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How Flexibility Benefits Organizations

Posted Aug 24, 2023 | Views 278
# Community
# FlexibleWork
Brian Elliott
Brian Elliott
Brian Elliott
Executive leader, advisor, speaker, co-founder of Future Forum and best-selling author of "How the Future Works" @ Brian Elliott

"I've spent ~25 years building teams and leading companies in technology. The one thing I've learned over and over is that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

After decades building high performance teams and products that people love, I'm now acting as an advisor, speaker and advocate for building ways of working together that are better for people and organizations.

The world has moved past financial and physical capital as the determinants of success. Business challenges and competitive advantages in this century come down to people: how you attract and retain diverse talent, how you align them against common purpose that engages them fully, and how you enable them to act with agility to achieve great things.

It's also time to focus on making the world of work great for all people. Diverse teams create better companies and better products. But we've been failing for decades to make real progress not just on the "diverse" part but more importantly on equity and belonging.

The challenges of 2020 created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset how we work together. Let's not squander it."

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"I've spent ~25 years building teams and leading companies in technology. The one thing I've learned over and over is that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

After decades building high performance teams and products that people love, I'm now acting as an advisor, speaker and advocate for building ways of working together that are better for people and organizations.

The world has moved past financial and physical capital as the determinants of success. Business challenges and competitive advantages in this century come down to people: how you attract and retain diverse talent, how you align them against common purpose that engages them fully, and how you enable them to act with agility to achieve great things.

It's also time to focus on making the world of work great for all people. Diverse teams create better companies and better products. But we've been failing for decades to make real progress not just on the "diverse" part but more importantly on equity and belonging.

The challenges of 2020 created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset how we work together. Let's not squander it."

+ Read More

Our first community discussion on how flexibility benefits organizations with Brian Elliott.

Brian is an advisor, executive leader, best selling author, and the co-founder of The Future Forum.

This was a truly awesome conversation with an excellent leader in our community.

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00:00:00 Yeah. All right. We are live. Thank you everyone for joining us this morning. This is our first community session for Collective Connect. We are very excited to have you all here as connectors and we are very thankful to have our first speaker today. Brian Elliott is going to be sharing some information about how flexibility can benefit organizations.

Brian Elliott is an experienced tech executive turned advisor and coach for leaders who are building a more flexible, inclusive and connected way of working. He's the co founder of Future Forum and author of the best selling book. How the future works. Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Brian.

I am going to yield the floor to you and let you take it away from here. Thanks. I appreciate it. Great being here with all of you. Thanks to you. Omar and Kayla for creating the collective on bringing this together. It's really a great effort on your part in terms of bringing workplace professionals together across a broad variety of 00:01:00 capabilities, backgrounds and everything else to learn from one another.

That's what I'm actually the most excited about as we start doing more and more of these. What I'm gonna do today is share research, both stuff that we did at Future Forum And As well as sort of latest and greatest hits from some of my old partners there and others as we go through it in kind of what I've been titling recently, the fourth annual, um, post labor day return to office battle. Um, and honestly, why it doesn't need to be a battle and how we actually come together. And the press, if anything, is trying to divide us. So, um, I'm Brian Elliott, as Omar noted, um, led the group, uh, future forum for the past three years, which did a lot of research into what's working and what's not, uh, for office workers around the globe, uh, based on, uh, our research.

Made a lot of discoveries about flexibility, the benefits, and really some of the challenges and how we work through them together, as well as working with a large number of companies that were showing some best practices and how to 00:02:00 build forward. And that's what came into the book as well. How the future works. So what I'm gonna talk about today is sort of this narrative in the press that we're seeing all the time, which is. Whose side are you on? Are you on side office or side remote? And the answer is most people aren't on either one of those sides. Most people want something in the middle. They want flexibility, uh, to bring people back, uh, together on a regular basis for a sort of purpose driven connection, the challenge is.

Um, there are understandable concerns, because if you read all kinds of different research, you get all kinds of different perspectives on what's working and what's not, and executives themselves, maybe who look a little bit more like me, who are older, um, in the majority, maybe not a caregiver, um, grew up understanding that the office was where and where and when work got done.

Um, and so those concerns about things like productivity. About how do people learn about mentorship for younger employees in particular about culture and connection and how do we build it when our 00:03:00 teams are increasingly distributed and how do you generate, generate innovation without a whiteboard and water coolers?

My favorite myth, um, are all subjects of contention these days about, um, why a lot of executives are understandably concerned, but why these sort of return to office. Drives are being talked about so much, but there's another issue underlying a lot of this, which is, um, executive nostalgia. Uh, it's the, and by the way, um, Taryn Brim from my team at future forum is the one that first coined this.

Uh, but it's sort of that yearning for a past that never quite really was, but it's a past that worked out for a lot of people who made it into the senior ranks. Um, unfortunately, a lot of those people, um. You know, don't look like the rest of their employees all the time. So they may not have the same perspective, but it's what worked for them.

And so you'll hear a lot of that nostalgia voiced in these conversations. And the other side of it is what I've termed the CEO echo chamber. It's the tick tock 00:04:00 driven stories and the anecdotes about the. You know, dude laying on the couch, who's not really working. And he's kind of just surfing the internet. You've all seen the pictures and the headlines. Um, or it's the stories about things like people having multiple jobs, uh, which was, you know, recent wall street journal headline, those stories and those anecdotes, you know, get passed around in a lot of different circles, including boards, and they create this sort of, you know.

Lack of, uh, belief that people are actually working that causes people to clamp down and want to monitor them, which isn't very healthy. So those are the things that actually fueling and driving a lot of this from an executive perspective. But let's dig into what's actually going on in terms of the underlying data. Um, when you look at the returned office pushes and the drives that have happened over the past couple of years. And by the way, my slide formatting got slightly messed up last night when I was updating the CASL data. Um, but what you can see is that each subsequent RTO push has less and less impact. Um, 00:05:00 back in 2020, the first couple of them did.

2021, there was some degree of impact when people were being asked to come back in. And then it starts to normalize. And if you look at this year in particular, um, it flattened out like crazy. Uh, we have not moved off of somewhere between 47% and 50% of pre pandemic normal, uh, for about nine, 10 months going on a year almost at this point. Um, the reason why my chart does not show 50% is I think all of you in the workplace world know this. Um, what Castle is doing is they're measuring pre pandemic norms and offices themselves weren't much more than 50% full on any given day in any given seat in the first place. So the reality is, you know, the number of seats that are actually occupied these days in the U. S. averages about 25%. Um, and that's, you know, causing some degree of these

RTO pushes, you know, including most recently Goldman saying get back five days a week, is honestly having 00:06:00 less and less impact. The big, bigger deal and what's sort of driving all this underneath it is the press likes to turn this into, you know, team remote versus team office when the majority of employees want something that's actually in the middle.

There's about 19% of employees globally that want or need a full time office space. Home is just not conducive for them, or they don't have the space, or they don't have the setup, or there's too many people, or it's too crowded. We actually need to make sure that we accommodate the needs of those people. There's only about 15% of people that want to be fully remote, meaning they don't want to come together with their team more than once a quarter. The vast majority of people want something in the middle. On average, most employees want something that's about two days a week, which is why you see that sort of two day week figure.

If you push them and press them to be in more than they want, they are much more open to new jobs and new opportunities. The 75% figure was from future form research that we did this last winter. The 50% of middle managers who had quit or take a pay cut for us to come back in five days a week 00:07:00 was McKinsey data that came out just last month. But you can sort of see, you know, if you take the extremes of this. Most people don't want a fully remote situation, and there are very few people that want a fully in office one either. What we need to do is find that balance point in the middle. Now, who's desiring that flexibility varies a lot, and some of the key factors behind it are, um, probably outside of, you know, what a lot of those senior executives understand because it's not their personal experience.

Women more than men want flexibility in where they work. Caregivers in particular, 59% of working moms, um, want to be in the office two days a week or less, 47% of working dads. We also see this in the data in terms of job applicants. This is the data on the left hand side of the chart here is, um, Office of Personnel Management, the, the folks that collect all the data across all U. S. federal agencies. The percentage of, of people who are applying for telework jobs, meaning, um, 00:08:00 you're in the office, you know, one to three days a week, was much higher among women and among veterans than those job applicants for full time in office roles. This also had huge impacts in a couple of other areas.

One is employment among people with disabilities is at an all time high in the United States, which is huge. And the last one is one that's actually been really interesting to watch and see how people, you know, deal with this and interact with it back at the beginning of the pandemic. When we first ran our future forum polls, this poll of 10, 000 office workers around the globe, what we saw was that my sense of belonging with my team fell on average. But when we cut the data by race and ethnicity, who it fell for was actually white employees. It actually rose for black, Hispanic, Latinx, Asian American, Pacific Islanders, and subsequently, you know, the white employee sense of belonging recovered. But what stayed consistent was that that sense of belonging was actually stronger among historically underrepresented groups.00:09:00 We dug into this with a set, with our partners at Management Leadership for Tomorrow, but also a set of academics. And Brian Lowry from Stanford was the first person to say it to us, which was, um, as a black professor on Stanford's campus, he felt it the cost of code switching the need to be watching how he walks, how he talks, how he shows up in spaces on a 9 day a week basis, even on Stanford's campus is taxing.

The ability to dial in, dial out, but also the ability to be on campus and then work from home to recharge his batteries was a real benefit. Now, these groups want flexibility also more than their white colleagues, but not a ton more, and they don't want to be fully remote any more than most of the rest of the population. But the benefits of flexibility disproportionately favor groups that have historically been underrepresented at work. And it's really important to keep that in mind as executives are thinking about commands that get at the four day a week and 00:10:00 five day a week level. Here's what's going on from a Flex index perspective.

Flex index polls now almost 5, 000 organizations in the U. S. on their workplace policies. And while the narrative in the press has been, you know, full time office or people pushing away from fully remote and employee choice models, what we're seeing actually is the opposite. There are fewer and fewer organizations that are demanding five days a week in the office. There are a growing number of organizations that are taking either some form of structured hybrid approach. Most popular among those is sort of a minimum standard of days in the office, like be in the office two or three days a week, and there's actually a growing number of Smaller organizations in particular, they're favoring employee choice models, and I'll get into what that means a bit more in a bit.

The other side of this is all these terms can be a little confusing, a little misused and abused when we talk about them. So when we talk about 00:11:00 flexibility, it actually encompasses all that range of flexibility that people are looking for. Um, when we say words like work from home, um, I make fun of Nick Bloom for this on a semi regular basis these days, it feels like, but, um, work from home research shows that it's actually work from anywhere, especially among the younger generation.

People are looking for a space. That's not the office, but often that's not home either working from a coffee shop, working from a family members home, working from a vacation spot or a coworking space or all reasonable alternatives that people are looking for out there. The reason why I don't care for the word hybrid and that it bugs me is hybrid tends to be a very specific formulaic approach to where people work. The worst exhibit of which is, um, you need to be in the office Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. And that's true for everybody in our 25, 000 person organization. And what that does is it solves a little bit, a little bit for location 00:12:00 flexibility, but ignores a much bigger challenge, which is time flexibility.

In our research at Future Forum, one of the things that we found is that while location flexibility helps benefit people's productivity, that 8% boost is about the commute time that you've got. Schedule flexibility, giving people uninterrupted two hour blocks of time or more, has a much greater impact on their well being, on their levels of stress, and on their productivity at work. And it's kind of understandable. Um, if you look at a lot of the data around meetings over the past couple of years, uh, people's time in meetings has shot up pretty dramatically. And what it does is it turns your calendar into something that looks like my calendar in 2020, which is the thing that's on the screen, which, you know, kind of looks like Swiss cheese.

Finding that two hour block to do heads down work is virtually impossible. Um, most of your Core work then gets shoved into nights and weekends when you're not necessarily at your 00:13:00 best. This is particularly true for, for middle managers. So when we talk about hybrid, we tend to focus only on location when it turns out, uh, time is a much bigger deal than place. And the, these two things are correlated. The more we're forcing people into the commute, the less flexibility that we're, we're giving them in the first place. Second, when we talk about hybrid and those simplistic rules, like everybody needs to be in the office Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, what that ignores is that most organizations are distributed.

I did this at an event recently where I asked a group of real estate executives to raise their hands. If they manage people who worked in more than one city and everyone raised their hand, uh, and then I said, how many of you have people that are your teams that are actually more distributed post pandemic than they were prior to the pandemic.

And pretty much everybody raised their hand on that one too. What's happened is, especially in a lot of larger tech organizations, we've gone from 60 to maybe 70% of teams being co located in one 00:14:00 city or one geographic location to that being the minority these days. Um, I know in some large organizations, numbers, they're as low as 30 or 40% of teams actually being co located in the same geographic area. So if you're telling everybody to be back three days a week, and you're prescribing the specific days of the week to be in, and you're saying it's to be together with your team, people are looking at you like you're nuts because you might be, um, it's, it's just back to that issue of, you know, you're giving a false sense of. How these things actually work when the reality is we need to teach people how to lead distributed teams that work across a variety of different locations. Another bit that's actually driving some of these differences in behavior is the difference between executives and employees. When we pulled people in future form and ask them their preferences, this is what the breakdown looks like when we separate out executives, this is sort of, um, SVP and above versus employees.

Or VP and above versus employees, 00:15:00 62% of executives want something that's between three and five days a week, by the way, you'll notice on the fully on site, fewer executives want to be on site full time than employees. They probably have better setups like me. Um, but non executives, individual managers, as well as individual employees are much more likely to want something that's in the one to two day a week range. The reason behind this is people have different purposes and different mixes of activities that they do in their work week. Um, this is data that Boston Consulting Group put out last week where they pulled roughly 1600 people and asked them, what are the, you know, which of a, of a set of activities, which are the ones that actually you think you're better doing in an office versus it's equal wherever, you know, wherever works best versus doing it remote.

The most popular activities to do together in an office were affiliation and development. And what that specifically means in this case are training events, socialization, internal 00:16:00 networking, interactive work was second. And not surprisingly, on the far other end of this is administrative tasks and deep focus work.

When you take that same data and you break it down by executives and managers versus individual contributors, you kind of get a feeling for why they have different preferences. Two thirds of manager and executive time is spent on stuff on the right hand side of the chart, right? They have less, um, individual works that we got less focused time needs. Individuals actually have high focus needs, right? And so why do people want those mixes? Because the mix that they work, of work that they do, is actually much different. That explains a lot of why you're seeing some of those differences in patterns of behavior, as well as some of the differences I got at earlier around things like, you know, middle managers who are early in their career are much more likely to be caregivers of younger kids.

We're also starting to get some insight into what actually does work. The data on the 00:17:00 left comes from the same Boston Consulting Group survey. What they did is they asked people what your policy is inside of your organization, and then they asked them what you're actually doing. And they asked them about their satisfaction. So they were actually able to get at things like, are people complying with the stated policy of their organization? And are they satisfied with the policies that their organization has put forward? And there's this kind of really clear winner that I think is interesting because you're seeing a bunch of companies do it, which is hybrid key events. What that means is these are organizations that have said, we actually favor employee choice. But we're also going to make sure that people get together on some minimum basis. So on, um, you know, if you look at what, you know, Lassian is doing, what HubSpot is doing, what Airbnb is doing, what Code Apoxy is doing.

All of them are saying it's employee choice, but you still have got to come together with your team on at least a quarterly basis. I forgot to add Grammarly to this, but Tracy 00:18:00 Hawkins from Grammarly was talking about this last week. They want teams coming together two to four times a quarter. It's up to your team to figure out how often you come together. And they do things like fund travel for distributed teams to come in and do it. That type of program where employees have choice. You've got space if you want it. You've got freedom to choose to work from home, but we're going to have a minimum standard for at a team level for people to come together. It's sort of the sweet spot for compliance, but it's also more importantly, the sweet spot for employee satisfaction at, you know, 95%. I'm not sure what the 5% we're really working on, you know, if you're not satisfied with that, I'm not sure what's working for you. What's interesting is fully remote doesn't lead to the same levels of satisfaction.

There are people that need space again, that want to come together with their team more often. The other thing that's really notable is if you look at the teams at the organizations that are doing this, they're thinking about this from a perspective of team level agreements, minimum standards for getting 00:19:00 teams together, keying those off of key events, you know, socialization, new team formation, big project kickoffs. They're also growing like crazy. Allstate, American Express, MasterCard are all taking a similar approach when it comes to team level agreements. Airbnb, Atlassian, HubSpot, Codepoxy, um, Codepoxy is private so I can't pull their data. But are all, you know, double digit growth, uh, figures on a last 12 months revenue basis this year.

The other thing that's happening is that there's another indicator for this. If you cut the flex index data, By growth rate of employees, we also see is the greater the approach to flexibility, the faster they're able to attract and retain employees. So, not hugely surprising given what we know already about, um, about, um, uh, flexibility's ability to, um, to retain employees as well. So, when I think about all the terminology and the words that we use out there, um, the work from home 00:20:00 movement is really more like a work from anywhere set of things. Remote is not really what people broadly want. What most people want is flexibility. They want the ability to come together with their team on a regular basis.

Policies do not work. Policies and mandates create what's called reactance theory. Hat tip to my friend Ryan Anderson on that one. The people, when you tell them, you will do it this way, automatically have a reaction, which is to reject that and say, I'm going to find my own way. Thank you very much. Instead, what you need to think about is how do we put the effort and time into building agreements? With guardrails, but agreements at the team level that makes sense for the needs of an engineering organization versus a sales organization. For example, every time somebody says we have a hybrid policy, so we've checked the box, ask them how distributed their teams are and what are you doing to service the needs of distributed organizations?

And I didn't get into this today, but the word productivity makes me a little bonkers also, because usually it's some measurement of activity. Usually it's something like how fast are 00:21:00 people responding to Slack messages from me, which actually has nothing to do with the ability of them, of theirs to generate outcomes, um, uh, more broadly, uh, for their organization, there are in reality, a whole series of problems companies and organizations are grappling with. Their outcomes may not be doing terribly great. They may have real problems from a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective. They may be wondering how to deal with, you know, learning and mentorship from a younger employee perspective. What are we doing to drive innovation? How's our connection with each other going, especially on lead ties?

How's culture? Are we giving people focus time? When, when I get into these conversations with specific companies, what I typically do is try to get them to pick one. Where are you struggling the most? Where do you have data that says you're struggling the most? And then work on that. Let's work on it together because Redesigning how we work is how we actually move all of this forward.

So I'm going to stop there and stop sharing my screen because, um, as some of you 00:22:00 know, I can probably talk all day, but I've given you a ton of data and information and insight. Let's, let's dig into the questions and have a chat. Yeah. And I think I'm going to, I'm going to spotlight everybody just so that we can have everyone kind of an equal footing for Q and a, if you have a question, Jonathan, I saw you had some in the chat.

Feel free to just jump in and ask them, unmute yourself and just jump right in. This is, uh, we want these to really be, you know, a, uh, fruitful conversation where everyone can just participate. Awesome data, by the way, Brian, and thank you so much for sharing all that. It's like, there's a lot of like awesome little insights and tidbits in there that are very, I think, critical for understanding like where things are heading from a data perspective, as opposed to a sentiment or, you know, news perspective.

Thanks. Appreciate it. Have at it, folks. I also love the, uh, the data you presented, Brian. I had two quick questions, um, and I just thought maybe, you know, maybe you don't, because a lot of this is more. Coming into new, um, kind of areas and categories, but that doesn't matter for like, you know, the, the employee age or their 00:23:00 experience in the workplace or even kind of race. And, you know, because I know for myself, you know, I grew up in South Carolina from a military family. I was in the military myself. And so when I got out into the big world, you know, a lot, I feel like I really, I needed to be in the office every day. And I feel like if I wasn't, I would have been kind of like behind some of my peers who had kind of like intern.

at these places and kind of had this track from high school. Um, and that was just a general question. Is there any data on that as a whole? There is. So from a data perspective, Younger employees are the least likely to want either extreme. They're least likely to want to be fully remote, and they're also the least likely to want to be in the office five days a week. Um, older people, 50 plus, like me, um, are the ones that are most likely to want both extremes. Um, to either want five days a week or to want to be fully remote. I happen to have, uh, uh, 23 year old and 21 year old sons. Um, a 23 year old works in an office five days a week. Not by choice, but there's some good reasons why, why it happens.

His roommate works in a hybrid 00:24:00 organization and regularly complains because she goes in, you know, a couple of days a week and would love to see people, but there's nobody there. And so there's a real balance point that we do need to find for people, which is why I think it does come back to from a team level, having agreements. Um, one of the things I've seen actually be a good anchor, uh, for people is the team manager, the team leader saying, Hey, look, our anchor day is. You know, Wednesdays, if you can make it, I really do expect everybody to be in on Wednesdays. Here's the specific things that we're going to do. Now, mind you, this works if the team is all

located. But Wednesdays, here's the things that we're gonna do together. I'll have open office apps to do it. I also know some financial services organizations that have taken mentorship and said, Hey, we're actually gonna make this a formal program. And we're gonna ask people to do more of it in office. You can do it remotely. By the 00:25:00 way, I've done plenty of mentorship myself remotely, but it's a good way to get people to understand that's a purpose that people largely agree on that brings them together. The other thing that I'd say is I had this conversation with a couple of senior execs the other day, and one was saying, I'm really worried about the younger generation and are they going to learn?

And how do they learn? And then without missing a beat, she said, but I also remember, I also realized because I've watched my own kids, they build social connections. online and go really deep and understand and know each other in ways that, you know, I don't quite yet. And we are, we're now two generations of digital natives in the workforce.

And, you know, I joined Slack now six years ago. I had no clue what I was doing. What's an emoji? Oh my gosh. Um, but you know, there, there are generational differences in terms of how people maintain that minimum relationships. And so finding that blend and that mix is going to be really important. It's a great 00:26:00 topic, Jonathan.

I appreciate your answer. Thanks. Yeah. And Brian, I guess in those, in those team agreements, do you think each team agreement really needs to have a prescribed get together days or those anchor days? Or do you think you would assume some of your team members could gather organically? It's a little bit of, it sort of depends on the team and the nature of the team and what you're trying to accomplish.

So I'll give you a couple of examples. My team at Future Forum was geographically distributed across North America. We had folks in Canada, East coast, West coast of the United States, a couple of folks in the Midwest. And we did quarterly gatherings one way or another, even when we, even when we didn't have the budget, we found a way to anchor it off of a customer event or something else and get subsets together because we, we actually do think it's important that, you know, at least once a quarter, you get your team together.

And by the way, any Dean's got some data on this that she's starting to put out there if you follow, um, I think that for a lot of teams, there is a, like a regular rhythm that you want to establish. 00:27:00 And so I've seen, for example. Sales managers say we're going to do a pipeline review on Tuesdays. And, you know, if you can be in the office, be in the office on Tuesdays, because that's one where we're all sharing, and then we're going to do in the afternoon, we're going to do a, um, you know, uh, um, practice set of sessions on pitching customers and handling objections, and those are two good times to be in the office and do it. You can also do a lot to help people self organize. Like, I love Scoop. It's one of the tools that I'm also supporting along with these folks here. Scoop provides, it's the folks behind the Flex Index. They provide tools for helping teams actually coordinate which days of the week they want to be in the office. Because, let's face it, that's one of the biggest challenges that people have on an ongoing basis is, I actually do want to come together with people, but I'd like to know when you're coming in. It would really be helpful. And figuring out how to do it, like we've built workflows inside of slack. And sometimes people use it and sometimes don't.

Just having a way in which you do that that's a little more organic 00:28:00 is super valuable. If it's okay to jump in on that exact point, which I loved. And by the way, Brian, I love this. And thank you so much for putting, pulling together so, so many data points from different perspectives and different places. Um, I thought it was super fascinating. And of course I've been taking down notes because I'm in your generation. So I'm a note taker. But I, you know, I love all these things that you were saying because I feel it. I mean. I am, you know, I'm, I'm the head of the policy of, of creating the policy for hybrid in my company, company.

Um, and you know, these things that you're saying is exactly right. That, that why you shouldn't say hybrid. There's a difference between time, flexibility and location flexibility, everything that you were saying. But my workplace hat, uh, where it's just always my default hat is. How does all of this then translate into creating a workplace experience that is different because in the same way that we are now redefining how we work, right?

I love that we are redefining how we work. It's fantastic. And even like what you were, what you were both talking about, 00:29:00 um, you know, do you want to come into the office, but only when people are there. So my question is, does it have to be an office? If we're redefining how people are working, we need to really thinking about how does all of this data, which is magnificent data on how people are working, which is great. Now we're now at a time and an era in, in the history of the world where people are focusing on what we're doing and how we translate that into creating spaces that really allow them people. To behave in this new way of working. And that I think is the most exciting challenge for the workplace perspective, because how does this translate to real estate?

For example, you're, we're talking about teams are more distributed today. You're absolutely right. It doesn't make sense to be coming in how many times a week when you have people coming, you're, you're coming into talk on zoom. It's ridiculous. So the question is, do you have to, what are these? What is the purpose of an office 00:30:00 now is the question, you know, and do people have to work in an office if the purpose is to get together, we can leverage other areas, other things, libraries, I mean, let's let's look into that.

Let's look at daycare communities. Let's look at communities where people who have things in common. If that's If that's the space. So I love these conversations, and I just want to pull more of it into how can we translate this into redefining workplace experience. I think it's fantastic, Lenny. And by the way, I think you did a great job of answering your own question in a lot of different ways.

Um, like the flexibility is a key word from a workplace perspective as well, right? Which is, um, what we've got in too many circumstances in too many companies is we've got these fixed assets That were, you know, that aren't fit for purpose anymore. And honestly, they were struggling beforehand, right? Everybody on this call probably had spaces that were, you know, sub 50% occupied and in open office floor plans 00:31:00 and meeting rooms that were, you know, 90 something percent booked. But usually didn't have a human in them because people cheat the system and it's one person in a room of 10. Yeah, exactly. And all that has gotten worse because people are coming back in.

They're saying, I don't, you know, vast majority of people are not coming in to have the heads down, you know, uh, quiet space. They're coming to be interacting with their team. And so there's the primary purpose ends up being what you're getting at, which is interaction, socialization, connection and doing some deeper work together.

And so, and by the way, which team is in on which days and how frequently they come in also impacts what your mix looks like and they're more distributed. So thinking about flexibility and modularity and workplace design ends up being a really big deal. But also thinking about how much of your portfolio do you want to think of as being a fixed asset, the five year, 10 year lease versus what can I tap from alternative models, whether it's the working, you know, workspaces that we works, the world, um, 00:32:00 Amina Moreau and the radius team are just getting going.

I was at an event that they hosted here in Bay Area Tuesday. They're, you know, basically doing Airbnb for work. So taking distributed locations that are residential in nature, that actually could be really great for team, you know, off sites. That also happened to be in cities in which you don't have, you know, a location, um, is a great way to actually start thinking about, okay, how do we actually get kind of that creative space that people are looking for?

We're doing those types of activities, but I think what's going to be is, how do you think about this as a portfolio? I think about the portfolio of spaces, capabilities that you're providing to people. One other thing on that front is there is that 20%. There is that chunk of people that need, you know, heads down workspace. There are roles in companies that have to be in, but I've spent some time with, um, Sarah from Genentech talking about this because we profiled them in our book, you know, R and D workers in labs have to be in 00:33:00 a certain number of days of the week. You can't really run in. Uh, you shouldn't really run a gene splicing lab in your basement.

Um, so there are needs that people have that we need to make sure that we service along the way. Also, but the bigger, broader thing from an office worker, knowledge worker perspective is, How do we give people access to spaces that, that support that sort of connection and flow that they're looking for? I love it. I love it. It's a fun time. And to add to that, I'm sorry, I'm sorry for hogging the conversation. I just feel like this is... No, keep going. That's great. Because the other thing is, I think... Where companies before, like I say, I'm a workplace experience, um, industry advocate and I advocate for a chief workplace officer. And the reason for, one of the biggest reasons for that is because now it can't be a one size fits all, even if you are a company and you have Five five locations, but they're around the world. You can't have a 11 strategy for your workplace in one location. It's for things like culturally in 00:34:00 in in Asia, for example, Southeast Asia.

You have a lot of folks who need to come to the office because working from home is just not a possibility for them, right? You have those issues. And then in some areas you have people who have a population. Who are the traditionally underrepresented groups and you have to cater to that too. So taking a one size fits all approach just doesn't fit anymore, but you need somebody to create that strategy.

It's sitting at the table knowing, okay, the company you want to do flexibility. Great, great. HR will do the policy on that. Let me work with you. Technology will work on the, the, the, you know, the, the, the security, data security and all of that. You need the workplace strategy to support this new way of working. Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with that, Lenny. I had a team in Pune, India at the start of the pandemic, um, nobody missed the office more than they did, uh, because they were tethering off their phones in their homes to try to get internet connectivity, multi generational households, as 00:35:00 Omar and, uh, and, uh, you know, pointed out and just so much challenge going on in terms of differences between like, um, you know, Bangalore has hugely long commutes.

And so people's propensity to go into the office is much lower there than it is in other parts of India where the commute is much shorter and the office is much more attractive on a balance basis. Yeah. And I think Brian, the, the, the kind of like the narrative you spoke about, right? Where it's like this divisive narrative or like everyone's over here or everyone's over here, but really we're more close than we think.

Do you think that's actually keeping us from making progress? And a lot of the things that we just talked about where it's like, we could, we could be updating our workplace design. We could be adopting new tools like scoop or like, you know, these hybrid working tools to enable our teams, but we're so stuck on the conversation that the narrative is driven by. I think that's what's happening. There's definitely some of it is that, right? Some of, there's a couple of factors I think here. One is the narrative is definitely a problem. 00:36:00 The ongoing debate is also a problem, right? Because the debate is I've got a couple of senior people who really want people back in, you know, four and five days a week.

And so therefore, I can't really change my footprint dramatically. Um, because that's what they want. I've almost always, by the way, got a CFO who's saying, I don't care. Shrink it in half. I know a lot of real estate leaders who are stuck in the middle and have this very weird mandate all of a sudden. It's like you're responsible as the real estate leader to get people to come back in the office.

That's just insane, right? That's just, that is a horrifying place to put people in this space. And unfortunately it happens too often. Right. And the reality is. That's up to teams to figure out and managers to drive and make happen. But I think because you've got those, those polls, it just leads to a status quo. It hasn't helped that, you know, everybody tightened up the belt like crazy in 00:37:00 2022 and into 2023. On things like new tools, a new technology, um, and even more, maybe more importantly for this crew, like funds to retrofit spaces, right? Uh, there are so many people that have great plans and know exactly what they would do to create a more flexible, modular approach inside the spaces that they have and maybe shrink it by 25% or 40%.

But that requires, you know, capital outlays to do. Um, moving walls is horrifying, but different problem. Yeah, well, I guess to follow up on that too, Brian, I think the, the issue with like, you know, that, that kind of like the stuckness of all this, right. Is that we're not actually adopting all these new things. We're actually moving forward and you have this kind of analysis paralysis that a lot of teams have fallen into. The teams we've seen that, or teams we've spoken with that have, some who have called people back, um, to offices for mandatory days. Have actually already shrunk their portfolios and now they're also 00:38:00 moving to debt We had a very very healthy debate about this in our team channel yesterday about desk sharing policies Because you call people back, but you also have taken away their only Individual space in the office and it's like this kind of downward, you know doom loop We call it the internal doom loop of like workplace where it's like you call people back But then you take away a desk space you take away their like, you know You take away more things at the same time, and it can cause issues.

There, there, there are a large number of big tech companies who have X day per week rules where outside of headquarters, you can't, even with hotelling, you cannot find a desk. I know, I know of places in cities where Lenny's point about libraries isn't for a team meeting. It's because I need a desk and good wifi. So I'm going to go to the library. I'm going to check into my office. I'm going to badge in, and then I'm going to go to, I'm going to go to library because I can get a desk and I can get good wifi off that. That's where these things become, this is where you can literally see the CFO CEO, you know, style 00:39:00 battle happening, which is.

Uh, the insistence on X, but the facilities, you know, capability isn't there to support it because people haven't been behaving that way on average. And that's again a horrible position to put. And because we don't have a workplace leader on the table helping these strategies out, I'm going to keep pushing that. I'm going to push that until it's heard because it's so true, especially now. Especially now, I mean, that, that, that just kills me to hear that people are badging in and then going to the library. I mean, that for me is like, wow, what kind of a workplace experience is that? And how is that aligning to the actual direction of a company?

Like, we want it, we want people to be productive. How is that? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I love all of your opinions, you know, Lenny, Kayla, Omar, Christina. There's, there's also, there's also a shift. I think, uh, Omar and Kayla, you and I, we talked about this the other day from, um, you know, our responsibility is simply to give you the, 00:40:00 the facilities to thinking about what do we do to facilitate, you know, gatherings themselves? How do we make it easier for the people that are actually planning? You don't want to get to a point where you are events planners because that doesn't scale. But how do you think about, you know, the process by which you give organizations and teams both the sort of playbooks and guidance, um, to sort of do it themselves, which is, which is, you know, well, I think a lot of managers themselves struggle with, which is, I'd love to have my team come together, assuming I have a budget, but the task of putting together an onsite is also daunting.

I had, I had a startup the other day was talking to me about this. Like we've got a 35 person company. We really need to get together. The big thing that's facing us is who's going to do the planning for it? I mean that's, and I think that, go ahead, Kayla. No, I think it's a good point because with all of these flexible work policies, and if you, if a company doesn't have a workplace leader, you know, shame on 00:41:00 them. But we're putting a lot of, um, uh, pressure on these middle managers. So I guess, Brian, what resources or would you recommend for managers to, um, to use, it's a lot to balance.

The, the, the, the thing that helps that I found helpful, at least when we did this at Slack, um, uh, pre acquisition, but we had a, we called our digital first task force and it was workplace folks, um, uh, people, team, uh, comms, it sort of the usual suspects, but we built a set of playbooks that were basically just gathering internal best practices and used, you know, the, the workplace team set up a set of workflows for helping manage things like. Hey, you got a team of X. You want to put in a request for a team of X looking to come in on week Y. Um, let us know about it. You know, please, at least a couple weeks in advance and we'll help plan space allocation for you will also turn around and give you the sort of playbook that got built by the team, which was, 00:42:00 here's a set of activities you can undertake.

Here's several people you can call for catering. Here's a couple places that you can go for dinner. And that type of thing went a long way because that way the manager just knew, okay, I got to pick my date. I got to tell you how many people are coming. Thank you. And then you're going to give me some content that I can use to make this much more effective than me having to sit there and go, all right, you're going to find a caterer, right?

Or putting all that every single time on the workplace team that also can't scale to support that. Well, I love that that conversation. If it's okay, I'll jump in on that one because, um, what I love about repurposing offices and the company that I work for now, they're, they're a late adopter. They're not the early, they're not. So it's, they're not forward thinking. So it's kind of fun to be a forward thinker, but on a not forward, because it's, you get the best of both worlds. But what I mean to say, what my purpose for this is, um, because we are not making radical decisions on new 00:43:00 offices. I am now challenged. The fun challenge for me is now redefining what is the purpose of the workplace operations team because it's not the same anymore.

You're not walking around finding service. How are you going to serve? The tickets are not the same anymore. So redefining their role has been a great fun challenge. And that is now brand where we're leaning towards it. We want if you if we want this. space to be a place for you to come to, well, let's help you make it that space.

And one of the biggest things that they come to, they come to the office for is to have these events, either meetings or other things. And so we are now turning into that. We're creating now an online, you know, these are the things that you can choose. These are the things that you can do. So we make it easier for you when you come on, when you come on.

That's how we're doing. That's how, that's what we're doing, but it's a, it's a very different role, which is. It is. Um, if you follow her on LinkedIn, or I'm glad to connect you to her to Lakshmi Ranjaragam, um, she was the sort of community lead at WeWork. 00:44:00 Um, then, uh, her background before that was, um, like products and growth type of things at match. com and other places. So she's got this interesting background of like, how do people connect with one another? She then turned into, how do you think about this from a, what's the role of, um, You know, inside of organizations, what's the role of both facilities and these kind of playbooks and contents and best practices for why people want to come together and how you make them successful in doing so.

And that's what I think, Lenny, to your point, like a lot of, it's a different set of skills, uh, for a different set of challenges, but it's a fantastic one because you then become facilitators, not facilities. Yeah. Yeah. It's like before you had facility managers were forced to be doing workplace services and they're just very different. You have hospitality backgrounds and competencies versus technical backgrounds and you couldn't put them together and you shouldn't. I've always advocated for them to be separate. This is a new example of how it shouldn't be. The facility managers continue to make sure that that 00:45:00 building is going to fall down on you and it'll be maintained.

But the workplace services groups are now going to be, uh, empowered to do a different, a different kind of operation. Yeah. And I think Lenny, that's a. That's absolutely right. Like I like, I really, I really love the facilities versus facilitators. That's a, that's a great little, uh, quip there. Um, I do think there's like an interesting point here for the playbooks.

And I hope Brian, you can encourage more folks that, you know, and you talked to over time to like share those playbooks publicly because so many companies are like, we've all experienced this as workplace professionals. We're all usually like an army of one. And we have like, you know, we're wearing all the hats and we don't have time to sit down and write a playbook necessarily all the time.

So like, we're always looking for those resources and trying to find those things that other people have done really, really well. And I'm glad there's more people like, you know, obviously yourself sharing great data and information. There's people like Annie and, you know, the team at Atlassian does a great job. Yeah, shipping playbooks all the time, all about different things. Um, so their team type playbooks are really great. 00:46:00 Get labs. Another example, obviously, but we hope there's more companies who will keep doing that. If you can encourage people to keep doing that, that'd be great because there's so many workplace people who are just an army of one and like whatever their title is, like generalists, HR or whatever, they're, they're just existing on their own and they need that help too.

Well, one of my big themes personally is like, do your work in public for a couple of reasons, right? Like the more. There is no competitive advantage to retaining a playbook only for you on gatherings for teams. Like, I'm sorry, get over yourself if you think that's the case. I posted something on LinkedIn about connections among teams yesterday because the LinkedIn team asked me to focus on that.

And, um, what are you reminded of is like Doist, um, Chad, I forget his last name. Yeah. Chase, Chase Warrington. Um, they've got a great set of playbooks around gatherings. Um, we did some stuff on this on, on future forum. Uh, I'm looking for pretty Parker's book. It's somewhere around here. I don't know where it went, but at any rate, it's a great one 00:47:00 also.

And she's got tons of content online, but there's so much out there. That's, that's really helpful. Like helping, you know, from a collective perspective, helping curate that content and helping people find it and encouraging more people to share it, um, is really fantastic. So Brian, I have a, my last question for you. Um, how do you know if your flexible work policy is performing well? Like are there specific KPI? Do we have to think about the KPI aspect or is there other ways to measure this? Yeah, there are. Number one is just outcomes of the organization. Uh, and, and there's two big buckets, right? P uh, the, the big, the big two things are how are you doing from an organizational performance perspective?

Are you driving revenue growth? Are you hitting the bottom line? How's your product roadmap rolling out? Is it on time? Is, is it driving more usage? Just like our outcomes good from an organization that at the end of the day is super important. The other is what's your levels of employee engagement. What's your. Employee net promoter score. So NPS net promoter score is a thing that often gets 00:48:00 used for customers. It's basically a measure that says on a scale of 1 to 10, would you recommend our company is a place to work to a friend? And if somebody says nine or 10, they are a promoter. If they say six or below, they are actually detractor and you subtract them and you figure out the score in between the two.

And that's one of the best indicators of like Besides, are you happy? Are you sad? Employee NPS is just a great one in terms of how people are really thinking about the organization. And if you can look at those two things, that's super key. What I, what some organizations that I've been working with are doing is if they did team level agreements, if you look at like, um, good examples are MasterCard, Allstate, Genentech, State Department, it's hard for people to do that. It's a lot of work and effort. Um, if you do it right, uh, if you just check the box, you can kind of tell there are people, plenty of people that check the box and then are you actually using it and reviewing it? It takes work and ongoing effort. What some of these folks are starting to do is they're starting to 00:49:00 look at back at, um, are people updating their team level agreements and you can kind of judge quality.

I've had at least one firm that I work with do this, go back and kind of grade them A's through D's. Like someone just basically copied the template and submitted it. Versus it's clear. These people spent time on this, right? Go back and take that quality score and see how it aligns to employee NPS or employee engagement in that business unit in that function. And surprise, surprise, they're aligned. Um, this may be, uh, just a truism anyway, though, too, which is If a leader or a manager is going to spend the time with their team to talk about their norms and how they work together and why they come together, but also how they use time and how to communicate with one another and how they make decisions, that's the kind of leader that people are going to want to work for in the first place. But it's also a really good way to, by creating those agreements and then publishing them internally, it's back to that, um, that 00:50:00 sharing on an internal basis, at least, of best practices, it's how you help find your champions. I think I gave you a long answer to a short question, Kayla. No, I love it. Thank you so much.

And that's actually a perfect way. I think to wrap this up, we are almost at time. So I'm not going to put us over time. That'd be disrespectful of everybody. Thank you so much for joining us today, Brian. Thank you for everyone for participating in this first community session. And, uh, Thank you. And we'll see you at the next one.

The next one is going to be in September with, uh, Denise Broder, who is the founder of Sway Workplace, who is also another fantastic human. Uh, and we're really looking forward to talking all about hybrid workplace. Maybe we could call it something else for her or convince her to change her, her branding. I'm kidding, Brian. Uh, I'll be, I'll be here for it. Denise is fantastic. That's great. Denise is Denise is fantastic. She has a really amazing background and she, uh, has just a massive amount of knowledge to share as well. So thank you so much, Brian. Thank you everyone for joining and that's it for 00:51:00 today. Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Omar. Thank you for this community. Thank you. Yeah. Thanks. Bye bye.

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