Founder Fix #3: Finding a Hybrid Work Solution
By Jurjen van Rees, CCO/COO of RheoCube
Everywhere I turn, I see another take on the future of work.
The office is dead, long live remote work.
Why remote never works.
How to be successful as a fully remote team.
All of these have been insightful reads, but what always interested me most are solutions that take into account the individual — not the collective to which everyone must adapt. Essentially, I wanted to understand the ideal approach to hybrid work that we could implement at RheoCube.
Fluctuating covid restrictions since June meant that many people were starting to come back to work in the office. People wanted to be in the office. But due to covid space regulations and fast company growth — especially during the pandemic — we were lacking space.
We’re now in the process of looking for a new office to accommodate our growing team, and the sentiment of our staff plays a role in helping us choose the right space. It was important for us to understand what was plausible and how we could juggle the needs of our team with our existing resources. We wanted to do this without making costly mistakes along the way.
Surveying the Team, the Dutch Way
This situation called for a good old-fashioned employee survey. In the Netherlands, we have something known as the poldermodel. It’s a method of consensus decision-making that focuses on cooperation despite differences. It aims to take into account all participants in a situation and engage them in constructive dialogue.
Our goal was to survey staff, gather input and create a flexible plan to move forward. We took action with a few key questions in mind:
- What do our individual team members really want in their work setup, especially after having spent a year and a half in a work-from-home setting?
- When do teams have particular or special needs (a significant number of new hires, development sprints, problem-solving) and how can they address them?
- When and how should we communicate and implement an effective hybrid work structure, given our aggressive growth targets?
Survey Data Insights and our Funny 20
We were right about one thing: people really care about this issue. We got a 100% response rate within 24 hours.
We quickly analyzed the data through a strategic and organizational development lens, with the help of Join Capital, our HR Business Partner, Florentine, and Jennifer Diamant Foulon, an external consulting partner. The resulting data both surprised us and confirmed our initial hunches.
- Connection. Every single person desired some connection to the office. Yes, not one person on the team answered that they prefer no office time. These results are in line with recent studies, including the Future of Work 2021 report by Accenture.
- Productivity. 79% of people believe they are equally productive or more productive working from home. This data becomes important in our future flexibility with changing regulations.
- Communication. A number of people mentioned that there is room for improvement in the way we manage communication. We have attentioned this with workshops to ensure that it stays on all of our radars.
Although everyone was interested in returning to the office some of the time, we can’t disregard the fact that there was also some hesitancy among our staff to return — and understandably so. Many have their own reasons, which range from concerns about safety to logistics and unspoken personal preferences.
This 20% (which we nicknamed the Funny 20) needed to be heard and included in whichever plan we chose. That meant we needed to take into account things like the unspoken reasons why people prefer remote work — and also why many introverts have thrived in remote environments — while also recognizing the importance of in-person interaction and collaboration.
Our Hybrid Fix
For Q3, we’ve implemented a plan for each team (we have around 5) to come into the office one day per week as a fixed minimum. On top of that, any team member can take open spots left over. We find that new team members and their team leads, for example, benefit from the ability to sit side by side in the office within their first 4–6 weeks.
In Q4 2021, we aim for everyone to be in the office for a minimum of three days per week. Based on the survey data, we’ll be creating focus spaces in our new office. The idea is that those who want to be social in the office will have areas to do so, while also leaving space for those who would rather work in a calmer environment.
Of course, we need to remain flexible as circumstances shift and government regulations adapt. Office attendance can be scaled back again if tighter regulations go into effect.
Success starts with a survey
Implementing an effective hybrid workforce structure involves discovering what each individual and team needs in order to do their best work. Our survey helped us start the dialogue. In these times, the solution must also be adaptable. Data, open communication and an ear for the needs of new hires have helped us create a flexible solution that works for us.
Team leaders can now manage productive dialogue with their individual team members and recommend what is best for safety and productivity. Ultimately, this helps us support an engaged, productive and happy team, and allows RheoCube to grow sustainably as a company.
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