How HubSpot is Experimenting With The Future of the Hybrid Office
By: Kate Bueker, Chief Financial Officer at HubSpot
At HubSpot, we have a hybrid-work hypothesis. We believe that for hybrid work to be sustainable, companies need to rethink how office space is used and designed.
In 2020, HubSpot went all in on hybrid because we believe that flexibility allows people to do their best work. Since then, there’s been no shortage of chatter about the future of the office and the role it plays in the hybrid world. While focusing on extremes, we miss the broader takeaway: the office isn’t dead, it’s different. Employees returning to the office shouldn’t be walking into a time capsule from 2020. The way we work, communicate and collaborate is vastly different than it was 2 years ago — and where we work should reflect that.
Now, you may be wondering — why is a CFO talking about the future of the office? In addition to the financial and investor relations world, my team also manages global facilities and business technology, which includes ensuring HubSpot employees are able to do their best work — whether they’re in one of our office locations or in a home office.
The office continues to play an important role — for hybrid meetings, in-person connection, and for those who do their best work in that setting. Knowing that simply providing that space is no longer enough, our facilities and collaboration teams are testing our hypothesis by reimagining the office and how it can power a hybrid workforce. As with any good experiment, it’s going to take some trial and error. We are learning as we go, but here are five things we’re currently testing against our hybrid-work hypothesis:
Creating meeting equity through technology and design
A recent study found that while the majority of workers (80%) prefer the hybrid model, 71% still struggle with the friction and technical challenges that come with hybrid engagement. For successful hybrid collaboration, we need to create a meeting experience where every participant, regardless of where they are, has an equal seat at the table. That means that everyone should be clearly seen, heard and able to participate in the same way.
We’ve designated new hybrid meeting rooms across four offices (Cambridge, Dublin, Sydney, Bogota) that will have some of the following features:
- Camera technology that automatically frames each in-room participant so they can be clearly seen by the remote audience
- Thoughtful acoustics that allows everyone’s voice to be heard
- Digital whiteboards that allow all audiences to see and participate in brainstorming sessions
- Revised furniture and screen setup to ensure all in-room participants can be clearly seen at all times and avoid in-office side conversations
Solving for sustainability
From our 2022 work preferences survey, we know that about half of our workforce will work from the office at least some of the time in 2022. Based on that, we have an opportunity to be more thoughtful around how we maximize the physical office space we need across our existing locations.
In an effort to foster a collaborative office experience and ensure we are meeting our sustainability commitments as an organization, we’re scaling back energy usage and spend in unused office space across our offices. We’re optimizing our overall global facilities footprint by exploring subleasing opportunities where possible and reducing electricity usage and waste.
Designing the office to be a social anchor
There’s no doubt that for many, returning to an office is driven by opportunities to socially connect. In order to design the office as a social anchor, we need to create spaces that facilitate serendipitous connections and team collaboration. This includes open nomad tables, lounge areas with digital whiteboards, and booths to grab coffee or share meals.
Building off this theme of connection, our Culture team is also piloting “Connect For” tables, which are dedicated community areas that act as an open invitation for anyone to join, strike up a conversation, and connect. The team provides talking points, questions, activities, or games to help get the conversation flowing because we all know it can be tough to break the ice after 2+ years of having pets, partners, and roommates as our officemates.
Accommodating for privacy and focus
While social connections may bring folks in, they still need spaces to focus, rooms for private 1:1 discussions, and quiet areas. We implemented ‘no internal meeting Fridays’ in 2021, ensuring people not only have time, but also the physical space for deep work, prep or time to recharge. To continue to make this a priority, we’re experimenting with designated spaces for these use cases, with a focus on improved acoustics, phone booths, and 1:1 meeting pods along with quiet spaces for focus work and meditation.
Promoting healthy hybrid norms
While technology and office space design can bring us close to a remarkable hybrid experience, thoughtful behaviors from employees will truly create an inclusive experience for everyone. We’re investing in enabling and educating employees to adopt communication best practices, playbooks for managers in fostering psychologically safe spaces, and opportunities to connect across offices and home offices.
We recognize that none of these hybrid office experiments will be successful without feedback from our employees. That’s why we’re also prioritizing gathering data as our pilot spaces open and collecting feedback from our employees through our quarterly eNPS (employee net promoter score) survey. We may not have a conclusion for our hybrid-work hypothesis today nor a perfect playbook for running a hybrid company, but we’re building stronger convictions about what our employees need to do their best work — one experiment at a time.