Getting the gang back together

Parties, outings, and other get-togethers are filling up calendars as the university launches its Team-Building Fund

Three women from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences pose for a photographer wearing party items such as funny hats and sunglasses.

Image caption: The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences capped off the academic year with a party for faculty and staff in the Glass Pavilion.


Perhaps you've had a conversation like this in the past couple of years.

Remember how friendly Matt was, how he always popped in during meetings and gave us a good laugh? Haven't seen him since everything shut down in 2020. He always ate lunch with Brenda, that nice woman down the hall that I didn't know very well. I wonder how they're doing?

Whatever division you're in—even if the workday has remained virtual since the pandemic—you may get to hang out with those co-workers again at a ballgame, a restaurant, or maybe even an outdoor lunch as the President's Office begins to disperse a half-million dollars through the Johns Hopkins Team-Building Fund.

That's a lot of pasta! So turn off your screen, pass the garlic bread, and get reacquainted with the folks you used to stay in touch with. It's a big part of the university's Future of Work initiative that began the first of February this year and emphasizes in-person interaction, a vital component of JHU's missions of education, research, and service.

"Every division in the university will share in the fund," says Shelly Geasler, senior director of the university's Project Management Office. "It's intended to encourage in-person collaboration and teamwork to build relationships with co-workers."

"[Divisions] may want to take their team to an Orioles game or have an outdoor lunch or an off-site retreat and buy everyone lunch. The purpose is to get people together."
Shelly Geasler
Project Management Office

Though the project is still somewhat new—"we're in the early stages," says Yaacov Rubin, executive director of finance and administration, who is leading the effort—there's a lot of excitement about it.

"We're just getting started, but the timing could not be better," says Julie Kuhn Sanchez, an employee experience specialist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' HR department, whose position was recently created to advance schoolwide initiatives that contribute to building a culture of high performance and a positive employee experience. A recent KSAS end-of-semester event at the Glass Pavilion was spiced, Sanchez says, "with many conversations that had nothing to do with work."

Over the next several months, Sanchez says, the planning of her division's future events will take place with staff, faculty, and student employees "to gauge how we can best serve them."

According to Geasler, there are—generally speaking—no restrictions on how the money can be used after a division's HR representative fills out an online form requesting funds. Each division has a budgeted amount calculated based on the number of employees it has.

"They may want to take their team to an Orioles game or have an outdoor lunch or an off-site retreat and buy everyone lunch," Geasler says. "The purpose is to get people together. "Hopkins is a big place, with a lot of people coming and going each day, and people may not even know one another. A few weeks ago, I met a man in person for the first time, and I'd worked with him for two and a half years."

The Bloomberg School of Public Health, for example, has used funds for a Topgolf outing, bowling, lunch-and-learns, bird watching, tree planting, and team retreats.

Various Hopkins-related merchandise, perhaps as souvenirs of get-togethers, also can be purchased with the team-building funds. The JHU-branded goodies, which can be ordered internally through a new Hopkins Brand Store, include tote bags, tumblers, lanyards, fleece vests, baseball caps, computer backpacks, mouse pads, and other items.

"Divisional events are a great addition to the broader, universitywide events that JHU hosts, such as the annual Fall Fest staff appreciation event in September, and the on-site ice rink in January," says Pierre Joanis, vice president for human resources. "The goal is to create more opportunities for deeper engagement and collaboration outside of typical work interactions."

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