Bridging the Connection Gap: How HubSpot Managers are Hacking Hybrid Work
By: Eimear Marrinan, Senior Director of Culture at HubSpot
What does connection mean to you? As HubSpot continues to lean into flexibility with our hybrid work model, this is a question that continues to be top of mind.
Pre-pandemic, many of us might have given an answer about the importance of strong internet connectivity or how in-office happy hours helped bridge the gap between colleagues. But today, the challenges we face with connection run much deeper. In a recent study, almost 50% of US workers confirmed that they don’t feel a sense of connection to co-workers — a problem that, if left unresolved, can negatively impact not only your people, but your business.
We might not have it all figured out yet, but we know that hybrid work takes creativity, intentionality, and a bit of experimentation to get right. And, as HubSpot’s hybrid population has grown over the past few years, we’re lucky that our managers have had the courage to experiment with ways to bridge the connection gap across time zones and work preferences. Some of these experiments may have hit the mark on the first try and some might have taken a little time to get right. We’ve crowdsourced some of the most creative ideas HubSpotters have implemented on their own teams in hopes it sparks inspiration and a newfound focus on building better connections.
Promoting Psychological Safety and Inclusion
Feeling connected at work is deeply rooted in having a sense of belonging. To truly foster a culture of connection, teams must be really intentional about creating a psychologically safe workplace where everyone feels empowered to bring their whole self.
- “Our team holds monthly diversity, inclusion and belonging (DI&B) discussions in order to stay connected and foster an inclusive environment. We use the DI&B team’s monthly discussion kits as a guide, and we also encourage each team member to take turns hosting each session and sharing additional content that might be specific to their region so that we can continue learning more about each other. We’ve changed the meeting cadence over time based on feedback to ensure our approach is globally inclusive, and the process has evolved from there. As a team, we are all committed to these discussions and make sure they occur every month just like any other recurring meeting.” — Jaime Roberson, Payroll Analyst
- “To increase psychological safety and inclusivity, I added a footer to my email regarding working hours: ‘My work day may look different than your work day. Please do not feel any pressure to respond outside of your normal working hours.’” — Brian Garvey, VP, Partner Program
- “The Customer Training team has a weekly touch base where an X/Y access is used to plot your energy level and emotional state. It’s a great way to give a visual of where you are at. Your colleagues can keep this in mind as they interact over the week. A second great idea is to put a yellow, red, or green dot on your Slack profile so that you can see where your team is at a glance and use that information to approach conversations, offer support, or offer additional challenges.” — V Boykin, Senior Program Manager, Global Skills
Cultivating Connection Asynchronously
As a hybrid workforce with folks located around the world, not everyone is going to be online at the same time. That’s why we rely on asynchronous communication to keep team members connected. With the right tools and strategies, we’re able to stay aligned as a team, while also prioritizing inclusion for those in different time zones.
- “I automate prompts via Slack workflows in my team Slack channel. It gives us an asynchronous way to check in with each other each week with questions and prompts that promote engagement, without putting the burden on any one individual to start the conversation every time.” — Meaghan Williams, Manager, Hybrid Enablement & Operations
- “For meetings that are purely focused on updates, I use a slide deck to host the meeting asynchronously. Instead of attending live, folks are asked to update their slide by a certain deadline and then all attendees are asked to review and comment on the completed slides by a second deadline. It’s a lightweight, timezone-inclusive way to keep everyone in the loop!” — Kathryn Ahern, Team Lead, Global Culture Programs
- “In Slack, we have a ‘What we have done today, what we will do tomorrow, any roadblocks, and three things we are grateful for today.’ This allows us to keep updated on what other folks are working on, help if there are any roadblocks, and cheer on their grateful moments. We often acknowledge or reply with fancy emojis. As a manager, this allows me to be on track on how my team is without necessarily seeing them, chatting or talking to them constantly.” — Alessandra Conca, Manager, Services
In a hybrid environment, it’s easy to lose those spontaneous interactions between colleagues that build trust and connection. But even for our in-office workers, spontaneous connection is largely a thing of the past. That’s why managers need to be really intentional about creating opportunities for people to connect on a more personal level. Because, even if we’re not all in the office together, we can’t lose sight of what makes a great company culture: the people.
- “I remove the need for ‘hallway’ chats by oversharing information in Slack and team meetings. This includes small tidbits and anecdotes. It all adds up to people feeling they know the same as anyone in the office, and are part of the same in-jokes.” — Louise Bernstein, Director, Product Management
- “We host a monthly “Little Saturday” which comes from a tradition in Sweden. Our team is keen on playing Scattegories but regardless of the game, we typically play virtual games as a part of our little Saturday.” — Ari Echt-Wilson, Manager, Retail and Conversations Strategy
- “A very simple thing I’ve been doing to meet new team members is in a big group meeting, I’ll pick someone I don’t know who’s contributing to the group chat, introduce myself on Slack, and suggest a 1:1 meet and greet. Usually, I do this with people who are commenting on things I’m really passionate about or who seem to have a POV about a thing I’m working on. I suppose it’s my version of a HubSpot Mixer, but instead of a completely random match, I’m connecting with someone who I already know I have something in common with. It’s my way of trying to recreate the random office/coffee bar interaction I don’t get in a hybrid world.” — Libby Maurer, VP, User Experience
We firmly believe that the future of work is flexible. And there are many benefits to this approach. But building a hybrid workplace that solves for connection is not without its challenges. I don’t know if we’ll ever reach a place where we can confidently say that we’ve mastered the art of connection in a hybrid world, but we’re making progress one experiment at a time.