- Almost half of US companies expect to adopt a hybrid-first work model by the end of 2021.
- To find out how to implement hybrid work successfully, Allwork.Space spoke to Jeanette Dorazio, CEO of Leadpages, to learn from their experiences.
- Dorazio addresses the challenges of maintaining culture, hiring practices, and why a physical, collaborative workplace is still integral to the future of work.
According to recent data from CNBC, nearly half (45%) of US companies expect to adopt a hybrid-first work model in the second half of 2021.
Many organizations are adopting the hybrid work model in response to worker demands; employees are asking for more flexibility in their work arrangements and hybrid work enables this flexibility by providing employees with more choice in how and where they work.
While keeping employees happy is certainly a great motivator for organizations—especially given the war for talent and the upcoming “great resignation”—it’s not the only reason companies are increasingly adopting hybrid work models. Research has found that “a typical U.S. employer stands to save $11,000 a year for each employee that works remotely 2-3 times a week” — not too bad of a bonus (pun intended) for companies that make the shift to hybrid work.
Still, just as the shift to remote work when the pandemic began wasn’t smooth-sailing, neither is the shift to hybrid work. Allwork.Space spoke with Jeanette Dorazio, CEO of Leadpages about the possible challenges of shifting to hybrid work and how to make the hybrid work model work for everyone—even team-members who choose to work remotely full-time.
Allwork.Space: Leadpages built a culture around hybrid work prior to the pandemic. In your experience, what are the top 3 challenges organizations must overcome as they shift to hybrid work?
Jeanette Dorazio: The first challenge that leadership at any organization will need to contend with is doubt. As a business leader, you will inevitably lean on old tropes and fall into outdated belief structures from time to time. You may worry that productivity and team culture will take a massive hit if your team doesn’t meet in-person Monday through Friday. Doubt is par for the course when you’re innovating, but press on; let the metrics be the measure of your success. Is productivity really down? How has the bottom line been affected? Survey your team along the way and track employee satisfaction to ease your doubt that you’re on the right path.
Another big challenge is maintaining the organization’s culture even while everything seems to be changing. Leadpages’ unique culture and team atmosphere has always been something that set this company apart, but we really had to wrestle with exactly what “culture” means across many Zoom calls and mixed meeting formats. Ultimately, culture is what we collectively value and invest in. Personal connection is at the heart of our culture, so we’ve been testing out all manner of in-person, all-virtual, and mixed-format events—to varying degrees of success. But the team (hopefully) knows that while not every gathering might be a smash-hit, fostering those personal connections is a core value of ours, and no idea is too “out there” to try. Selfie bingo? Zoom yoga? Murder mystery? Yes, yes, and yes.
Onboarding new employees remotely can be especially rough. The first challenge is helping new hires get the lay of the land so they understand the organizational structure and make meaningful connections with their peers. One way to facilitate that is to schedule 20-minute “meet-and-greets” between incoming employees and existing team members across the business to cover questions like “What do you do?”, “What projects might we work on together?”, and “What might we have in common outside of the office?” It’s also a good idea to give new team members a self-guided onboarding plan, so that during the first week or two, they feel empowered to fill that “dead space” between meetings with something proactive and meaningful—as opposed to sitting in discomfort, wondering what to do next.
Allwork.Space: One of the reasons why hybrid work is so attractive to employees is because it gives them choice over when and where they work. However, there’s been some debate over who should decide when an employee should come into the office, the employee or the employer. While it makes sense for employees to get that choice, there is a valid point that the employer should have a say to prevent office space from being empty on Friday afternoons and full of people on Mondays. What’s your take on this?
Because the pandemic is ongoing, we are prioritizing the health of our team. We are taking all the precautions we can to make our office a safe space, but we realize that even the strictest measures might not be enough for all of our people. Everyone’s circumstances are different and some employees have unique health concerns—maybe they are immunocompromised, or live with loved ones who are in high-risk groups.
In light of all of this, we have not mandated a return-to-office date. Rather, we are encouraging employees to communicate their needs and asking managers to accommodate those needs whenever possible.
This also comes back to hiring practices. When you rigorously hire for attributes like integrity, accountability, and dedication, it’s easier, as a leader, to have confidence and trust your team. When you find yourself distrusting your team or questioning their motives, that’s a clear sign that you have a bigger issue that needs to be addressed. Much bigger than “Which date should we return to the office?”
Allwork.Space: Part of your philosophy to ensure that the hybrid work model works is that employers need to integrate 4 key elements into their workplace culture. What are they and why are these elements important?
Those four key elements are: coming from a place of empathy, creating success through processes, getting creative with employee engagement, and having an open-door policy.
Empathy is rooted in understanding that each person’s situation is different and may come with its own slew of unique challenges. We need to educate managers to approach conversations with empathy in mind and consider how best to support each member of the team.
When some employees are working in-office and others are working remotely, it’s especially important to have the proper processes in place so that everyone knows what’s expected of them and how to succeed. Gone are the days of popping over to a coworker’s desk to clarify a point or offer feedback.
When it comes to employee engagement, nothing beats the real deal. But Zoom definitely helps. Use it to set up monthly Happy Hours or games events; Zoom Music Bingo has become a favorite of ours. At Leadpages, we recently did a Zoom murder mystery game that was a huge hit.
As for the open-door policy, I mean that figuratively, of course. But it’s important to be open and let everyone on your team know that you’re available to them for support, advice, or whatever else they need to thrive.
Allwork.Space: Speaking about creating success through process, what are some processes you recommend companies have in place to ensure seamless collaboration between in-office and remote employees?
We have all gotten pretty accustomed to using Zoom and Slack as part of our workday. Now we have to embrace these tools as part of the new normal as we move forward. As I noted earlier, employees won’t be able to just pop over to a colleague’s desk to work out details or share feedback on a project. So teams will have to create build docs, map out processes in Jira, and leverage project-management tools to ensure nothing gets missed and everyone is on the same page.
What really makes things work, though, comes back to culture yet again.
A transition to a new mode of working can be challenging, especially after the rough ride we have all been on for the past year and a half. I believe it will require a great deal of empathy, candor, no tolerance for toxicity, and normalizing things like taking a wellness day when you need one.
Allwork.Space: Speaking about workers not being able to pop over to a colleague’s desk, let’s talk about the role of the workplace as more companies adopt hybrid work. Many believe the shift to remote and hybrid work will mean the death of CBD areas and the HQ workplace. Yet, Leadpages recently announced it was moving its HQ to downtown Minneapolis. How does this decision support hybrid work?
It’s true that the single-purpose business neighborhood no longer makes sense. However, that does not mean the end of downtown. I’m excited to be able to invest in space in the downtown core and play whatever role I can in its resurgence.
I see this as an opportunity for the city to come together with the thriving business community in Minneapolis and rethink and rebuild a space that serves people better for both work and life. Our new headquarters is in North Loop, a former warehouse district in downtown Minneapolis that is transforming into a really vibrant neighborhood. We’re based out of the Colonial Warehouse. It was built in 1885 and is included on the National Register of Historic Places, but has been totally modernized to support tech businesses like ours.
So, we are providing our team with an incredible place to work, but still offering the same work-from-home flexibility that we always have.
Allwork.Space: Thanks Jeanette, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Like many SaaS companies, Leadpages lives and breathes the agile methodology—so much so that it’s interwoven in our company culture. That manifests in a few different ways: it means we are continually trying new things, and adjusting and adapting quickly as we get new information. We believe those skills and that mindset have never been more important.