Future of Workplace: Office vs. Remote and Impressit Way
Although working from home vs working from the office was discussed a lot before, it became one of the central topics of debate among professionals in almost every field during the last two years. Despite the vaccination, the pandemic is not over yet, so currently, executives worldwide have to decide which working model to choose in these turbulent times.
According to the Statista survey among the CIOs, 70% of companies worked remotely as of March 2021. Moreover, 31% of them expect remote work to become permanent.
Another survey shows that only 26% of the workforce will work exclusively from the office.
These numbers show us that the times of the office-based working model domination are gone.
As a CEO of a young company, I was also faced with choosing the best working model for the Impressit growing team. I understood that the most important thing is to be honest with myself and my team as well as to be open to discussion, new ideas, and different opinions. After evaluating the pros and cons of working from the office or remotely, we decided to design our own working model, the one that will best suit our team's culture and values. Therefore, we went for a hybrid working approach with some Impressit unique features.
Why We Chose Hybrid Working Model?
When I first decided to write this article, I was motivated by numerous claims that the remote is the future of the workplace. I strongly disagree with this idea, and recently I’ve read an article in Forbes that confirmed my opinion — a hybrid working model is the best choice to make for 2022.
While we’re pondering which working model is the best, we should first and foremost think about the balance. When I’m talking about it, I mean the balance between what works best for business and what works best for the team.
So why do I think that the hybrid working model works perfectly for the Impressit team?
Definitely, one of the significant advantages of full remote working is considerable savings for the business. If a major part of your team works remotely, you can save on the office rent, utility bills, and maybe even computer hardware (if your team works on their own PCs and laptops).
In my opinion, however, the office should be a place where people not only work but can spend time together, bond, and share something special. That is why we put a lot of thought and effort into our office, and we also present our beautiful office space as one of the benefits of working at Impressit. Our office is designed to be not only a comfortable working space for everyone but also to be the place where people truly enjoy spending time. The roomy common area is perfect for team building events. Whether it is a board game night, someone’s birthday, or a beer tasting — there is enough space for everyone and any activity.
The second thing I’d love to point out is the risks that remote work has. A few of the most important are possible issues with the performance and efficiency of the employees, along with the loss of connection. It is evident that face-to-face meetings help to strengthen the trust and understanding between colleagues. And very often, remote work makes employers introduce time tracking and additional tools to monitor their employees’ work. Hence, the focus shifts to dry metrics and quantitative indicators.
At Impressit, we care more about the quality of the job done, and establishing trust is crucial in this case. That is why we ask people to visit the office at least a few times a month so they can meet their teammates, attend in-person project meetings, and have a chat over a cup of coffee in the kitchen.
Also, we do not use any time tracking tools at Impressit. We cherish the results of work and the input a person makes into the business, not the number of hours spent with the laptop. We may ask employees to log time at some projects but only for commercial purposes — to evaluate the velocity and amount of work that can be done in a certain period.
We do not have a strict attendance policy (i.e., we do not demand a certain number of visits per month), but we check on our teammates who work predominantly remotely and reserve the right to ask them to come to the office sometime. We do not support the full remote working model. These conditions are talked about during the interviews, and I should say that most people are glad about the opportunity to work from the nice office in the city center. First of all, it is beautiful — when you look from any office window, you see amazing streets and historical buildings of Lviv. Secondly, it is very convenient — there are plenty of shops and cafes nearby, so during lunchtime, one can run small errands or meet with friends for coffee.
Last but not least, the question of safety. We put it as a top priority, obviously, and that is why respective measures are taken to minimize the risks of COVID infection. In addition, at the moment, over 90% of Impressit employees are vaccinated, which also lets us spend more time together and communicate in person without worrying.
How do people react to mandatory office visits requirements? During my time as HR at Impressit, only 2 of our employees were against this rule. In one case, the reason was the personal characteristics of the person. This person was fairly introverted and felt much better working from the comfort of their own apartment. I understood this, so I chose not to bother them with the regular office visits. Instead, I was inviting this person to our team's parties and after-work activities so they would feel more relaxed and associate the office with something fun and joyful. The second person was firmly against office visits at first; however, they changed their mind after visiting one of the office parties.
So, in general, I can say that Impressit people are satisfied with the hybrid working model. They understand the importance of personal connection, staying in touch with colleagues, and real-life work collaboration. On the other hand, they as well enjoy the relative freedom and flexibility the company offers them.
What about Workation?
Last year, as soon as the travelling bans were lifted, plenty of people decided to get away from home and try workation. If you weren’t aware of this notion, its name is pretty self-explanatory — workation is the combination of vacation and work. Basically, people travel either inside their country or abroad while continuing to work online.
In general, at Impressit, we allow such practices. However, if an employee wants to try it, this idea should be approved by the person’s direct manager first to make sure it won’t interfere with the usual workflow. To be honest, I do not believe that one can be 100% focused and productive during the workation because the journey itself, new surroundings, and new impressions are definitely distracting.
I'm a believer in the “work hard, play hard” approach. I understand that such practices are here to stay, but workation sounds like a sort of compromise for me. That's why I'd rather incentivise my team to take more time off and have a well-deserved, good rest when they are on vacation. Thus, at Impressit, we offer our employees 24 working days of annual paid time off. Overall, we recommend the Impressit team not to mix work and rest in order to have a healthy balance in life.
Future of Workplace Trends
Obviously, drastic changes in working conditions that we faced in 2020 affected the workplaces in various ways. Yes, in general, most of us adapted to the “new norm” — we got used to Zoom meetings, online team buildings and learned to juggle hobbies, family, friends, and work successfully. But I would like to take a deeper look at a few aspects of our new work environment: changes in the corporate culture, popularity of flexible hours, and mental health care.
Transformation of the Corporate Culture
One of the trends associated with the spread of the hybrid working model is changing the corporate culture to accommodate both office and remote employees. This is one of the challenges we are working on as well.
Since the founding of Impressit, Andriy Lekh, co-founder and CTO of the company, and I understood that we should make a significant effort to build a team culture that would reflect our values and views. Now we see that we have to adapt our approach to the changes linked to the hybrid working model. Although we have the condition for our team members to visit the office at least a few times a month, we still understand the necessity of providing the same engagement and sharing the team spirit with those who work remotely most of the time.
The Impressit way of solving this problem is to prioritize real-life after-work communication. During the complete lockdown in 2020, we organized biweekly Friday Zoom happy hours with funny engagement activities and occasional gifts; now, we organize regular events such as birthday parties, tech talks (as our employees are always willing to share their knowledge), holiday celebrations, and Friday beers almost every week in between. We are cautious about the pandemic and the corresponding risks, that's why, when possible, we arrange all these activities outdoors in the fresh air.
Needless to say that adaptation of the corporate culture to the new world is one of the most critical tasks for HR managers worldwide. We have to make people feel heard and needed even if they work remotely, keep the team spirit up as well as organize a safe and comfortable environment for those who prefer to visit the office.
The first insight I’ve got during the pandemic is that asking questions makes people feel heard. That is why I do surveys and then share the results with our leadership team so they can make their strategic decisions considering the opinions of the whole Impressit team.
Another thing we do is spend time together. From online team building events during the strict lockdown to real-life parties now — we are trying to give our team the opportunity to connect and have fun together.
We also support our employees during important life events — for example, in case of the wedding or the birth of a child, we give additional time off and presents. This way, people feel that we care about them not only as employees, but also have a personal connection with them.
It is also important to note that while hiring we pay special attention to the soft skills of our potential team members. Currently, we strive to hire people that would support and cherish our team’s culture as much as we already do. If we hire like-minded people, our spirit will only be stronger.
A lot of attention has been paid recently to the importance of flexible working hours. I reckon that this is more of a common-sense question. You may try to offer your employees fully flexible hours, but I think you will be a bit disappointed with the outcome.
Absolute flexibility is a myth if you work in a team, and most IT professionals do work in a team, whether it is their office colleagues or stakeholders from the client’s side. It is pretty important for the teammates to be aligned as this ensures the best productivity and efficiency. For instance, all the questions and requests that may appear in the process can be resolved quicker if the team works the same hours.
At Impressit, we allow flexible hours; however, a person should use common sense and consider all the other people involved in the project.
Mental Health Care
It is needless to say that last year’s lockdown had a massive impact on every person’s mental health. And unfortunately, the situation is not getting better. According to a recent Forbes article, people still feel isolated and lonely, and employers offer fewer mental health benefits in 2021 as compared to 2020.
As an executive, I try to always keep in mind the psychological state of my team, especially those teammates who mainly work remotely. Our HR Manager, Maryana, plays a crucial role in this process — she keeps in touch with our employees by conducting regular 1:1 meetings and has additional sync-up meetings with those who work remotely most of the time.
Also, as I’ve previously mentioned, we organize regular parties and team-building activities (considering all the anti-COVID measures, obviously) and invite remote workers personally so they won’t skip it. If I notice that someone repeatedly skips our after-work get-togethers, we perceive it as an indicator that something may be wrong, so I try to catch up with this person as soon as possible.
Because our team is relatively compact, we managed to remain a close-knit community of like-minded people. And after working at Impressit for more than 1,5 years, I know each and every person very well — not just like co-workers, but like friends.
That is why during our 1:1 meetings, I can feel if something bothers a person. Usually, if I notice that a person feels bad and there are no apparent problems or stressful situations at work, I try to dig deeper to find out the reason for their state. Of course, I respect privacy and do not cross reasonable borders if I see the person is uncomfortable talking to me about personal issues. Also, if I notice some issues with a person, I keep in touch with them more often and invite them to the office personally, either just to work or to attend some of our events.
During regular 1:1 meetings, I reiterate the importance of work-life balance and check if a person does not experience frequent overtime work. Impressit executives understand that stress and anxiety may negatively influence the motivation and productivity of the team, so we try to do our best to support their mental health.
With 2022, the third year of the global pandemic, approaching, I look into the future with confidence and high hopes. I believe that the hybrid working model is the way to go for Impressit in the following years.
The flexibility of this model allows the Impressit team to maintain a healthy life-work balance. Some days one may save a few hours by staying at home and not spending time on the commute, but on the other day, one will stay at the office a little longer to chat with colleagues and bond over similar interests. This way, we also care about our employees’ mental health as we provide them with freedom and personal space but also involve them in common activities so they know they are a part of the Impressit community. We cherish trust, freedom, and friendship, and the hybrid working model matches these values best.
Our management team is determined to provide a comfortable and friendly environment for every team member because we know that a happy employee is a productive and successful employee. On the other hand, we are ready to accept new challenges and adapt to the new changes; although, I really hope that the future holds only nice surprises for us.