Living Work Communities: Lessons from College

I have a high school senior, and we are in the throes of the college application process. (Shout out to parents with seniors: as if this process isn’t enough in a “normal” year!) As we navigate the decisions, one school became a front-runner because they offered Living Learning Communities (LLCs). LLCs are residential communities with students sharing similar academic interests and goals. They’ve been around for decades, but are increasing in popularity as they encourage relationship building, learning beyond the classroom, and even claim to increase graduation (success) rates. And if you ask my son why an LLC is a differentiator for a school, he’ll say, “I want to be around people that are interested in what I’m interested in”. Who doesn’t?

In 2020 so many of us have experienced a new and different work community experience. In our old world, we’d commute to the office, leaving a good portion of our personal selves behind. It was easy to know very little about a colleague’s personal life. Now that we’ve invited our colleagues into our homes with virtual work, we’ve learned it’s hard to separate our work-selves from our home-selves. And in most cases, we’ve developed empathy and a community that did not exist before.

Let’s fast-forward to life in 2021 and beyond…

Could we find ourselves in a world where our virtual work environments are more like LLCs? I attended a thought-provoking session on Our Future Work Experience: Turning Challenge into Opportunity that brought forward some of these ideas. If we could re-think our work environments, we could create virtual Living Work Communities that drive empathy, learning, and success by being

  • Inclusive. With no geographic boundaries or barriers, our teams would provide more equitable ground for individuals with disabilities, cultural or socioeconomic differences.
  • Personal. Because we now live at work, we understand more about our colleagues and respect their whole person, not just their work person.
  • Fully Immersive. Learning and work do not have to stop when the clock says it should. Teams will come together during scheduled times and take breaks as they need them.

If we can reimagine our work experience, we might be able to close the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging gaps. And hopefully have as much fun as we did in college.

Cheryl Farley is a partner at PeopleResults.

Cheryl Farley