In the last two years many companies newly defined their working and collaboration models. Some companies gave their model a complete overhaul while others just slightly adopted their practices. Listening to posts of other work environments one inevitably notices that a larger number of (tech) companies changed to a “remote-first” or “remote-only” setup.
Amongst many other benefits employees mention that a remote-only job significantly improves their life since they can spend more time with family or friends at home.
Other people however thoroughly enjoy meeting and talking to people physically in the office. While there certainly is no “right” or “wrong” way of doing it, there are all kinds of wishes of people. Some prefer to work at home. Some enjoy coming to the office daily as the environment change helps them to concentrate.
Since our ride-pooling business is all about “bringing people together” we are convinced that our culture should reflect this. Nevertheless we also do not want to have strict rules or binary positions on this. Thus, after the strict lockdowns, we worked on a culture of co-location and remote — a hybrid working model.
The MOIA Hybrid Model
If there was a rule to follow (and no one wrote down any rules) it would probably be something like this:
Come to the office regularly. Decide yourself what “regularly” means.
We certainly do not track/analyze how often people come to the office. We rather encourage people and try to make the commute worth their while. May it be that breakfast is organized for anyone in the company being onsite for a hybrid townhall/all-hands meeting. May it be that teams meet for picknick or cook something in the office kitchen after as a team activity. May it be that some people conduct a highly collaborative workshop with other team members in the office.
This flexible model and encouragement lead to all kinds of small events, random endeavors and get-to-knows and ultimately, a safe harbor for all people who do not want to spend 8 hours per day meeting “virtual people”, but truly cherish the (occasional) real-life interaction also at work.
Here we want to re-iterate that neither way or working model is “right” or “wrong”. There are just preferences of different people in different stages in their life — as well as teams in their steady evolvement. We choose to be there for anyone who does not want to work in either of the “extreme” models of onsite- or remote-only.
How did we get there?
While culture often leads to a lot of (hopefully good) things all by itself a defined hybrid model needed a bit more intelligent design and creation as it just does not develop on its own out of our culture.
Pre-Corona we had a single room with fixed desks for every team where people were onsite most of the time. Thus, the people who came to the office throughout the corona-pandemic time usually returned to “their” seat. New joiners were randomly scattered and a lot of people were unsure where to sit, how to behave in the various (former team) rooms or which noise level was still okay. Being considerate everyone had meetings in a proper meeting room. With a lot of calls (due to the nature of any hybrid model) we ended up with few people occupying all meetings rooms the full day. Something needed to be done! ;)
In September 2021 dedicated individuals formed a small group to give our setup more structure and bring it into a true “model”. 10 Months later we are now sharing this blog post after our second iteration in our process.
We structured ourselves by leaning onto the three-horizon-model by McKinsey. (Yes, we modified it quite a bit, but it helped us with a basic and easy-to-communicate structure). We started to define what we want to achieve for the first horizon, “optimize, start small”. Since we had no real clue where our journey would lead, we made sure to just experiment and work with a low-cost approach. You do not build or teardown a literal wall just to try something quickly. Still within this constrain we tried to be bold and brave. Amongst other things,
- we redefined our entire office layout.
- we repurposed closed rooms for meetings, breakouts, table tennis, chill-out and everything we felt would be needed in a “cool” office.
- we moved a lot of sofas up and down across our two floors in Hamburg to make sure we have nice small breakout areas everywhere.
- we introduced a new tool to check-in to the office — to see how crowded it is and who else is in the office. We also made sure that all ways of data-collection on individual office appearances is not retrievable for anyone J
- we created locker areas, a library and defined different purpose areas in the office.
Another thing that we did was to grant one initial and one monthly allowance for all MOIA people to setup and operate their home office equipment which ultimately makes the remote experience nicer for everyone in every meeting. Meanwhile for many events within the office we order good and healthy food for lunch or breakfast. Cooking events became famous with the teams and of course we sometimes do have the proverbial pizza delivered. The #beer-stream for get-togethers on the balcony after work is as much part of slack as the events that are being organized in our new onsite-check-in tool.
What’s best for every single MOIA employee in this setup? People at MOIA do not have to choose whether they’re rather located remote or onsite — they’re able to get a sophisticated setup at home while everyone is welcome to use all the benefits of the office whenever it suits best. So every MOIA employee can flexibly find their own individual hybrid-balance suiting to their needs.
We encouraged, collected and processed feedback along our journey at all moments of time.
The feedback helped us to go into the second phase of the horizon model, “growing the core”. For a company going into a hybrid setup with a great amount of people being remote, the “core” and (physically) limiting factor in the office are surely small meeting rooms. We needed to move our C-Level out of their small individual rooms to a larger team-room — even on a different floor. This rather unconventional step increased our capacity by 6 additional small rooms for all MOIA people to have a personal conversation with a remote pair or applicant or even have a private call. We also ordered some (movable) phone boxes which we put at “strategic points” in the office so that you’d never have to walk far to get to a small room for a quite conversation.
In addition to the feedback gather, the overall communication part was as much time and work as the actual planning and the moving of chairs, tables, monitors, sofas and plants. We were aware of it from the beginning and it proved to be correct yet again: communicate open, frequently and on multiple channels — in different formats: we also created videos with a walk-through of our office. This made it tangible, informative and fun (ugly Christmas sweater in December…) all at the same time.
Now we are entering the third Horizon — “renewal”. In this working group we began our journey with two of our C-Level members and a small group of skillset-selected people. All of us contributed to this group by providing special knowledge or mindset to kickstart this cultural and physical development of our offices.
Now we are opening the group again for everyone in the company who wants to participate and shape new ways of working by bringing some more flavor and spice by adding fresh ideas and perspectives. Those people will drive this next horizon. Understanding what worked until now and what did not. Changing, adopting, renewing!
We are looking forward to many smart and fun ideas how to improve our office for all the people who truly want to not-only-work-from-home.
So what about remote-only?
We do think (we do not know, because we do not check) that we have very few people who are 98% remote (aka: 3 days / year in the office) — almost every MOIA employee says that they made it to the office at least once or twice during our first two horizons. Teams organize events onsite amongst themselves — creating quite some pull-factors and showing team members how to enjoy this from time to time. You connect to people on a deeper level than purely online and create shared experiences and memories. Ultimately this leads to people being remote between 80 and 20% of their time — based on individual preferences.
If you are looking for a remote-only place where you never have to interact with humans at work in real life, then we at MOIA with our ridepooling (= ”bringing people together, physically”) business will not provide the right cultural fit.
Don’t get us wrong — We value focused work from home office. We love to prioritise Family time over work. We are happy if we need to commute less often. And yet we’re also interested in the people-side behind our co-workers. We want to have truly random discussions in the hallways, share inspiration and innovation and sometimes also just enjoy being in good society of awesome people, while shaping the mobility revolution!
Finn, Ben, Freerk