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Bursts of Color - The Office Reopening Conundrum

Bursts of Color - The Office Reopening Conundrum
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #53 • View online
So… here we are in June 2021. Things are reopening and you’re eager to get the team working together in person. There’s just one small problem: thanks to remote hiring and employee moves, only half the company lives near the office.

Three Approaches to the Office
At the risk of over-simplifying, I’m seeing companies take one of three general approaches here:
  1. Full In-Person. A small percentage of startups are back to the office and are committed to local hiring only.
  2. Full-Remote. A larger percentage are happy with remote-first, and are committed to that approach indefinitely.
  3. Hybrid. Everyone else, including Apple and Google, is trying to encourage 2-3 in-person days/week at any one of several offices around the country.
While there are many valid reasons to pursue a hybrid option, one of you described it last week as a “really high degree of difficulty problem.” This may be the understatement of the year.
Employee Experience by Type of Office:
My highly scientific chart indicates: being remote on a hybrid team sucks
My highly scientific chart indicates: being remote on a hybrid team sucks
We know that both options #1 and #2 can work well. Having experimented with many hybrid teams in the past, I’ve generally found that the in-person experience for hybrid groups is fine, as #3 feels a lot like #1. But doing remote work on a hybrid team is rough: we can barely recognize our office colleagues on Zoom, and they constantly forget to relay things discussed at lunch.
If You’re Going Hybrid
So you concluded that hybrid is complicated, but it’s the best available option. Fair enough. Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Concentrate teamwork by office. In an ideal world, every employee’s manager and closest five teammates will be in their same geography (or all-remote).
  2. Minimize satellite offices. I find that offices with less than 15-20 employees are brutal to maintain, both logistically and culturally. If you’re going to have them, keep your options open with flexible spaces like Codi or WeWork.
  3. Establish a consistent office schedule. If you’re going to ask folks to come in 2-3 days per week, hold to consistent days and hours. There’s not much point to all the hassle if people aren’t there at the same time.
  4. Expect to iterate again in 3-6 months. We’re all going to learn a lot about what works when the Googles and Apples try to mandate office hours this fall. So I’d try to avoid making many long-term commitments in the meantime.
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Geoff Donaker

Bursts of Color is a newsletter for start-up leaders who work with Burst Capital. It's meant to include products, people and ideas that I think are interesting and maybe relevant for you.

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