Alley & Electric are excited to bring you their series “Reimagining the Workplace”. This four-part series touches on different aspects of returning to the office and how to best support your team in this unknown time.
As economies around the world prepare for reopening, business leaders are poised to put their return-to-work plans in action. While the practicalities of returning to the office will differ slightly from one company to the next, certain best practices come to mind for companies looking to effectively support their teams transitioning back into the workplace.
In part 1 of this joint webinar series, leaders from Alley, Electric, Alpha, and Dashlane spell out their return-to-work strategies, shedding light on:
- Timeline: what factors determine when we will return to the office?
- Workplace sanitation and new office layouts
- The future of remote work
Noelle Tassey 0:00
All of our attendees, thank you for joining us today and taking an hour out of your Thursday afternoon to talk about the return to work. We're super excited to have all of you and just waiting here for the rest of our panelists to come back on video. But while we wait, just for those of you who don't know in the audience, please feel free to use the Q&A feature. We will be checking on questions throughout the entire conversation. And you know, hopefully looking forward to a really interesting conversation about getting back to work which depending on who you are, you're either super excited for or potentially not so much. I'm Noelle Tassey, CEO of Alley. Alley for startups is you know your one-stop digital, physical community for whatever you might need to grow your business. And for our corporate partners, such as Verizon 5G Labs and other companies we work with, we are their community-powered innovation solutions, we bring the two pieces together, for those of you who don't know us. We're here with Electric you're going to be hearing a little bit more from their team about what they do. But I will say they're super awesome and have totally made our work from home experience, like leaps and bounds easier than it could have been. So, just also a reminder for those of you who like what you see here today, this is part of a longer series we'll be doing with Electric. And we're also hosting these events every week. My dog is here with us. Sorry, not the most flattering shot of her. And next Wednesday at 2 pm, we'll be talking about 5G and the future of agriculture. So I hope to see you there. And now for our amazing panelists to introduce themselves. We're going to start with Jamie.
Jamie Coakley 1:48
Thanks so much, Noelle. Great to be here. Very excited. I'm Jamie Coakley, I am the VP of people at Electric. As Noelle mentioned, we are IT support for small-medium businesses and we do it lightning quick we like to say. But we primarily serve our customers through chat, email, and now, phone support. So we've grown quite a bit, and we're about 200 people, globally. So we have a lot of psychological safety to manage through these times. And you know, we have a very diverse workforce that is a total mixed bag of emotions when it comes to returning to the office. I'm so excited to talk about how we're handling that today.
Noelle Tassey 2:26
And, I love that psychological safety and mixed bag of emotions. I personally am a mixed bag of emotions when it comes to returning to the office. So you know, can only imagine how everyone else is feeling. Karmen, over to you.
Karmen Madramootoo 2:39
Yep. Hi, everyone. I'm Karmen, and I'm leading our people experience team here at Dashlane. If you haven't heard about us, we are on a mission to fix the UX of the Internet by filling out your passwords and other information anywhere online and on any device. We're spread between three countries, Portugal, France, and U.S. So this whole scenario is actually very interesting in how we navigate and making sure that everyone feels supported during this time. And we are around 300 employees right now. Thank you for having me.
Noelle Tassey 3:20
Yeah, thank you for joining us. And last but not least, Marjorie.
Marjorie Ajero 3:23
Hi everyone. I'm Marjorie Ajero. I'm the VP of people for Alpha. We are a rapid consumer feedback platform. I am Day 13 on the job. So I'm super excited to be here. We are about 70 people, mostly located in the New York City area, but we have some people sprinkled in Texas, Chicago, and LA.
Noelle Tassey 3:45
Terrific. Love it. And thank you all again for joining us. I'm so excited. You know, I think everyone here leads a team that is in some way distributed either you know, pre-crisis partially remote or partially distributed with like more concentrations in certain places. And I know that this whole thing, obviously has been a huge adjustment across the board and then looking at returning to work, it's just, you know, you're— everyone's on a different timeline, and there's so much uncertainty. You know, it's really tough, but I think in most areas that we're all operating, Phase One has already started or, you know, is already in action. So what initial steps you guys kind of putting in place to start getting teams back into the office?
Marjorie Ajero 4:33
I can start if that's okay. I'll just say I think one of the first things that we tried to do is, I think, cull everyone's feelings around the sensitivity, right? Of coming back into the office, I think, you know, people are concerned for a lot of different reasons. And so what we wanted to do initially, even before we sort of started this Return to Office Plan is just to let all of our employees know that they're not required to come back into the office this year. We want everybody to feel safe, we want everybody to, you know, be able to do their job in the best way that they can. And if that's working from home or working from a place that's not in New York City or where any of our offices are, we are completely okay with that. So that's the sort of the first step that we've done at Alpha.
Noelle Tassey 5:17
Jamie Coakley 5:18
I will piggyback off that— we did the same thing. I think the biggest thing, as we saw the news develop over the last three months was realizing we were just pushing these dates and there's something to be said about, you know, psychologically this date coming and knowing it's not going to happen, and then almost losing hope that like, "Is it ever going to happen?" So that sort of like, timeline on don't— you don't have to be back in the office until Gen One, or until we know more, just to make sure that everyone felt like they can make some decisions not only about their summer, but you know, being comfortable for the next six months and having the proper setup. We are really tactical actually this week. My workplace team has been in the office. The first thing we've started to do for those who are interested to come in— come back in, is completely changed the way the office looks. So everything from socially distance seating, I talked to our CEO last night, he had a great idea, he was like "I want checkered flags on the desks where you can sit. Like, it should be so fun." And you know, just really clear like when people come in, this is where you shouldn't sit, this is where the disinfectant is. I think for more of a philosophical stance like we've gone a little bit further than most because changing the way the office feels will prevent the behaviors of people coming back to a place that they're familiar with and just sort of easing back into things when we know we do have to sort of change the way we operate now. So that's— we've been clearing off desks, sending things home. People miss like their tennis shoes that they left in their desk. So we've shipped quite a bit of stuff. And just making you know the office as clean as possible and being ready for people to start signing up for those who live half a block away and want to walk in and spend a day in a different setting or for some of our parents in the company who need to get away from their kids once a day, you know, once a week and just come in and do some work. So I think it's sort of varies of those interested in coming back. But we're working really hard to get it— get everything ready.
Karmen Madramootoo 7:15
I see that we have done pretty much similar things and what I kind of— I don't want to be repetitive here, we did create, like a phased approach, which I'm guessing most of the companies did. But to kind of piggyback on what you were saying, we also did decide to let people decide whether they want to come back to the office or not. And they're going to have that option, at least until the end of the year. We do have some people who are interested in coming to work. So actually in our Paris office, we have— we already started having like up to 12 people in the office and in what we've seen so far, it's pretty much the same people that are signing up. We are planning to do a similar thing in New York in the upcoming weeks. Our teams, mostly office experience, is going to be on-site to make sure that the office is prepared like liaising with the building, we do have some requirements from our state government. But the most important thing to us was to really keep people informed. Even if, you know, we mentioned one or two sentences at every town hall that we have on a weekly basis, it gives people some sort of reassurance that we are communicating proactively about it, even though we might not have all the right answers. Right now, we don't know exactly the dates where New York is going to go into Phase Two, Phase Three, and so on, but we can provide as much as we can, and we continue saying that we encourage people to continue working from home at this point. And so far, people have been feeling more comfortable, at least knowing that they are going to hear some type of information every week.
Noelle Tassey 9:08
Definitely. Over communicating does seem to, especially with how fast things are changing, really be one of the only things that is 100%, like guaranteed to be a good idea, right? Like we also— we do the same thing. It's like every week, is there an update on this even if there isn't? Let's just go through it again. Jamie, I want to loop back to something that you said about kind of injecting like a little bit of joy into the workplace in unexpected ways. Because I think, you know, we were just talking a little bit about the psychology of this, and then we talked about it a little bit on our calls earlier this week. You know, this is obviously an incredibly difficult time for a lot of people on so many levels. There's just so much happening in the world right now. And coming back into the office is an incredibly fraught experience. So I'd love to just talk a little bit more about how everybody is thinking about you know, bringing joy into that experience, and safety and comfort, and also, frankly, like using the experience of being in a place with other people to reinforce new behaviors. I think we all agree— like you don't want your team to go back in the office, and suddenly, like, everyone's hugging and like sharing water bottles, and all of a sudden, your office is a petri dish, which, you know, is a total disaster, obviously. So yeah, I would just like love to loop back to that. I love the checkered flag idea, too. That's so cool.
Jamie Coakley 10:27
Yeah, I owe all the creativity in our brand to our CEO, for sure, he's really great at those moments. One of the things we were talking about yesterday was, you know, the office is clean, it looks good, but like, what else? What else can we do? And that's where I think the joyful and the playfulness started to come— into part. So do we need a waiting room? No, like, we're not gonna have visitors for the next six months. Maybe we pay to get rid of the couches for a bit but like, people are gonna want to bike to work. Let's put a sick bike rack up and get some tools for people. And, you know, just like those little things that based on the behaviors that are changing and how you get to work like well, it could be helpful. We ordered cute hand sanitizers for everyone and we've still done swag at-home drops you know to send people some fun things. We've done, you know, like a knockoff Versace mask that people have coming shortly to them. I hope none of my employees are on this call because they're going to ruin all the surprises. But I think we've tried to find those little moments that you know, it's still us, but it's just a little different.
Noelle Tassey 11:35
Definitely. We've done a lot of the branded swag orders too. I think most of our team hopefully has seen the branded swag, but I'm actually super excited for my Alley mask and my hand sanitizer with encouraging messages. Like so much better honestly, if I'm gonna be slathering it on might as well make me smile. What about you guys, Marjorie and Carmen?
Marjorie Ajero 11:58
I will say that I am not at that stage yet. While I— you know, being Day 13 on the job, I've really only gone through the phase— the sort of phase plan that we're thinking, you know. Of our 70 employees, we maybe have less than 20% that are really itching to get back into the office. But, you know, we're just committed to getting back up safely as soon as possible. But Jamie, I love your ideas on creativity, and I'm going to steal some of them once we can get the office clean.
Noelle Tassey 12:26
That bike rack idea is awesome. I love that. Like, I mean— I didn't, frankly— I didn't think of that. Totally. And then Marjorie, it feels like such a get to have you on a panel on Day 13, by the way, I just want to say we're so— we're so grateful we're able to snag you. It's awesome. Yeah, Karmen.
Karmen Madramootoo 12:47
I'm really glad that Jamie brought the fun back up because I think there's so much focus on like, how do we do this properly? How do we make sure we follow all the rules? How do we make sure that, like, everyone knows what the rules are? So it's really, really important to add that, you know, level of like entertainment and like really let people also see that we're not just doing all this to enforce rules, we want people to still feel comfortable and feel welcome to the office. We personally— so in— we did order also masks like (inaudible) masks in Paris that I'm hoping we're going to get to our other offices soon as well. And our teams in different offices have been doing different signage to put around and put the fun in the signage as well, to a certain extent, of course. But we'll see if our creative team will have time to also perhaps do some of the signage branded as well since I don't know if you've seen the ones that have been posted from the government are not really as fun or nice. So we'll try to see if we can do something there. Unfortunately, we had to remove a lot of the things from the kitchen that was— used to be packed with like, snacks and drinks and different things. And that's where usually people would gather. So that part we're going to have to figure out how to make sure that people still feel comfortable and they can, you know, obviously— we have a big kitchen, but we will limit number of people in there. But still, they can be able to use it if they need to, and feel comfortable enough in that setting.
Noelle Tassey 14:37
For sure. And I'm curious you— since you actually have a Paris office, and Paris is I think much further along in reopening. You know, what are the things that you've learned from that process that you're going to be bringing to your U.S. operations?
Karmen Madramootoo 14:55
So it was a bit of a challenge at first for people to get used to the new normal. So, you know, going to the kitchen and like limiting the number of people, it's kind of— it took some time for people to get used to that. So it's important that our office team kind of helped them navigate and kind of remind them. But they did like a couple of small things like different gadgets for the door so they don't have to touch the handle, like using hooks if they want to grab something. So— but the— since mostly the same people are coming in, they're kind of starting to get used to it. And our office team also has learned from the first week— we— did we communicate about this? Did we communicate all the expectations? So the communications from one week to another to people who are coming to the office has been kind of evolving and we always like to say we are— we are also still kind of developing the process, so thank you for being patient with us, and really adding anything that we need to adjust. So that's actually going to— it will be super helpful as we reopen New York as well.
Noelle Tassey 16:16
Yeah. I love the point that you made just about kind of having to constantly get up and say like, "Hey, we're still like learning how to do this." Because I think like all of us as people leaders or leaders of companies or business units you— I have never in my career had to stand up so many times and say either, like, "I honestly have no idea, but this is like maybe what I think." And also, "Sorry, we tried that, didn't work. We're learning, bear with us."
Karmen Madramootoo 16:43
Yeah, it's important to acknowledge, yeah, we're not perfect. We welcome your feedback. And like, you know, if there was something that you— that you want to share, obviously, we're completely open to that as well.
Noelle Tassey 16:56
Yeah, for sure. And so I think, you know, you were just talking about having a lot of people in the office in Paris and for those of us, especially in New York, but other dense urban areas as well, obviously, not only are we super-limited in terms of who can come in, and that kind of brings with it the challenge of "Okay, if there's more demand, how do we manage that?" But also public transportation and working hours, right? So anyone who is from the New York area and has taken the El train from like Bedford Avenue to anywhere in Manhattan during rush hour has probably had to wait for like four trains to pass before they can board. And now we're looking at an MTA that's going to be able to service about 8% of its peak capacity, right. And I think that that's true in a lot of cities that rely heavily on public transit. So are you guys thinking about solving for that in any way? Or are you just sort of hoping honestly, people ride it out working from home for as long as possible? Or a mix?
Marjorie Ajero 18:03
I mean, I would say that I don't think that we're pushing our employees either way except for— except for them to do the thing that's most comfortable for them right now, right? Because again, like, we're not asking anybody to come back. For the few employees that do want to come into the office, to Jamie's point, like a lot of them live really close. So— and I would say it's not— like, the concern that people are expressing are not coming to the office at all, it's the having to get on public transportation to get there.
Noelle Tassey 18:32
Marjorie Ajero 18:32
And so I think, you know, our sort of direction is you have to do what you feel is comfortable because none of us can control the MTA. As much we would love to, right? And look, like they've stepped up their cleaning. But as— I think it's gonna— I think employees are going to wait it out, right? Because as the city continues to open up, then we're going to see that the flow of how many people are actually on the train. And I think we're fully prepared to be flexible in terms of hours. If somebody needs to flex coming in two hours later or two hours early to avoid a crowd, to be able to be productive in the office, we're completely open to that.
Noelle Tassey 19:12
Yeah, definitely. And Jamie, I know you're putting in the bike racks, which is truly like a stroke of brilliance. That definitely solves for some of it.
Jamie Coakley 19:22
Yeah. I mean, we've— we've thought about, you know, transportation stipends, and looking into corporate accounts with ride-sharing apps. And the reality is, is it's extremely expensive for anyone that's not in Manhattan to take a $50-some cab, you know, fare into the city. And so I think we'll reserve those types of budgets for when I imagine some time after Labor Day, teams may want to have dedicated days in the office for those interested. You know, having collaboration days or maybe just being able to be with the team face-to-face and socially distanced obviously. So we've thought about that— more using that type of budget for you know, an event where we can get everybody in the car if they're comfortable and come in but, you know, we're holding very true to the principle similar to Marjorie, like, we are not asking you to come in, we are asking you to do what you are most comfortable with. So it's really just gonna depend on you know, their choice.
Jamie Coakley 20:19
I love the idea of reserving that budget for like collaboration days like you were saying, right? Because I think so much of our day in and day out like, a lot of us have been able to adapt to this and it's mostly been fine. But that is the one thing you miss is you can't just sit down and get face-to-face focus, collaborate and have those spontaneous moments of like, that's a great idea. So— and that's really a great segue into the next thing that we want to cover which is the future of remote work and growing your team, right? Because all of us, I think, on this call are looking at six— honestly six to 12 months it feels like, of some sort of modified in-office. You know, hopefully, it's not that long, but who knows? And so if that's what we're planning for, you know— Marjorie, you have a pretty unique perspective on this as you've joined a new team during this time. But you know, we're kind of wondering how to navigate employee career growth right now, you know, and just really steering through that. Certain roles require more development, and some roles might be missing that by being remote, so how you guys are going to be solving for that in the next year.
Jamie Coakley 21:30
We actually had an exec team— Oh, sorry, Marjorie, you wanna go? Go.
Marjorie Ajero 21:33
No, no, you go ahead, Jamie.
Jamie Coakley 21:34
We have the— sorry, we had the exec team think about that. So it's like, cool, we made the six-month decision. We're good 'till December. What about after? Like, what are the roles that cannot be hired fully remote or semi-remote? Like we have to start thinking about that now before we're under pressure to do so. And then equally what positions or roles could potentially be impacted around promotion time and training because they're not in the office? You know, I think of an SDR being able to pick up language on sales calls by sitting next to a senior AE or— I mean, they're still on those calls with them, and they're still learning, but it's different. And I think we're really trying to solve for that— those intricate ways. But one of the things we did at the start at COVID was launch talent QVRs and HR sitting down with every manager. And really, it was more around not COVID and performance management, but like, more, this is 2020, we have to make sure we are putting the people in place that we need to scale yet again next year. So what is— what do our action and development plans look like through end of year? Who doesn't have a lieutenant on the exec team that they, you know, have some leverage from? So those talent QVRs have been really helpful to sort of start to uncover like, what are the— what does success look like? What is a 10 out of 10? Like, what are the metrics? What departments don't have metrics still? And really starting to work with managers to define that a little bit better, because the first thing that's going to happen when someone is promoted in this, you know, cycle and maybe they're in the office or they're not, is people will ask well, "Why wasn't I?" And if we don't have a good answer, I think there's just a lot more pressure on that question now, because companies have relied so heavily on visibility and the people who are the most socially engaging in the office or those who are most visible and most productive. And now we can't see that. So it's much more focused on outcomes than outputs, which I think is a really good thing for a lot of companies to have to mature and figure out.
Noelle Tassey 23:24
Yeah, definitely. Although also challenging for anybody who decided to kick performance reviews down the road, I think right? I know a lot of big tech companies just said we're not doing those this year. I think Facebook and Google both did. Frankly, at Alley, we did that too. We were like, our normal like mid-year reviews would have been in June, July. And we were like, how do you even review how somebody is operating under insane amounts of stress and like, you know. But then it does become an issue as you try to scale, Marjorie and Karmen, I'm curious how you guys are addressing this with your teams.
Marjorie Ajero 23:59
So I will say I haven't dived as deep as Jamie has with her team, but I'm going to take those notes and replicate them. I will say, as part of an overall company strategy, organizational effectiveness is something that, you know, a lot of my role and focus is going to be spent on in terms of how do we create— how do we look back and make sure that we have the right foundation in order to scale in the future. And so I think a lot of the conversations I'm having is really more around, do we have the right processes in place and what has broken, you know, since we've been remote, right? Because it's not so easy to pass that piece of paper, sometimes that you used to in the past. And so just, you know, I would say, what I've been looking at is, you know, the systems from a people perspective that we've been working through, and, you know, like, at most startups, you have a lot of different systems that don't necessarily talk to each other, that don't really complement the people team in terms of operational efficiency. And so that's sort of where I'm starting out to sort of look at. And then also just look at how do we do performance appraisals, and like, is there a new way to do it? So we're doing it already, but not in— not necessarily through the lens of COVID.
Karmen Madramootoo 25:15
Thanks, Jamie and Marjorie, those are super helpful insights. Here at Dashlane we actually did talk about whether we should do performance reviews or not. We call them feedback checkpoints. And so we decided to do them and, you know, if someone does want to skip this time around, they can come to us and we can discuss. It was more around, making sure that people still have a chance to get the feedback. And one of the things that might be different is, since we are having three offices already, and we are not always all working together at the office, we were working towards being focused on outcomes before. And many of the teams already do have those goals and objectives in place. And like measurement of success, as well. So maybe that's what made it a little bit easier for us to kind of still being able to evaluate how people are doing. Obviously, with a lot more care and like the way how we communicate the feedback and how we look into someone's performance and making sure that we are also being mindful and flexible. On— you know, we have a lot of parents who are working from home and have their kids around most of the day or even entire day. We have to look into those things as well as we are talking about it. So yes, it's a bit of a different type of feedback checkpoint, but we still kind of wanted to keep that feedback ongoing.
Noelle Tassey 27:00
For sure. And I think— so something that we talked about a little bit earlier this week is compensation, right? So that's kind of the natural add-on from this is, obviously raises and promotions are part of, you know what's driven by this entire performance review process. The other thing is, of course, the different job markets function differently. And if not everybody is in, let's say, New York, where everything is insanely expensive and compensation is very competitive, how do you handle your workforce suddenly becoming distributed if you have roles that— I mean, I guess really the first question is, does anyone on this panel have roles where they've now gone remote and you've realized this actually works and it's fine, you can move to like, Utah or wherever. Anyone? Or does everyone kind of hope one day to have the whole team return to work?
Marjorie Ajero 27:54
I mean, I will say at Alpha, there hasn't been any roles that I've been aware of that have come up that it's a problem that it's remote, right? So far, I think our employees are happy and they're engaged. On the compensation piece, I think you've raised like a good point where it's like, okay, so you pay somebody extra being in New York, but because of COVID, they've now relocated to Texas, where it's— you know, the cost of living is completely different. You know, would we— you know, I'm not a fan of ever downgrading someone's pay. And I think, particularly if people have chosen to move out— like there's a million reasons why people are choosing to move out of New York City right now, right? Whether it's more expensive, whether it's because we're at the epicenter of the pandemic. And so, if people can choose to find places that are cheaper for them, that give them a better quality of life, you know, I know Alpha is not in the position to sort of take down people's pay because they decided to relocate.
Karmen Madramootoo 28:50
We have this still a little bit under discussion. We don't have any roles that are just like specifically remote only, but we did have a few employees who reached out about wanting to relocate. So we kind of look into it more of a case-by-case basis. Yes, nobody wants to, like cut someone's pay, for sure. But it's going to depend on so many different factors. I think that a lot of people are also having some type of temporary getting away from the city right now, which is a bit different, versus actually deciding to relocate. The only thing that we did talk about is that in terms of our— the way our administration works and payroll and so on, we would keep our offices where they are. So for example, if someone wants to relocate within France, that's fine. But relocating in actually— in a different country would probably be treated differently. So we are trying to have people stay within the country even though we try to be flexible on all ends. But that's something that came up. We do have a few tenured employees who relocated especially within France and we did not cut their salaries. They also come to the office maybe once a week or maybe a couple of times a month. It depends on what type of role they have and what schedule we arrange with their manager. So it's really kind of going to depend on the role— on the person's role.
Jamie Coakley 30:43
This is like a very interesting topic for me right now, because I think it ties back really to like the ethics and morality of a company and like what decisions are you making about what type of company you want to be. My first gut reaction when all this news started to come out around comp changing in markets due to relocation, I was like, oh, yeah, obvious— you know, cost of living is different like, your pay should be different. But we actually— Marjorie and I were on this call last night, this very philosophical call with probably like 100 people leaders in New York City talking about just this topic. And someone said something that just like really stuck with me that, you know, it's like, this is asking HR to be a part of economic policy, and essentially, you are making a decision whether you're paying for the cost of labor or for the cost of living, and it was just very high-level and it made me question sort of my gut reaction of like, of course, we change it and so I don't think we've come to that decision. I've had people move, our CFO just moved to Boston, which I keep teasing him, I'm like "it has a nice ring to it. CFOs in Boston, so fancy." And we've had a few people relocate to Texas, so I'm like sort of starting to put the cap on my very small— for my very small HR team of one person that's like, "I can't handle a mini multiple-state employment law, like, let's be strategic and look at where we want to be positioned rather than being reactive." But the goal and I think the like, the core of our exec team, when we planned out future state, like what does this look like if we continue to be semi-remote everyone's intention is to build an in-office culture and be in the office as much as possible. So I think eventually when it's— when we're capable, we'll get back to that point. But until then, we will remain very flexible with our employees to some degree about you know, having them relocate and what maybe repercussions for their role might be if, you know, they can't be as successful fully remote as they would be in the office every day. And just making sure that they have that information to be able to make those decisions for themselves.
Noelle Tassey 32:48
Yeah, definitely. Oh yeah, please.
Marjorie Ajero 32:51
Sorry, the only thing I was going to add on to that is, I think also too, Alpha— Alpha's still on a PEO, right? So we have a lot of flexibility when it comes to our employees relocating to different states within the US because we are on TriNet and TriNet operates in all states. Now, if we were, you know, a company that did not have a PEO, and we had to open up offices where we had our employees, we would definitely rethink about where we would feel comfortable, our employees sort of relocating just because of all the tax and sales tax and worker's comp stuff that we need to ensure that we're covered for when our employees do go to those states.
Noelle Tassey 33:30
Yeah, definitely an unintended knock-on headache to all of the stuff everyone on this call is already dealing with. So, Jamie, I love the point you made about still kind of remaining committed as a company to building a very strong in-office culture. I've been to the Electric offices, and I really do think— and I'm not just saying this because we're co-hosting the panel with you, you guys have a really, really special culture like, you know, I— and also I like, really know a lot of people who work there, not because we work with you, but like, just because you've hired people I guess that I really like, which is awesome. So props to you. But anyway, I just think that's really interesting that you bring that up because I have worked for a lot of startups or growth-stage companies that have that similar commitment, where, at the end of the day, no matter what, in-office is just so integral to the culture. It matters so much and it moves the needle, just in so many ways that you really can't solve for remotely. I'm curious if you have an opinion on like, whether any company that wants to go through that growth phase kind of needs to commit to that? Or whether, you know, you're just as well like doing what— I think Envision, for instance, has always been fully remote and then they are a growth-stage tech company. So just kind of want to explore that idea a little bit and also how you guys are thinking about right now kind of keeping the culture on track until you're back in the office.
Jamie Coakley 35:01
That's a tough one, I think there's—
Noelle Tassey 35:04
Sorry. How are you solving all of your problems (inaudible)?
Jamie Coakley 35:07
Right? It's a really good question. And I think— I don't think companies need to be in the office to have that type of culture. But you do have to have programming and infrastructure that builds and connects people outside of their job roles. And more than just like Donut integrated in Slack, right? Like, one of the things we've been trying to do— like we do have all these crazy personalities at Electric like, people are just so talented, it blows my mind. There's like a poetry channel got started in Slack yesterday, and it was like everyone writes poetry in our company. I'm like, what is going on? This is beautiful. But like we started to— we— but because of those personalities, we started this thing which I really want to rename because it's kind of a lame name, called the "Electric Blanket," which covers everything. But it's like two to 15-minute clips of either someone on Workplace like interviewing someone on the team. I interviewed— or our CMO interviewed our CEO about our founding story. This guy on our team, Sam Nathan, he's sort of notorious for like doing the Monday morning stroll by and like saying "what's up" to everybody and good morning, and he's just like the most energetic, happy person ever. He did like a Monday morning, like Blitz, "get it" kind of talk for everyone last week, and we really needed it. And it's just, you sort of remember, you know, all of the personalities and the culture that you have in the office. But I think there's a lot of talk about like, you— if you're not remote first, and you're not built that way, like, you can't be remote long-term. And I think that's kind of B.S. Like, we're doing it, it's fine. We're fine. And the keyword there is fine. Like I have a weird thing behind me. And this is now a part of my living room because I want my boyfriend to be able to make lunch and not have my entire executive see him. So like it's—
Noelle Tassey 36:38
It's a creative solution for that, by the way. You get a few props.
Jamie Coakley 36:54
There was like a spill that happened once on a steering committee meeting and I was like, we're done. We need a— we need a wall. So I think, you know, it's fine. And I don't want to be fine, I want to be great. And I think a lot of people do. And I think a part of that greatness is being together and seeing faces and getting to know the people you work with. And personally, that's the decision we've made. But I know that companies do that. And there are great incredible companies out there that do that and they've, you know, succeeded. So—
Noelle Tassey 37:25
And just for what it's worth, I love the name the Electric Blanket, like hilarious, great dad joke, don't change it.
Jamie Coakley 37:33
Anyone generationally, besides like, the exec team knows what that is. So like, they (inaudible) oh, it was like a power hazard, you know? And so we have to rename it something, but it's kind of sticking now.
Noelle Tassey 37:45
Yeah I mean it's— not great. But yeah, I hear you on fine, I think— yeah, I mean, like, look, I personally— I really miss being in the office with people. And I don't have a screen behind me— that I'm— I'm living in a hotel room in Florida right now. It's like— I miss my apartment. Marjorie and Karmen, how about you guys just in terms of kind of commitment to on-site culture, physical office culture versus remote?
Marjorie Ajero 38:19
Yeah, I mean, I think we're just— we're, taking it in stride, right? Like, I mean, it's hard for me to have a pulse on that, like, I haven't even met anybody that I work with in-person. I started my new job, you know, from my dining room. And I luckily had Electric send me all of my equipment, you know, to start. So it's a very odd experience, right? To think— I mean, for even me just to start a job in this way because I've never done that before, but even just when we think through onboarding, right? Like how do we make onboarding a really robust experience to really empower our employees to like hit the ground running? And how you do that when multiple people handle onboarding, and you don't want people like in eight to nine hours of Zoom calls all day because that's exhausting, you know? So I don't think that we have a push per se in any direction where I think that we are just, you know, taking these next few months to just see how things go because there, you know, there is a lot of work as I said earlier that we're trying to do to build on the foundation and there's just like all the crap that just happens that we have to deal with, right? So— you like that, Jamie, "Crap?"
Jamie Coakley 39:23
Yeah. We have like— we have no perks of like actual remote work. Like people who are doing remote work act— like for a living, you know, obviously, they're stuck inside too, but like they built their life that way. They have a desk, they have space set up, or you know, they're used to it. So I think there's something to be said about like, no one's having the benefits of a remote— like remote work set up right now. Like you can't travel, you can't do cool things. So— why— it is— you know, it sucks.
Noelle Tassey 39:52
I was thinking that exact thing this morning as like, you know— this is proving like, technically when push comes to shove, I can run my company remotely and like, I always have this dream of taking a year and traveling around the world— I'm like, cool. Or Florida. It's like living in Thailand for six months, you know, same thing.
Karmen Madramootoo 40:00
I had an interesting experience since we had strikes in Paris earlier on in the year and actually, towards the end of last year. So the part with kind of trying to figure out how to onboard people remotely, how to start scheduling certain meetings remotely started then. So for our Paris office, yes, it's not the same COVID situation, it's been completely remote. But during the strikes, actually, we had very, very few people who were able to come to the office because there was no public transportation which most people rely on. So that kind of gave us a little bit of a, I guess, intro to what's coming up. So I guess to that point, luckily, we started building more of a flexible onboarding, and perhaps a little bit more customized based on what we need, what each new hire needs. What are the manager's needs? How do we make sure that the person still has an amazing experience? So I think that you know, I guess we took the best out of the worst in that situation. But Jamie's point, I think that it really will depend on a company on whether they want to, and they're okay with moving to a remote type of work for all of their roles. At Dashlane, we actually do cherish the culture that we have at our offices and a lot of people do miss hanging out with their friends. We usually have always a lot of events going on. So we're trying to do some things obviously, as we are remote. So we have a band at Dashlane, and now before every town hall, they're playing, at the end of each town hall, they're playing and people get really excited. They're like— everybody's like in the chat and like cheering them on, which is really nice. And that's the time where— I think the only time where people actually feel like they're together. And the only difference here is that when we used to have town halls in person, you're not able to jump in and say something. So now you have the chat where you can kind of like cheer on your peers, which has been really nice to see.
Noelle Tassey 42:45
That's really, really cool. Yeah, we've kind of gotten— Taco is like a Slack integration that we're using for that for like, kind of remote congratulations and high fives. Because you know, we realize so much of your work that like is visible when you're the same room just suddenly doesn't become visible anymore. I know somebody else had mentioned Donut, which I think we're going to install so people like, have a prompt to sit and just you know, check-in, right? So we have two questions from the audience one— which I love is are you requiring your teams to wear masks the entire time they come into the office? And I—so I have seen this like somewhat firsthand because where I am there's like a big working facility with people who are socially distanced, and all of this and they tried doing everyone wearing masks all day at their desks, and especially for people who wear glasses, it was a complete disaster. So they've had to institute a bunch of other protocols around that. You know, it is pretty uncomfortable. So curious what you guys are thinking for that.
Karmen Madramootoo 43:55
I think it depends on the role, right? Like as a tech company, we are not like a very customer-facing— we don't have those type of roles. So for us, we can be a bit more flexible on that. And so at the office, if you are using, like any common areas, yes, we do require wearing a mask. But if you're sitting at your desk, and we are going to reorganize the desks in a way that we are following the measures of social distancing, then you can take your mask off. So it's really about if you cannot keep the six feet apart from the other person, wear your mask. And if you can, then it's okay to take it off.
Jamie Coakley 44:44
I was fortunate enough to learn from other companies trying to institute the mask all day and have done exactly— decided now, in the past two weeks that we will do exactly what Karmen laid out. It was actually— I experienced it firsthand going in to help set up desks wth my two workplace experience teams. And the AC wasn't on in the office, and we were like moving things, and it was just like mask on— was not cool. I just looked at them and was like, take them off, be safe, like stay away from each other, we're not wearing the masks today. And I think that was just like a really telltale sign. Like, unless you're in a common area, it's okay, if you're in a meeting and it shouldn't be very long, you know, and we have— we changed the layouts of our conference rooms and things like that. And we require people to wear masks if they choose to have that type of meeting. But I think it'll be much more comfortable and it won't be such a deterrent for people who want to come back to the office.
Noelle Tassey 45:41
I'm glad you mentioned switching around your layouts. So and you know, we've— we kind of touched on this earlier, but I'd love to hear from all three of you what you guys are doing. You know, if you have open office/open floor plan right now and your offices or not and yet what you're doing. Our team in New York, I think right as we speak is moving furniture around in all of the common areas. Our team, we used to do hot desking in our corporate office, which at least three people, three to six people are probably thrilled we've ended. You know, not for everyone. And, you know, and had to make a ton of adaptations. I'm curious how all of you are adapting your physical workspace. We've all said shut down— like fun foods won't be a thing, you know?
Marjorie Ajero 46:26
We haven't— so we have an open office space, and we have these— I haven't seen it yet, I've only seen photos. But we have these long white desks, right that people are just sort of piled into. Luckily, we have an all-hands space that we've reserved for big meetings, and we're going to be expanding and completely redoing seating charts in order to not have to buy all new furniture, to be able to keep the furniture that we have, practice social distancing, and also just give people a little bit more room. We're also thinking about adding in a waiting room area. And we're still debating how we're going to do this, but sort of like a place where if we decide to do temperature checks, or if we decide to do the health care or sort of like the self— the self-diagnosis health sign off sheet, you know, we want that to be in a private place; sort of before people come in, and before they sort of enter in our workspace. So we haven't quite figured that out. But that's what I'm imagining we'll probably add to the space— some sort of like divider, or waiting room area for people to do these sorts of self— self-assessments before they sit down at their desk.
Noelle Tassey 47:38
For sure. Karmen, Jamie...?
Karmen Madramootoo 47:42
At Dashlane, we have— and obviously the Paris office we already opened, so we kind of can see what works and what doesn't. We really had to reconfigure the entire office. Obviously, we are just limiting the number of people that coming in, so it's a bit easier when it's only 12 people versus when we're going to have 50. But we have a few different scenario that we're using, and obviously making sure that— people used to have assigned desk, And now what we're doing it actually, nobody has an assigned desk anymore. We are assigning based on available desks. So we have desks that are available and desks that are closed. And they're going to be clearly marked: this desk is not for use, and this desk is for us and there is a person— like we are communicating with the person who will be using that desk. There are a few other things that we're putting in place in terms of signage, but for now, we are also strongly encouraging not to use conference rooms unless it's absolutely necessary. And then we have suggestions for like, a conference room that can hold, I don't know four people, only one person should be using it. So only bigger conference rooms can be used if you have more than one person in those conference rooms. Similar thing with phone booths, we strongly suggest not to use them, they don't have a proper ventilation. So if someone does need to go, you know, eventually, they can keep the door open. But just the phone booth itself, it's just not probably the best place to use right now. In the kitchen, we are going to be removing the chairs because they were just kind of one right next to each other. And we're going to keep the six chairs because that's the maximum that we're going to allow at the same time in the kitchen and obviously those chairs will be at least six feet apart as well. So there are like multiple other things that we are putting into place just to make sure that like people know where to sit, where to go. Visually they can see it, you know, there's a big "X" there, you know what that means. So those type of things.
Noelle Tassey 50:05
Yeah, definitely. And Jamie, I know you've like touched on this in some of your answers on modifications to the space. But is there anything else that you guys are doing differently?
Jamie Coakley 50:15
No, I think it was actually— I just got a Slack from my workplace experience manager, he was like, "I think I'm going to number all the desks!" I'm like, "just hold off, wait, because I think— we know we actually want to like clear off right now. There's still like monitors here and there. And I think back to the checkered flag comment, like just making that one desk that you can use very apparent and even using drop cloths or fun colors that, you know, cover the desks that are closed so people are very clear. I think that will help instill the trust that like we're doing everything we can, right? And it's just, it's there ready to go. And also, you know, we've gotten like, crazy quotes for gold standard disinfecting whatever, like it's crazy what's out there right now, like the stuff they're using on airplanes and they're offering it to companies. So we're just trying to pick the best options, but the layout will look different, you know, from the moment you walk in, and we're using like this red rope, kind of like outside of the nightclub rope for the kitchen area to remind people, like if you enter this area, you need to have a mask on. So just like little things like that.
Noelle Tassey 51:19
That's so much fun, I love that. That's super cool. So anyway, we're running up on time here. And I'd love to put to each one of you just if you could really give our community like one to two tangible takeaways from this conversation. You know, what would— what would those kind of two things be? And I'd love to kind of think about— you've all touched on— just different, like decision-making frameworks and perspectives that your (inaudible) problem, right? Because tactically, there's a multitude of things. But you know, and when you kind of get on the more conceptual level, like the ideas that are driving the way that you're thinking about this.
Jamie Coakley 52:00
Actually, like your comment about not doing performance reviews because of how stressed people are like, of course, I know the staff is stressed and they feel sort of dumb saying this, but like, haven't thought of that. And, you know, might have a little management training before our next review cycle to remind our managers that people have been going through, you know, national, racial unjust and global pandemic. And like, go easy on 'em, right? So I think that seems like a really obvious thing, but philosophically, like, gonna have to put a training together around that for sure.
Noelle Tassey 52:32
Yeah, that one's been hard for us. I mean, you just— how like— what is the yardstick? It's like, this is what I expected of you before, like, society collapsed. But considering you know, you still show up and like, are doing your best, 10 out of 10. You know, yeah. Love that as a takeaway, for sure. Marjorie?
Marjorie Ajero 52:56
The communication piece you know, I like that, you know, I haven't been giving necessarily updates every week, in our all-hands meetings, but I like the idea of just having the time dedicated to it. Because I think, you know, because it's just affecting so many people in different ways, whether or not they've left New York, they're thinking about coming back, so they want to come back when the office is opening, you know, just sort of having that regular cadence of communication and even being able to say a lot to what Karmen said, which is like, we don't have all the answers. We've never done this before. We're learning as we grow, if you have feedback that you want to share with us, like, we're always open to hearing it, but like, you know, I think the ongoing communication I think is really good just to keep people informed, as always.
Karmen Madramootoo 53:40
And I'm gonna— just in addition to that, I just want to say that we've done a lot of work in terms of providing resources to people because a lot of times you know, we're going to say what— where we stand, and as a company what we're doing. But how do we make it easier for people to find resources? What do they want to learn more about what's happening in the country right now? Whether they need some time for themselves in terms of like any type of feeling better. So resources in terms of mental health, in terms of learning about the movements, and just kind of being there as a support as much as possible within that communication, that it's an update. So it's kind of another layer to make sure— that you show people we care— that we care about you.
Noelle Tassey 54:38
Yeah, definitely. My takeaway from this is just that, you know, Jamie's got a lot of really creative ideas about the workplace and changing the on-site experience or even, you know, changing bringing that home with people. I think for me finding moments for joy and creative expression and expression of your team culture is— it's just incredibly important. It's so easy to slip into kind of the despair and the uncertainty and the seriousness of coming back and proving that, you know, like, we're taking this seriously. And it's like, you can do that and you can still have fun. And for me that that's kind of my takeaway is to not lose sight of that, you know, we have a lot of fun when we're in the office together, and it can be sometimes hard to, again, kind of keep your eye on the prize. But wow, guys, we ended perfectly on time. This has never happened before. Amazing. Big thank you to all three of our amazing panelists, our partners at Verizon, our partners at Electric. If you liked this, definitely join us again next week. We've got future of farming coming up on Wednesday. If you're curious how tech impacts agriculture it's actually fascinating and will touch truly every part of your life. So definitely join us for that and you know, come back for our next session with Electric on return to work. Thank you all so much. It's been such a pleasure.