On-site, fully remote or hybrid?
THE ROAD TO SUCCESSFUL WORK MODELS IS BASED ON EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
When I started at SoftEdge, the company had already embraced the flexible-hybrid work model, and I found it was a perfect fit for me. A short time later, I learned how the company had transitioned from the pandemic model of fully-remote work to the flexible-hybrid model when the lockdown was over. The answer was simple, but it involved a concept I highly appreciate: employee experience.
Employee experience refers to the sum of experiences, perceptions, and feelings the employee has regarding the organization. It includes job satisfaction, personal well-being, engagement, and the value the employee places on the organization.
For business owners, customer experience is usually the top priority. However, they are beginning to understand that loyal and happy employees are also crucial for business success. At SoftEdge, we don’t usually make personal distinctions between leaders or higher ranks and employees, we are all part of the same corporate family. Positive team member experience (as we prefer to call it) is not part of a strategy. It is our lifestyle. The transition from pandemic times to the new normal proves this point.
During the pandemic, the work scenario changed, and many of us learned the pros and cons of telecommuting. Combining work with caregiving duties and family time became possible. Returning to an on-site work model seemed too drastic for our company. As a leader, I believe that genuine empathy in the workplace is essential for building meaningful relationships, and this is what SoftEdge is all about. The whole team was responsible for shaping the flexible-hybrid model we enjoy today.
Although most SoftEdge members appreciated the benefits of telecommuting, such as spending quality time with their families, remote work can also be overwhelming. At-home interruptions and technical failures can get on our nerves. We may also feel lonely or isolated due to the lack of social interaction. Getting out of the house is just as healthy as staying home. Besides, our members were craving to see each other and work together from time to time. So why not do both?
In 2021, several team members suggested they wanted to meet once or twice a week, so they started working at a cafe that offered a comfortable co-working area. They soon realized that new members were not keen on joining them, probably because they were naturally shy about meeting with a bunch of coworkers that had known each other for a relatively long time. Reestablishing an office seemed like a good idea to make new members feel more comfortable while it made it easier for the whole team to work on-site whenever they wanted.
At first, the model was completely flexible. Team members decided when to go to the office or if they would go at all. It did not work as well as expected. The long-term company members were eager to go to the office, but didn’t establish regular assistance days. The result was that some days there were three or four members in the office, and other days there were a few more, but it was hard to find the whole team on the same day and at the same time. Integrating the new employees was still a problem. They felt uneasy assisting the office without knowing who they would encounter, and it could take weeks before they met face-to-face with all members.
Everyone agreed it would be better to establish two regular weekdays for on-site work. HR also implemented several improvements regarding onboarding techniques to help new members ease into the team and feel at home. Tuesdays and Thursdays became the regular on-site days, because who wants to go to the office on Mondays and Fridays, right? We all love the short-travel possibilities and long-weekend feeling working remotely offers! These days suited the team perfectly, and so did the hybrid model.
Even though we believe that we can build good company culture while working remotely, we found out that sharing a few days in the office helped us strengthen our corporate values and unity significantly. Our onboarding improvements included welcoming new members by sharing a delicious breakfast with all the team. It helped them feel easily integrated, and meeting regularly made them more prone to lean on leaders and other experienced staff members. Overall, we found the office allowed us to share our values, and personal interests, while building trusting relationships with all members.
When I started at SoftEdge, I was new to the tech world and had to study a lot about the IT industry. I needed to get acquainted with the type of projects the team was working on, and seeked to learn everything about the company. The on-site days were crucial in my experience. I took advantage of meeting face-to-face with Alejandro, our CTO, as well as other long-term team members and was happy to clear all my doubts and learn more about their lifestyles, the company’s history and culture.
Most members also found that meeting twice a week helped them develop their projects and work better as a team. Although we are able to carry out most tasks online, there is a familiarity that comes with working on-site that is irreplaceable. As a Tech company we are more than aware of the life enhancement applied sciences provide, but we know they will never be able to supersede human interaction. The office is always a great place to comment on little details and spark new ideas. Discussing matters and organizing tasks face-to-face always helps us reduce stress and achieve better results. Besides, our office is fun. We all enjoy our time there. Our CTO is a team player. He’s always available to assist us with any doubts, and you can find him mingling with workers, whether it is in meetings or playing rip-roaring ping-pong matches during breaks! Nobody wants to miss out. We enjoy good laughs, and there are plenty of fun activities and special treats that make assisting the office beyond worthwhile.
However, there are some exceptions to the hybrid model in our company, and that is what makes it flexible. Two of our developers live far away from our headquarters, so they preferred to keep working fully remote and occasionally visit the office when they were nearby. Another developer had a newborn baby and found great relief in flexibility during this milestone. It helped him cope with work and paternity way better than within a rigid schedule. On the other hand, many employees sometimes feel they need a break from remote work. The office is always available for them to get out of their houses and work there, even if it’s not during the regular on-site workdays. If any employee wanted to switch to a full on-site work model, it would not be a problem either.
At SoftEdge, we promote career growth. This means many workers take study leaves or choose not to assist the office during exam periods so they can take advantage of the commuting hours and use them for studying. Flexibility allows us to consider the changing needs of all our members.
During the summer vacations the on-site office remained closed since most staff members enjoy working from their houses or going out to the beach and spending time with their families since kids are usually not attending school. However, the team members feel so close to each other that many ended up working together in cafes from time to time!
Our flexible-hybrid model includes, of course, some rules that employees must follow. We need to meet deadlines, and online meetings are not negotiable except for emergencies or special cases. However, this runs smoothly. Micromanagement doesn’t exist at SoftEdge. We trust our team members’ skills and good judgment. We encourage them to work independently and to challenge themselves. In our experience, providing our employees the freedom to decide and adjust their work schemes has always resulted in more responsible and committed workers.
Flexibility and team member experience have become our best allies in building an open work model that easily adapts to new circumstances, encourages participation, and welcomes new ideas. If anybody asks me which model I consider most successful, I would tell them the answer lies in their team members. Because genuinely caring for our members builds better relationships and makes them naturally care back for the company. The best model is always one in which all members feel comfortable, confident, motivated, and have a strong sense of belonging.