June 1, 2020

Thoughts by Sara Wiggershaus, Client Services Manager

Today Aileron is opening our doors (granted, in a much different, limited, and nuanced way) for the first time in more than two months. It’s a day we’ve been looking forward to for weeks, and one we’ve been planning for since we initially closed our building back in March. As difficult as the decision to close campus was, re-opening has presented many more challenges and questions: Is this the right time? Can we open campus while keeping people healthy and safe? How can we create an environment where learning is front-and-center and isn’t eclipsed by fear or over-regulation?

After weeks of deliberation, we landed on our answers: yes, yes, and very intentionally.

We’re honored to share that when we reached out to our community to collect information about what would make you feel safe on campus, we got one resounding reply: we trust you to make those decisions. We take your trust very seriously, and have made each and every decision with our community’s best interest in mind.

We’re writing today to share insights into the decisions we’ve made as an organization so that if you’re engaging with us in the next few weeks, you have some context for the “why” behind our choices. For information on specific changes we’re making to campus, you can check out Moving Forward with Aileron FAQs, which we’re updating in real-time to host the most up-to-date information.

Shifting to low-touch while staying highly interactive

Our campus was designed to be experiential; as you walk around, you’re invited to interact with not just people, but with the building itself. Our first challenge was to move from the high-touch experience Aileron was designed for to a low-touch experience that doesn’t sacrifice engagement – and we’re confident with where we’ve landed.

We’ve made many low-touch modifications around the building: instead of self-serve coffee, your coffee will be served to you; instead of sharing a basket of whiteboard markers, you might have your own assigned to you. These details are small, but they’re important; they’ll preserve your experience and protect your team without sacrificing the interactivity you need to do the work.

Creating physically and emotionally safe space

Aileron has always been a safe space for business leaders. You come to campus to explore, experiment, try, fail, ask questions, and find your way to answers. We intentionally create a physical environment where our community can feel comfortable being vulnerable, because growth requires it. Many details – like our mile-long driveway – were designed to empower mental distance from the outside world; this separation of real-world actuality and what-could-be possibility empowers our community to think outside of the bounds of what currently is.

We’re now applying that concept to the physical safety of our space. Our goal is for safety to be so gracefully woven into your experience that you feel confident and safe putting it in the back of your mind so you can focus on the work you came to do. And from the minute you arrive, you’ll see we’ve taken every piece of your experience with campus into consideration. We’re confident in the balance we’ve struck, and we wouldn’t be opening unless we were.

Seeking diverse perspectives

Part of the reason opening has been a more monumental task than closing campus is that our team is highly collaborative; the benefits of collaboration vastly outweigh the negatives, but when it comes to decision making, it poses unique challenges.

There were a few easier paths than the one we chose. Keeping campus closed would have been easy. Coming down with an iron fist and making decisions without considering other perspectives would have been easy. But neither of those are the right path forward for us. So we synthesized input form every team, client surveys, government mandates, and community insights to inform our reopening plans. We navigated emotionally charged opinions about mask wearing (more on that here if you’re interested), room usage, food and drink accessibility, and more. We had hard conversations and made tough decisions, but we kept your health and your experience top-of-mind, and we’re extremely confident with where we landed.

Join us in navigating the next normal

As our team adjusts to the newness, we’re relying heavily on our we > me value, and we invite you to join us. The changes you’ll experience as you re-engage with Aileron are designed to protect something bigger than each of us individually: our community. We’re putting aside our individual opinions, embracing the newness, and moving forward the best way we can. And while some things will feel different, some things will always be the same, mainly the work you come to campus to do, the clarity you have when you leave, and the support you experience during the process. We can’t wait to see you soon.

Hear from more members of the Aileron team in these other journal-style posts:

  • “Creating a ‘We’ Culture During COVID-19” by Kristen Rhoads, People Engagement Manager
  • “Making Space for Gratitude” by Joni Fedders, President
  • “Redefining Flexibility” by Joni Fedders, President
  • “Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster” by Joni Fedders, President