The Hybrid Workplace
A Post-Pandemic Legacy?
“Where do you work” took on a whole new meaning and importance beginning March 2020. Prior to that, people went to work and the hybrid work model was almost taboo. Today where, when, and how people work is evolving on an hour-to-hour basis. Organizations and businesses of all types and sizes are being forced to create the post-pandemic workplace on-the-fly. What do owners and executives need to consider? What remote work lessons did we learn over the last 18 months? How should managers personalize employee health and safety concerns? For answers, Farissa Knox, founder and CEO of RLM Media, joins us for this Geeks Geezers Googlization episode. Farissa embraced the hybrid work model for her large team of employees and will share lessons she learned and offer tips for CEOs and owners who are in the midst of reimagining their workplace.
Farissa Knox is the Founder and CEO of RLM Media, a holding company and advertising agency dedicated to expanding how advertisers look at and talk to todays “actual” consumer; the Founder and Creative Director of WhatRUWearing Productions, the production house behind the reality series, PRGirl (streaming on Plex and Amazon Prime Video) showing the professional and personal lives of ladies running the worlds of fashion, beauty and lifestyle Public Relations; the Author of Love, Sex and Friendship: In No Particular Order, her memoir describing her journey around career, love, self discovery and dating during her mid 20’s in New York City; and a wife and a mother.
Despite the boom of job openings, many job seekers are hesitant to rejoin the workforce, and businesses are starting to feel the effect. This shift in demand is in no small part because of the pandemic, but this reason is two-fold.
For one, sanitation has jumped to the forefront of everyone’s mind, as not everyone can afford to take a chance and hope workplaces were properly wiped down. For another, the pandemic has shown us what many large corporations really think of their employees; from long hours to high demands, some job seekers are electing not to work with a company even in a remote setting. Hybrid workplaces may not be the answer to every problem, but Farissa Knox offers some ideas for approaching the initial conversation on hybridization and vaccination.
From On-Site to Online
In a recent article from Harvard Business Review, many businesses are now promoting their ability to be “flexible” on what a workspace may look like, but the article asks two important questions many companies don’t answer: What does a hybridized workplace look like? And how do companies and employees know they’re using hybrid strategies effectively?
Farissa Knox, founder and CEO of RLM Media and author of PR Girl, admits that, at first, she didn’t have answers to these questions either. The office had become a cozy and comfortable space for people to collaborate and express their ideas with many collaborations resulting from spontaneous interactions. That can’t happen through virtual workspaces. To replicate this feeling, Knox decided to hold Zoom meetings with her team every Friday with one rule: No work talk. The meetings allowed people to discuss their anxieties, what working from home felt like, or even show off their apartments. While the spontaneity wasn’t recreated, the cozy atmosphere was. After enough time had passed, the Friday meetings were phased out of the weekly schedules and her employees could continue their work knowing the virtual space was just as welcoming and cozy as the office.
The Balancing Act
Throughout conversations with her team, Knox realized that everyone in her office was vaccinated and began to consider what a new workweek would look like. Obsessed with balance, she looked at a hybrid workspace where some days would be mandatory in-office, others were encouraged at-home workdays, and still other days were left to the employee.
Before introducing the idea to her general staff, Knox took her new workweek concept to her executive team. While this may not be an option for everyone, Knox says she needed to have a diverse group of people to hear her idea before taking it to her staff. While gender equality has come a long way since the 1950s, many women are still the primary caretakers of their families and may not have the opportunity to always work on-site. In addition to women, disabled employees and people without transportation may be unable to travel to worksites, resulting in a disparity highlighted by this pandemic.
With the go-ahead from her executives, Knox rolled out the new workweek to her staff and explained why the decision was made. Once people understood the “why” behind her approach, Knox said it was an easy transition: “Those ‘whys’ also matter to the individuals that make up this company.” Mondays were now in-office days with the remaining weekdays either open to employees or encouraged work-from-home days. To make her new out-of-state employees feel welcome, Knox and her team orchestrated a moving camera that allowed team meetings to become collaborative and engaging.
How to Make Similar Approaches to Your Business
Knox acknowledges how fortunate she was to discover everyone’s vaccination status without having to ask the question itself. Unfortunately, not everyone has that opportunity. So how can you go about the vaccination question without actually asking it?
After approving the conversation with HR, Knox suggests offering a timeline for vaccination to employees as well as having a meeting where the importance is vaccination is discussed. In addition to explaining the “whys” of a vaccination meeting, Knox says it’s also important to list the positive side effects that come with a vaccination, including collaborative work environments and safety for those who can’t be vaccinated. While the vaccine may be the main topic of conversation, small businesses also need to ensure their teams are all on the same page where “the vaccine is just one of the bullet points.”