Raise leaders talk hybrid workplace at SaaStr Annual
Most of the iconic brands in technology are building hybrid workplaces
At the start of the pandemic last year, many of Facebook employees wanted to work remotely. Six months later, 80 percent of the people surveyed said they wanted to get back to the office 2-3 days per week. Times are changing.
Every six months, Facebook, as most companies have done, surveys their team to keep their finger on the pulse of how employees are fairing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these surveys have served as a means of monitoring how employees were adjusting to working remotely and when they would be ready to return to the office.
Across the tech industry many employees are clamoring to get back into the office. When they return, however, that office will likely look very different. Many companies are turning to innovative workplace models to help their employees transition back to the office while appealing to growing desires for flexibility.
Raise CEO Justin Bedecarre and President Felipe Gomez-Kraus took on this topic at this year’s SaaStr Annual, a B2B software conference that gives the tech community an unbiased look at what’s happening in the industry.
“We just did an analysis of the most successful YC companies. Ninety-five percent of those companies are going to have offices post-pandemic and most of them are going to be hybrid,” Bedecarre said. “Most of the iconic brands in technology are building hybrid workplaces. Whether you’re office centric or remote first, all of these companies have dynamic workplaces.”
The hybrid workplace is the hot model of the moment. After months spent working remotely, it gives employees a way to maintain their newfound flexibility while regaining the benefits of the in-office work environment. In their session at SaaStr Annual, Bedecarre and Gomez-Kraus detailed how this model is playing out at tech companies around the country and Raise’s own success with it.
What is hybrid?
There are many different variations of the hybrid workplace model, but the truth is whether a company claims to be office centric or remote first, most tech companies are currently operating under a hybrid model where employees are not required to be in the office Monday through Friday from 9-5.
This can include hybrid office-centric, also known as synchronized hybrid, where most of the hiring is done around hubs in certain locations and they synchronize when employees come into the office. For companies like work management app developer Asana and email and CRM Front, that means employees are in the office 2-3 days per week and work from anywhere the rest of the week.
Under another variation, hybrid flex, a percentage of the company is office centric. Whether an employee is office centric depends on the employee’s team and work type. Other employees have the ability to work remotely and the workplace is set up to accommodate both groups. This is the model used by companies like Microsoft and Facebook.
Remote first is a variation favored by companies like Coinbase, Shopify, and Brex. Under this model, the company is run remotely, but employees have access to hubs where they can collaborate with colleagues, meet customers, or work on their own.
“There’s no end with this,” Bedecarre says. “This is going to be evolving over the next ten years to figure out what the right equilibrium is between remote, hybrid, and office centric. The key is to find the harmony between them to give your team flexibility, but not miss that in-person energy that we all love.”
The case for hybrid
According to a recent Microsoft study of 60,000 employees, though remote work hasn’t caused a dive in employee productivity, it has negatively impacted collaboration. Researchers found a significant decrease in collaboration between teams causing networks to become static and siloed with fewer bridges between the disparate parts.
“People were on islands during these last 18 months,” Bedecarre said. “A lot of what we’re missing is the joy from work, the joy from having relationships with our colleagues that aren’t just in front of a computer screen.”
A hybrid model gives employees the opportunity to work in environments that enable them to thrive, whether that’s collaboratively in the office, or in a quiet space in their home. Research shows the model can lead to increased productivity, improved employee satisfaction and lower costs.
Even before the pandemic, Raise recognized the power of this model. At the start of the pandemic, 20 percent of the team worked remotely, 20 percent worked in hubs outside of the headquarters, and 60 percent was based in the San Francisco headquarters.
“We were already a hybrid company. Forty percent of our team was outside of HQ, but we knew once the pandemic hit we would never go back to the way things were. We didn’t want to,” Bedecarre said. “We all went through this journey of figuring out how best we work. There’s not just one prescription so we had to adapt to everyone's individual needs.”
What Raise is doing
Today Raise offices look a little different than they did pre-pandemic. The company grew substantially over the past two years and 50 percent of Raise’s employees were hired during the pandemic in a fully remote setting. During that time, Raise also launched a new market in Palo Alto and 25 percent of the team moved to Bay Area suburbs or new states.
Now Raise is dealing with a more distributed workforce than ever before and like many other companies, it’s working to entice those employees back to the office.
“It’s totally voluntary. We have yet to force people to come back and perhaps never will,” Bedecarre said. “We always want to incentivize our team through the carrot, not the stick.”
The first step has been to ensure Raise’s employees return to work safely. This means quickly adapting to constantly shifting local regulations related to capacity limits, masking requirements, and vaccine mandates.
“The concerns our team had were related to health and safety risk and the ability to get to and from the workplace,” Gomez-Kraus said. “We adopted a ‘Tier Minus One’ policy, which means in any of the locations we operate an office, we take the local regulation and make our policy one step more conservative.”
Once safety policies were in place it was time for Raise to create an office access plan to ensure office space for the employees who wanted it. To accommodate employees, the company utilized flex spaces like WeWork and Regus and implemented innovations like hot desking and Zoom rooms in its San Francisco headquarters.
“We decided we had to open places and meet our employees where they are,” Gomez-Kraus said. “We don’t really know if we’re in the fourth or fifth inning of this pandemic, but an office access plan is a step toward letting your employees know there is a place there for them when they need it as part of our commitment to their experience.”
Gomez-Kraus added, “We are emerging from decades of top down mandates around how, when and where people will do their best work, and in this season, each one of us has been forced to craft a voice and a vote around how, when and where they will do their best work.”
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