Budgets, Data, Engagement: What Workplace Leaders Do To Manage Different Policies

Key Takeaways

  1. Give employees guidance on how to work together, the best ways to collaborate, and why and when it’s essential to come together in person
  2. Base all your workplace decisions on data, and stay on top of qualitative and quantitative insights to plan for future workplace iterations.
  3. Identify key moments for employees to meet in person and develop them into a deliberate strategy.

Picture this: you’re a workplace leader managing a globally distributed team with mixed employee populations. So you have team members working on-site, in a hybrid model, and remotely.

Where do you start to tackle the challenges, and which core areas do you focus on?

For leaders at companies like Harness, Upwork, and many others, the workplace strategy focuses on rethinking employee experience across populations, defining processes that will work for all team members, and keeping a pulse on data points that can help unlock future iterations of how employees get work done, collaborate, and socialize.

Dive into the full conversation with Upwork and Harness in our latest webinar, available now on-demand.

Harness and Upwork Workplace Strategies

Anchoring your workplace strategy

Data shows collaboration, productivity, and engagement increase when people come together in person. Employees like flexibility, but they also like seeing coworkers, socializing, and establishing trust in person. So, for workplace leaders, anchoring a workplace culture around what flexibility means and how it comes together with in-person connections is the first step.

You can be remote-first, like Upwork, and build a strategy that relies on employees working remotely most of the time while creating a cadence of in-person events and offsites, as well as ad-hoc meetings in flex spaces globally.

Or, you could go the route Harness is taking with their destination-first workplace model. Their employees come together in company offices three times a week, while their remote employees get on-demand access to flex spaces.

“There are a few areas you can really focus on. One is an in-person gatherings program or a systematic way to make sure that people have those opportunities and that we're giving those opportunities equitably to a degree. Some teams will gather in person more than others, and that's natural. But I think it's important to still make sure that people understand how you're making decisions, that it feels equitable, transparent, and fair, and that people have opportunities to meet their team in person.” - Charlotte Johnson, Upwork

Identifying key moments for connection

Each company will have different views on when in-person connections matter most, and employees should have a say in how and why face-to-face encounters happen. In most companies, however, there are a few common moments where being together in the same room can make a difference:

At Harness, the workplace team built an in-person gathering framework in partnership with admins and chiefs of staff. They work together to track data and insights on offsites and team events, craft agendas that work across time zones, and make events engaging for those who can’t attend in person.

Their teams also work with local team leaders who host trainings, events, and offsites. Their requests go through the workplace team, which helps organize everything and ensures these moments align with their workplace strategy.

Promoting clarity and transparency

With employees across the spectrum of workplace policies - on-site, hybrid, and remote - workplace leaders must deliver guidance and clarity to all employees.

At Harness, they dedicate time and resources to training managers on how to communicate with hybrid and remote employees, manage them effectively, and serve as a point of contact that helps employees feel connected, have clear expectations, and perform at their best.

At Upwork, the emphasis is on written communication and guidelines for how to work together in different configurations. Their examples include detailed guides on how to conduct hybrid meetings, communicate with remote coworkers, or manage project documentation.

Managing real estate budgets

Your real estate decisions need to align at least partially with your hiring efforts. For example, Upwork, a company with team members in 91 countries, tends to rely less on leased offices and more on providing on-demand flex spaces to employees everywhere. It’s a decision that makes financial sense but is also aligned with headcount, employee locations, and flexibility.

Still, if you have a larger population of employees in some locations, you need to design criteria to help decide whether to offer them a dedicated or flex space. At Harness, if there are ten people in a location who want to come into the office three days a week, that’s a threshold that opens a discussion about a dedicated office – everything below that gets employees an ad-hoc flex space option.

“We put together a policy around office acquisition and parameters to follow in order to get access to any office space, coworking or dedicated. We found that having at least 10 people in a location who were willing to go into an office three days a week were eligible to kick off a discussion around a co-working office or a dedicated space.” -Britney Pierini, Harness

Staying on top of data and trends

There’s no lack of data points to track and monitor in today’s workplace. Here are a few examples of what you can follow to inform your strategy, iterate, and make decisions:

  • Basic workforce data - where people are, headcount projections, etc.
  • Information on how employees are using flex spaces in different locations
  • Office occupancy and badge data - how groups are using workspaces, broken down by team or location
  • Travel and expense data
  • Information on offsite and event attendance
  • Data on why people come together, in which types of spaces, sizes of groups coming in, and layouts of spaces they use the most

Upwork did an extensive study of tier in-person gatherings, analyzing all this data and more, and they came up with a long-term scalable model of using flex spaces for employees globally. In this model, the workspaces are gathering centers that can be configured to fit the needs of employees and the events they’re coming together for.

Focusing on flex spaces instead of offices is a data-driven decision that enabled them to save money on long-term leases, offer flexibility, and reallocate budgets to initiatives like social stipends for employees to socialize after work or local community groups.

Make connections an integral part of your strategy

People want to get together but get lost in the logistics of where, when, and who should meet. Make it easy for them to engage by giving them clarity, guidance on when to meet, and a way to do it hassle-free.

With Gable, you get the best of both worlds: the autonomy of remote and hybrid policies with the culture-building of in-person connection and collaboration. Learn how to take your workplace strategy from mandated to meaningful.

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Andrea Rajic