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Open Office Hours: A Safe Haven for Authenticity and Connection

Upon checking my work schedule this morning, I felt relieved to discover that I had only two meetings planned for the day. The first is a one-on-one session with a new colleague, with whom I will be starting a new project. The second is my weekly office hours, which I look forward to every Monday and consider to be the highlight of my week.

On Mondays, I initiated an open office hour session to extend technical support for the weekly comprehensive updates that different programs in my department must present. At first, I was quite anxious about these meetings since my boss would often attend and redirect the agenda according to her own priorities. Fortunately, over time, she ceased attending and the meeting evolved into its own distinctive structure.

At present, this meeting serves as a safe haven where authenticity prevails and my objective is to promote inclusivity and psychological safety. The individuals who attend these sessions are intelligent, genuine, candid, compassionate, and imaginative. We engage in discussions on a wide range of topics, including their presentations, and occasionally the dialogue delves into deeper and more meaningful subjects.

Reflecting on these meetings has reminded me of my previous job in the hospitality industry, where I held daily team meetings before starting the workday. These pre-shifts were crucial gatherings that not only aided the team in comprehending the shift's objectives but also granted us a chance to create a personal and significant bond with each other, something much more important than featuring a new Pinot Noir on the menu.

One of the things that made these meetings so special was the round-robin discussion format, where each team member was encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings. One question that was frequently asked during this segment was, "What is the one thing on your mind right now that you want to release?" It was remarkable to see how this question opened up avenues for conversation and helped establish a deeper level of trust among team members.

Through these conversations, we learned about each other's lives outside of work, and we discovered that our coworkers were more than just colleagues. We learned about each other's families, hobbies, and interests, which ultimately helped us understand each other better and build stronger relationships.

For instance, during one of these discussions, we learned that a team member's grandmother was hospitalized, and we could offer our support and assistance. On another occasion, someone shared that they had sprained their ankle while skateboarding, and we all offered our empathy and encouragement and a little extra support during their shift. Overall, these round-robin discussions served as an emotional checkpoint for our team, and they helped us connect on a deeper level, creating a supportive and inclusive environment in which we could thrive.

But I digress, over the weekend, I spent some time reflecting on the challenging work environment I currently find myself in and decided to share my thoughts on my blog. To my surprise, the post has received more views in the short 12 hours since it went live than any other post I have ever shared.

This isn't the first time I've shared about the struggles I face in the workplace. In the past, I've taken to social media to express my frustrations, only to be met with reports to human resources for making others uncomfortable. It's disheartening to have my honest expressions of my work experience met with such hostility, but it's also a reality that many people face.

Despite the pushback I've received in the past, I felt it was essential to share my thoughts on my blog, as it's a platform where I feel free to express myself authentically. I understand that discussing difficult topics can be uncomfortable, but I believe it's necessary to shed light on the issues that people face in the workplace.

It's encouraging to see that my recent blog post has resonated with so many people, and I hope it can serve as a starting point for important conversations about how we can create more supportive and inclusive work environments.

Every morning, I write in my personal journal, but lately, my work-related thoughts have taken over its pages. To avoid this, I've decided to separate my work and personal journals, although I recognize that they may overlap as I strive to bring my whole self to every space I inhabit. Although I will keep my personal musings private, I've started a new section on my blog called "Open Office Hours," where I hope to share amusing, interesting, and perhaps even profound insights towards building a more inclusive workplace. I hope you find it inspiring!

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