In-person familiarity when working remote
One of the key takeaways of COVID-19 is that employees don’t need to be present at their office strictly from 9-5, Monday to Friday, every week. After two years, the return to the office allows us to reevaluate what is the best model of working that meets the needs of both workers and their employers. And for many organizations and businesses, hybrid work is the way to go.
Hadrian has been hybrid since the first day. Initially, Hadrian started hybrid because of COVID restrictions. However, according to Delano Lobman, Head of People and Culture at Hadrian, acknowledging that talents are scattered all over the world, and only some have the privilege to come to Amsterdam or London office, maintaining hybrid gives everyone an equal chance to work.
"While some people would come to the office every day because they love working here, others would come one day a week because circumstances do not allow," says Lobman. At Hadrian, no written document binds employees to a fixed number of days they should come to the office in a week. "It is encouraged to make good arrangements among individual team members."
A strong hybrid work structure
According to Mckinsey, a hybrid working model is more complicated to maintain than either a fully offline or fully remote one. When doing hybrid, each employee has different access to resources and different levels of visibility. Thus, it takes a robust hybrid work structure to make hybrid actually work. Hadrian implements several practices and initiatives to ensure equal visibility and equity of experience.
Kudos and concerns
Kudos and concerns is a relatively common practice of all-hands meeting, where people share their thoughts on how things are going around the company. Once a month, Hadrian gathers its employees together, dividing them into breakout rooms so that people who work closely can do the exercise together.
This practice facilitates a culture of recognition where everyone's contributions are celebrated and appreciated regularly and creates a safe space for individuals to raise concerns and highlight areas for improvement. "Because culture is always evolving, and it's about doing more of what is good and doing less of what is not as good," Chief of Staff Sofia Verkhotuvora explains.
However, being aware that every employee has different home arrangements and resources which might require different kinds of support, Hadrian has introduced a working-from-home budget from which each team member can utilize to ensure their working-from-home experience is productive and enjoyable.
Company get-togethers such as dinners, parties, and company retreats are in-person activities that can help genuinely bond employees. They create a sense of community and boost engagement among team members. Hadrian facilitates these initiatives by documenting communication on group messaging channels so that both offline and online people are fully equipped to participate, and provide any financial support if needed.
In October 2022, Hadrian organized a retreat to Valencia, Spain for the whole company to celebrate its one-year anniversary. This was the first time everyone from Amsterdam and London offices and the remote team from Serbia had the chance to meet up, build a deeper bond and engage in the company as a whole.
Team cohesion fostered by technology
Cohesiveness in a team refers to an ideal state in which team members bond and feel connected to one another, working towards a common goal. However, team cohesion in a traditional office often relies on proximity to create a sense of purpose and connection for teams. But with hybrid work becoming the new norm, a company's sense of purpose and community must resonate beyond the traditional office.
Suitable models of working to optimize efficiency
The over-reliance on synchronous work and real-time communication can hurt team productivity and efficiency by creating work calendars full of meetings and long-hour work. The most successful remote organizations are the ones that can maintain a balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication, Forces writes, as this balance results in collaboration, optimized efficiency, inclusivity, and well-being.
To achieve this, asking everybody to come together needs to be reserved for the right things, as synchronous work is the most efficient for in-depth discussions that involve different stakeholders, brainstorming, problem-solving, and decision-making. Meanwhile, asynchronous work aids well with ongoing status updates, straightforward questions, information sharing, and individual-focused work, thus can take place on messaging channels and email.
Keeping everyone in the loop
With hybrid working, communication happens both online and offline. People are either in or out of the office. Thus, while it's natural to gravitate towards the people you have close proximity to, ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and feel connected to the team will be crucial for success.
"It is encouraged for the whole team to utilize remote-friendly tools so that everything is documented and collaboration can happen online," says Verkhotuvora. Indeed, it is essential to be aware of offline 'hall-way' conversations, document and loop everyone in, thus enhancing trust and keeping people on the same page.
Donut vs. the coffee machine
Donut has just been introduced among the Hadrian team as one of the Slack meet-and-greet apps that “foster camaraderie and collaboration from anywhere by automatically introducing teammates who might not know each other.”
“In the office when people stop by the coffee machine or have lunch together, those who normally sort of don't talk to each other start talking to each other [...],’’ Lobman observes. Indeed, these random and impromptu interactions don't translate well when working remotely.
"These Donut conversations are the closest to coffee machine conversations," Lobman comments. According to him, implementing Donut into the communication routine at Hadrian is an effort to facilitate that kind of coffee machine conversations among people who don't usually work together, or among those who come to the office often and those who do less often.
Lobman expresses strong confidence in how this pans out in the upcoming future, as it is an initiative that advocates for a shared culture between the team and helps people "not just bound to the nuclear of your team, but also bond with others from different departments."
The office experience: a home away from home
Going to the office has never actually been only about work. Although the demand for remote work has been rapidly increasing, there is still a need for traditional office space where employees can come together and collaborate. Despite the effectiveness of remote working, research shows that building relationships is better done in person.
A Harvard Business Review article reveals that during the COVID-19 pandemic, 39% of employees reported having difficulty maintaining a strong connection with their peers since informal social networks withered and people heavily resorted to the people and groups with whom they most identified.
Realizing that need, Hadrian opened its two offices in Amsterdam and London after a short time being fully remote.
Facilitate unstructured collaboration
When individuals from different departments collaborate, they can solve difficult problems and develop new ideas. For example, while at the core Hadrian is a tech company where many team members are tech enthusiasts who already knew how to code since 13, some individuals joined Hadrian with little to no prior tech experience. In this case, as another study from Harvard Business Review suggests, the office acts as a hub for unstructured collaboration that is triggered by chance encounters.
Indeed, at Hadrian, while unstructured collaboration allows seasoned hackers and developers to think about how they communicate their work, individuals with less technical expertise feel safe to make creative suggestions that the more experienced ones may have dismissed based on practicality.
“I like to be in an office where I can know what is going on in other teams. If that person is talking about a certain issue which I can help, I can walk up to them and say ‘hey sorry, I overheard, but maybe if I can help you out,’” Lobman further elaborates.
Foster a sense of community with open-concept offices
Though the trade-off for more flexibility and communication of open-concept offices is less privacy, businesses can encounter this by designing the office in a way that minimizes this disadvantage by creating spaces for different needs. Thus, various workspaces must be available in an open office to adapt to the wide variety of working styles and shifting working and collaboration needs. Hadrian's office has meeting rooms, call booths, open gathering spaces, and flexible closed spaces to accommodate those individual needs.
At the same time, it goes both ways to make open-office work. Individuals should adjust their work desks according to their needs and respect others' physical boundaries. "If I want to close myself off because I have to concentrate on a contract, I'll put on my noise-canceling headphones. I'll take them off when I finish, and I'm in the middle of the community again," Lobman explains.
A sense of community which Lobman mentions is a goal that organizations should strive for when designing their office. It's up to people to make their decision if they want to come to the office or stay at home. However, it takes observing, listening to your people, and picking up non-verbal cues from day-to-day interactions to truly understand the culture and feel connected to your team.