“Give your people that psychological safety that they’re not missing out on anything when they choose to work from home, because the company means it when they say they encourage and support it.”
It’s about time we dig into what one of this year’s top buzzwords, “hybrid work,” really means from a team engagement perspective. Thankfully, the work we’ve done with employee advocacy experts PostBeyond, has taught us a thing or two that is worth sharing. The biggest learning? Hybrid = Flexible. Read on to learn why.
Since 2013, PostBeyond has been empowering employees to become their company’s best advocates through a frictionless social sharing platform. True to their company values, the PostBeyond team has won multiple awards for their company culture over the past few years. With their unwavering commitment to employee satisfaction, it’s no surprise they were one of our first clients to experiment with flexible events. To offer experiences that cater to folks interested in joining events in-person and those who would prefer to join online.
Shawna Stewart, PostBeyond’s VP of People and Operations, shared insight into what has worked for them so far; from their initial pivot to remote work in 2020, to their first hybrid team building experience in 2021.
“For me, culture is a reflection of us living and breathing the values we represent,” said Shawna. “All of the programs and initiatives we have in place attribute back to one or more of our values. That’s something we keep in focus and that really does help us achieve the culture we strive for. We have great connectivity with each other, even though we are in a remote setting, and I think the thoughtfulness we put into it really stands out.”
Working with Wavy
Knowing how much emphasis they place on their company culture, shifting to remote-first was a no brainer for Shawna and the PostBeyond team. But, one piece of the puzzle that they needed to figure out was how to build meaningful company culture while doing so.
“We engaged Wavy right away,” said Shawna. “We wanted to be pioneers in the remote work space and prioritized finding new ways to get the team together. I think the team appreciated that transparency and flexibility.”
Shawna and her team were some of the first to explore many of Wavy’s experiences, kits and services. Throughout the past year, they’ve used Wavy’s platform and marketplace to host a gingerbread making competition, wine tasting, team trivia, cocktail making, bubble tea making, escape room, a work-from-home wellness workshop, and more.
“My approach from the beginning has been to find out what the team wants to do and create an experience from there. I think that listening to the voices of everyone on our team is what has made these events really successful,” said Shawna.
Initially, PostBeyond engaged Wavy to help make virtual team building events work.
“Since then, our working relationship has grown from event activation to supporting on culture management, too. . Wavy started advising me on what they were seeing in the market, what they were hearing from other people leaders … connecting us to the larger community they’ve been building,” said Shawna.
“They want to create something for everyone and it’s been exciting to explore some of their newer offerings. Together we’ve tried a lot of different ways to help the team engage with one another, even asynchronously, and I think as we go further with the hybrid approach this relationship is going to be lasting and even more fruitful,” she said.
Remote-first, not remote-only
If there is one thing most remote-workers and people-leaders can agree on right now, it’s that some things are just better in person. We’re human, we’re meant to be social. But that doesn’t mean we’re in a rush to get back to the familiar nine-to-five office grind, either. We’re creating room for something in between. The best thing we can do to support our teams is be willing to experiment and stay adaptable.
“Our team really doesn’t want to go back to a static office, apart from wanting to be heads down and out of the house sometimes. We offer our employees Flexday memberships, so that they have the option to do that in a coworking setting,” said Shawna.
“I think what we’re calling ‘hybrid’ work goes a long way for the team. They appreciate not having to be in the same place at the same time every day. And it also gives us room to spread our wings and explore hiring outside of Ontario as well,” she shared. “The only reason they would want to get together in an office environment is to be around each other socially. Now that it’s safe to do so, we’re eager to give them those opportunities.”
This is such a new space and Wavy’s approach is to go on the journey together with their clients; learning and supporting each other throughout it to design something that works for everyone. To that end, Wavy worked with Shawna and her team to shape a hybrid experience model that met their team’s unique needs. It needed to be equally inclusive for those that wanted to be there in person and those who did not.
Hybrid Experiences, Take One
The PostBeyond hosted their first hybrid team building experience this past August with a mixology class that took place both online and in-person. Here are three key tactics that made it work:
- Those joining the experience in-person met up at a local co-working space in lieu of having an office to gather at.
- Both the in-person and online groups received the same experience kit, ensuring they were all on the same page from the start. Plus, while those in-person got to enjoy a meal together, those online were sent a gift card so they could treat themselves, too.
- We added a trivia component that took place intermittently throughout the experience, which gave all parties – no matter where they were located – plenty of time to connect with one another throughout the event.
“One thing we’ve learned is that having various elements that bridge the two parties is key, and at least one of those components should be interactive, taking place during the experience itself,” said Becca Cambridge, Client Success Manager at Wavy. That's where the emphasis on flexibility comes in.
Shawna shared that her team provided a lot of great feedback, with those who attended online calling out that “trivia tied us together.”
“We got such great feedback from the people who joined both in-person and online,” she said. “For us, this version of hybrid really felt like we were all together and that’s the feeling we really want to create. That has been the greatest benefit for us.”
In short - flexibility. For Wavy, working with PostBeyond to facilitate how hybrid experiences can work has been invaluable. It has shifted our approach to creating flexible team building experiences for people to enjoy from wherever they feel most comfortable that day.
When it comes to PostBeyond, the "hybrid" way worked well based on their team size and preferences. In fact, they've already hosted their second hybrid experience: a Halloween escape room! In keeping with the idea of creating similar experiences that bridge both the online and in-person team members, both groups took part in the same activity, at the same time. However, one was on-foot at the co-working space and the other was online.
For another organization however, this version of a hybrid experience might not be the way to go.
The great thing is: when we open ourselves up to the expansive mindset PostBeyond exemplifies, we can create any number of flexible experiences and initiatives to bring teams together, whether they participate in-person, online, or even asynchronously.
“From what we’ve seen so far hosting hybrid experiences at Wavy, I think it’s really important to let team members be present where they are,” said Becca. “No matter how they engage in an experience, we want everyone to really enjoy it without worrying about how the rest of the team is doing with it in a different format."
PostBeyond has seen an increase in engagement in their team building experiences since that event, because they know it will be worth their time and that what they're asking for will be factored in. Whether they’re able to make it in-person or not, they’ll be included with intention. Going the extra mile is worth it – your team will notice and appreciate the thought you put in.
“The biggest piece of advice I’d share with other companies when it comes to flexible experiences is that you should try to match the experiences as much as possible for the people online and the people in-person,” said Shawna. “Give your people that psychological safety that they’re not missing out on anything when they choose to work from home because the company means it when they say they encourage and support it.”