Firms struggling to find the balance that brings folks back to the office to reap the benefits of collaborative work while providing the market-demanded flexibility of work-from-home schedules have flirted with mandatory office attendance days and even withholding bonuses. But maybe the easier solution is just… making the office an enjoyable place to be?
Seward & Kissel takes the latter approach and they’re going above and beyond to build that enjoyable office community.
The inaugural Seward & Kissel Golf Open featured roughly 100 golfers competing across all six floors of the firm’s New York office. Each floor took responsibility for designing the holes in their space, with one floor going so far as to contact the folks from Guinness to figure out the longest miniature golf hole in the world… and top it. For the record, Seward & Kissel’s 508-foot hole topped the mark, though as a non-commercial course, it’s ineligible to be enshrined as the new record holder.
And it all came together because partner Steven Nadel observed the same hybrid work pressures the rest of the industry deals with. “We’ve tried over the years… during COVID you had all these half-baked attempts to bring everyone together like wine tastings or movie nights, but they don’t resonate because some people just don’t want to do them. We wanted to come up with something different, super fun, that put everyone on equal footing so everyone could participate.”
Nadel had organized a putting competition for his floor as a summer event in 2018, offering a rolling prize for making a long-distance putt. When he began working on something for the end of the year, someone reminded him of how much fun they had with that event, and Nadel resolved to take it to another level.
As he put it, “I’m a big believer in thinking big.”
As a community-building exercise, the event energized the firm beyond the day of the event. Nadel reported folks going out on their own time to purchase more decorations and the mail room staff showing off their hole-engineering efforts.
Awards were given for the top five golfers, best dressed, and for the floor with the best designed hole. Firm veteran legal secretary Linda Skalacki took top honors and the trophy, which I’m not sure has a name but we’ll just call it the Seward Cup for now.
When it comes to bringing an office together, there are a lot of firms eyeing top-down, punishment-based models to get everyone back. But what firms really need are leaders with a philosophy like Nadel’s: “It’s just as easy to be nice and fun.”
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.