s event calendar, a great resource for things to do on and around campus.

Organizing our time with the puppies was easy: Paul Grantham, assistant vice president for the Office of Communication Services, identified a day to visit, sent our team a web link, and each of us signed up for a limited spot on Oct. 21.

Grantham said that one of the management challenges during the pandemic has been sustaining relationships with colleagues from a distance.

“Most of our interaction has been through Zoom or email,” he said. “Being together, sharing stories and laughing with one another was a great reminder why these social connections are so important. The stronger the bonds of those relationships, the stronger and more resilient we are as a team.”

A challenge of remote work is social isolation, so how do we maintain solid workplace connections in a hybrid work environment? In its annual “2021 Work Trend Index,” Microsoft highlights the value of spontaneous and planned interactions to build collaboration and innovation.

“Leaders must look for ways to foster the social capital, cross-team collaboration, and spontaneous idea-sharing that’s been driving workplace innovation for decades,” according to Microsoft’s March 2021 report.

Here at Duke, work teams are finding ways to create “watercooler” moments in a hybrid environment through virtual fun like bingo and non-work discussion during open forums.

As the pandemic threat eases, there will be more opportunities within schools, departments and units to plan in-person gatherings for hybrid teams. As you do, we would love to feature how your teams are safely getting together. Please share about your experiences or plans in the comments or send me a note and attach pictures, too.





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1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth Campbell

    Puppies!! Sounds like the best way to spend a work day!!

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