5 Things We've Learned After Two Years of Hybrid Work
We, at 21.co, were among the first companies to fully embrace a hybrid work model. Upon returning to the office, we established clear guidelines: Monday through Wednesday as in-office days; Thursday and Friday as optional remote work days. This approach, though unconventional at the time, given the impact of social distancing as a result of COVID-19, demonstrated our commitment to a future of work that centered around hybrid working. We knew hybrid work was a plausible way forward for many organizations, recognizing that remote work would not suit every organization equally. We firmly believed that hybrid work was a crucial part of us being able to successfully build trust and collaboration between two offices with distinct cultural backgrounds, and that our growth hinged on face-to-face interactions and discussions.
While this journey was not without challenges, we have successfully maintained our hybrid model for over two years, gaining valuable insights along the way. As more companies adopt a hybrid work framework, we would like to share five key takeaways from our experience at 21.co.
1. Share Tips to Your Team Around Maximizing In-Office and Remote Time
Early on, we discovered that a hybrid model requires different approaches to managing in-office and remote days. We began providing employees and leaders with guidelines on how to optimize their time in each setting. We worked to prioritize collaboration during in-office days, while remote days were centered around focus work. This approach enabled our teams to innovate, share resources, and strategize in person, while executing tasks and deliverables remotely. In-office time quickly centered around teamwork, while remote work centered around autonomy. In-office days offered our staff structure and routine, while remote work offered them flexibility and independence.
2. Make the Office Experience Valuable
Office spaces are not what they used to be. Today, offices need to foster inspiration and innovation. We recognized the sacrifices employees make coming into an office, and we wanted to ensure our spaces offered value and utility to our employees. We included collaborative spaces throughout our workspace, fostering energy and connection. Additionally, we ensured we created quiet spaces for focus work, providing opportunity for productivity and implementation. We designed our collaborative spaces to have the feeling of a coffee shop, whereas our quiet spaces had the feeling of a library, offering value in different ways. We worked to ensure we had ample workspace and meeting rooms, and we offered incentives such as commuter benefits, health and wellness stipends, internal education, and activities to further motivate and galvanize employees.
3. Approach Organizational Development Strategically
As a rapidly growing company, we had to align our hybrid model to our growth strategy. We worked to evaluate the business growth indicators for each function. We then settled on the percentage of fully remote staff we would be able to accommodate across the organization. From there, we did an assessment of candidates to determine what the industry-standards were when it came to remote vs. in-office, to design our hiring strategy with that in mind. Having multiple offices required us to then consider team growth by region or location. Overall, we had to factor our hybrid model into our strategy, to ensure we were building evenly and consistently.
4. Communicate Like a Remote-First Company
Despite the hybrid nature of business, we recognized the importance of managing information and resources as if we were a remote company. The reason for this is that most employees were still communicating remotely everyday, regardless of our hybrid model. We started by sharing context and insights in company-wide All Hands meetings, and then worked to establish additional channels for cross-team communication on Slack and email. We designed an internal communication strategy that encouraged virtual announcements, launches, and celebrations and then ensured access to shared resources through an intranet and Google drive.
5. Accept That Hybrid Work Isn't for Everyone
We understood early on that hybrid work may not suit everyone, and we were okay with that. Our hybrid model also meant that not all candidates would align with our model and some top talent may not be hirable given this. It also meant that some employees might opt for remote work elsewhere. We had to come to terms with that and embrace that. We also worked to counter that by providing transparency and context around our model, communicating the value proposition and selling the vision internally.
Abdullah Yusuf, Group Product Manager:
I really appreciate our hybrid model, the in office days are great for maximizing collaboration, feedback and getting some white-boarding in while the days at home allow for much needed heads down time to focus in a space of comfort.
Josi Rojo Rivero, Tech Lead:
Hybrid work gives me the opportunity to enjoy both the direct interactions with the colleagues at the office, form close bonds that will boost collaboration and productivity, and yet keep some of the flexibility that work from home has to offer.
Jin Zhang, VP of Finance:
The hybrid model offers me opportunities to interact with colleagues in person and boost collaboration and creativity. In addition, working from home saves time on my commute and increases flexibility on how I arrange my day, helping me achieve my well-being goals. Hybrid is the best of both worlds!
Over the past two years, we've learned countless lessons and witnessed several opportunities for improvement when it comes to our hybrid model. That being said, we also see the benefits of our hybrid model daily, when it comes to our execution and innovation. We're encouraged to see other companies start to embrace the hybrid concept. We anticipate further innovation and disruption when it comes to office and workplace culture, in the years to come. We're proud to be one of the leaders of this change. We're actively bridging bridges into the crypto world by fostering collaboration and engagement internally.