Whichever model you choose, here are some insights on how to make it work for your company.
As businesses wrestle with work-from-home, hybrid and back-to-the-office strategies, many considerations come into play. In a recent webinar moderated by F12 CMO Devon Gillard, F12 CEO Alex Webb and Gradient MSP CEO Colin Knox discussed how these various approaches impact customers, culture and productivity.
Colin Knox has been through many office builds and the stresses that come as a result. He decided, when he started Gradient during the pandemic, that his brick-and-mortar days were over. It was a purposeful decision, he says, and so far it’s been going really well.
Alex Webb built F12 to be a collaborative, client-engaged business, and he says that mindset really created the fabric of what F12 is. The pandemic ripped away from their in-person structure and forced Alex and his team to react. The experience was eye-opening but left him certain that the in-office model couldn’t be done away with entirely.
Here are some key takeaways from their chat.
The hybrid model concession
“I think some hybrids are almost kind of like a purgatory because in some cases, it was people not having the confidence to have their staff come back into the office. And so this was their kind of concession. And it’s not something that they’re thrilled about. And in some cases, like if you’re in manufacturing, there’s no way you can do work from home. We can’t build cars from home.” – Knox [11:00]
Cost of working in an office
“There’s a financial burden, but then there’s also what you’re now having to give up from your family life and your home life when you’re spending time in the car getting to the office; being able to have breakfast with your kids or take them to school and pick them up from school and stuff like that. I think having flexibility is good.” – Knox [12:40]
Cost of remote work
“I see people missing out by not going to the office in the early development phase of their career. Learning presentation skills, and gaining confidence—the mentorship they require in those first years out of college. I can certainly see that people who are skilled could grab a laptop and work in a Starbucks if their job allows them to do that. But you need to be able to practice presenting, build relationships and have some mentorship. That’s just very difficult to do in a remote world.” – Webb [14:00]
“For me, one of the biggest things is that, when we were working remotely, winning didn’t feel the same as it did live. When we’d accomplish something—win a good client or acquire a company—a virtual high-five just didn’t feel the same.” – Webb [15:00]
Autonomy and confidence with remote work
“When I look back to my own growth, meeting with mentors on a regular cadence to get that feedback was key. When I felt somebody was almost always watching over my shoulder, I was too scared to eff up, so I would look for confirmation: What about this? What about this? Whereas in a remote organization, people have immediate access to anybody for answers or assistance or feedback, but they’ve also got that freedom of being able to try things, and can build out their confidence as they go through it.” – Knox [18:00]
Businesses that should be careful about remote work
“If there are elements of the business that have to be done with bricks and mortar because you receive products, rack and stack, and do all these things, it is going to be very difficult to that from your house. I tell the story of how I built the business starting in my basement, I received received an order of monitors that filled my kitchen and my living room, and at that point in time I was told I needed get an office space. The business design has to be congruent. You can’t be an ambulance service from home.” – Webb [23:20]
Making virtual reality a reality
“Some people absolutely thrive in an environment where you’re surrounded by other people. So we made sure, as we built our virtual office environment, that people could work and collaborate and just be around others. A lot of it comes down to employee check-ins. Technology has allowed us to do so much right with video conferencing, and the quality of cameras and audio equipment, and everything else. You can really connect with people and talk to them. When we do video calls, everybody turns on their cameras for all the meetings. We want to see everybody’s faces and reactions and be able to give feedback and collect feedback.” – Knox [29:45]
Access to a global talent pool
“Look at the opportunity if you can open yourself up as a global economy: a global talent pool. I know we’re unusual, hiring the number of people we’ve been able to hire over the last little while, but it’s because we weren’t strictly focused on, ‘let’s hire everybody in the Calgary area.’ We’re in 20 cities now across North America and we’ve been able to bring on some of the best and brightest people in those roles as a result. – Knox [45:00]
“I think there’s a need for communities to feel locally supported and understood. And that sort of connection to the community is a big part of why hybrid still has a place in the market. It still makes sense to use facilities as a place of collaboration, education, and support to help your employees develop. For me, hybrid is going to be a business structure going forward.” – Webb [48:00]
Shifting from hybrid to full-time remote, or remote to in-office? We can help make the tech side of the process easier.