How we supported our team through the pandemic and what we learned from hybrid work
Today, almost two years after the start of the pandemic, we at Spacent are professionals at the physical aspects of hybrid workplaces. We help companies, big or small, leverage the possibilities of hybrid work while mitigating the challenges posed by the pandemic.
But the idea for Spacent did not emerge from the disruption to office spaces caused by the pandemic - instead our company was founded in 2019 as a result of in-depth experience on distributed workplace models. We built our product and our team based on that prior expertise, mostly during the time of the pandemic. In our naivety, we thought we mastered hybrid work. But, as it turned out, we also had a lot to learn from the reality.
Our own hybrid workplace story
While we were still at the very beginning of the formation of our company, the pandemic hit and we went fully digital in a heartbeat. And when I say fully digital, I truly mean it - most of the time we didn't even have an office of our own. Instead, our people worked entirely from the spaces in our own network of remote working locations. Despite the pandemic, we grew fast and recruited a lot of new people in a short timeframe and offered everyone the possibility to work wherever it was most convenient for them - and for a long time, many of us had never seen each other in real life. That didn't bother us, and we were sure that our network offered us all the workplaces we needed.
But we were wrong to do so. After a while we started struggling: there was a lack of communication that led to stress, frustration, and other problems. And it was hard to see where those challenges arose from.
We needed to do something, and we started with a very small change to our own product. We developed the possibility to share the location of your reservation with your colleagues. With a push of a button you could send the following message to Slack, Teams, email or any other channel of your choice: "Hey, I’m going to be working here tomorrow and I would like some company”.
This small feature changed dramatically the way we worked and reminded us about the importance of connecting with each other. We were so enthusiastic about how hybrid work changed the physical aspects of working (i.e. where you work) that we forgot what was in the core of any company – the people.
The remote working world has a beautiful, unexpected side-effect, which is that when people DO come together, it’s a special thing. They get to know each other and can discover different ways to connect and communicate.
Fundamentally, it made our face-to-face encounters more playful. The ability to play has a massive impact on creativity and brings that little magic to the table. It creates room for serendipity, which leads to true innovation and recognition of the opportunities around us.
Suddenly the challenges we had struggled with didn't seem so heavy anymore.
Bridging the gap between office and remote workers
Today we have our own office, the home base for Spacent. We have a diverse team, and some of us prefer staying at home, and some like to spend most of the days at the office or in our network locations. We want to encourage both our office-based and remote workers to proactively build their relationships with each other.
But now, we and all other companies are facing the next challenge of hybrid work: the formation of two distinct groups for employees working remotely or at the office. A gap is easily created between these groups. We need to remember, that there is no "us" and "them" - there is just us.
To bridge that gap, we have made sure that everyone of our employees has equal chances of participating and knowing who’s where and when – information that is easily lost from employees not present in the office, blocking them from choosing with whom they want to work with. And again, we have done this through our own application.
We’ve seen this approach foster a culture of support and respect at Spacent, and creating an inclusive working environment where all places to work from are seen valuable. So, for all the business leaders out there – we strongly recommend you dedicate some time and attention to these topics too.
How can we empower teams within hybrid workplaces?
Since the development of our first "team feature", the simple sharing button, we have devoted a lot of time and effort to understand the way teamwork fits into the flexibility of hybrid work. Based on our own experiences and the feedback from our current users, we are launching the following features in the Spacent application - allowing your organisation to start empowering teams while providing flexibility.
Let your colleagues find you While making a reservation, make your location visible to your colleagues and work together where it’s the most convenient for you. It is your own decision if you want to be found, but be aware, it just might make you more approachable to your colleagues.
Find your colleagues Check from Spacent where your colleagues are going to work, who’s in the office, or who’s maybe coming to your neighbourhood.
Search for a colleague Search for a colleague to work more closely together, see their reservations and easily match yours with them.
Filter locations and spaces by coworkers People want to work in certain spaces because of what, and especially who, is in them. That is why you can filter the locations in the Spacent network based on the locations of your colleagues.
We claim that there is no better way to build highly functional teams in this new way of working than by bringing the focus back to the people. Spacent allows just that: empowering collaboration while still allowing the much needed flexibility.