With more than a year of working from home under Covid behind us, and with an accelerating vaccine rollout fueling hopes of a return to office-based work in the near future, we wanted to share our approach to how and where we plan to work in a post-Covid era.
Going forward, Juniper Square will be a digital-first, hybrid company with its headquarters in the Cloud. We will support an office-based experience for those who prefer it (about half of our employees), and a Cloud-based experience for those who have discovered a new, preferred way of working under Covid (the other half of our employees).
Like many companies, beginning last summer we had countless hours of discussions about how and where we wanted to return to work once Covid abated. What was clear was that many of our employees preferred to work out of an office, at least for a handful of days per week. Younger employees valued the social interaction, those with families liked the opportunity to get out of the house, and all employees felt that in-person interaction was essential to building and maintaining relationships.
Yet what was also clear was that the Covid WFH period opened our eyes to new possibilities. 75% of our employees told us that they were as much or more productive when working from home, and 78% told us that they were the same or better off personally as a result of working from home. The top WFH benefits reported by our employees included the removal of commute time, more flexibility in structuring the workday, and more time for family, hobbies, and health.
As a result, we sought to find a solution that embraced the benefits we’ve all experienced from the last year of working from home, while also retaining what was special about gathering in-person around offices.
Our approach to post-Covid work has four key components.
Digital is now the default mode for all company communications and formal meetings at Juniper Square. This levels the playing field for Cloud and Office employees, and ensures that all employees, regardless of location, have access to the same information needed to be effective at work.
This doesn’t mean that we force two employees who happen to be together in an office to meet over Zoom. We have three models for meetings, depending on who is where. Face-to-face, for people who are concurrently in the same space. Hybrid, for when some employees are physically together and others are in the Cloud. And Digital, where everyone sits in front of their computer, usually but not always via Zoom.
As a company we were early to adopt a digital way of working, as we opened our second office in Austin when we had only 20 employees—quite early on for a typical startup. This helped us come up the learning curve on the importance of written and asynchronous communications, and the value of investing heavily in audio & visual equipment to ensure a great experience for those in the Cloud. As a result, we’ve had four years of practice of working out of the Cloud, and we invest in ensuring that the Cloud is a best-in-class experience at Juniper Square, not an afterthought.
By virtue of declaring the Cloud to be our headquarters, no one physical office is advantaged over another. Our employees’ career growth will be a function of their performance, not their location. In addition to half of our employees working from the Cloud, our executive leadership team is distributed across our SF and Austin offices and the Cloud, including our CEO & Co-founder who works out of the Cloud.
2. Community Hubs, not Headquarters
We currently maintain three hubs that our employees can work out of: our SF office, our Austin office, or the Cloud. But by getting good at working digitally, we believe we will be able to open more offices in more geographies while remaining effective and productive, giving employees more choice about where to live, while still getting the benefits of in-person interaction when it’s needed. Most of our employees who are Cloud-based—for example, the people we have in the Denver area—have told us they would prefer to have a dedicated Juniper Square office to work from on occasion than to be 100% Cloud-based. As life returns to normal post-Covid, expect us to open more offices in more locations.
Our offices will be redesigned to feel and function differently than they did before. Only 1% of our employees told us that they wanted to return full-time (five days per week) to the office. Most people preferred one to two days per week in the office, or ad hoc as needed. Our offices will change to accommodate this new use, and we’ll focus our use of space on collaborative break-out areas, and spaces to come together as a community to build and maintain relationships with one another.
3. Talent from Anywhere
One of the great benefits of embracing the Cloud as a first-class work experience is that we can now recruit employees from anywhere in the US and Canada where we are set up to do business. The vast majority of roles at Juniper Square can be Cloud-based, and of the 27 new hires that we have made since the start of the year, a majority have been based in the Cloud.
The only constraints on location for our employees are that 1) we have to be registered as an employer in the state or province where they would like to live, and 2) the employee has to be willing to keep a common set of collaboration hours from 9a – 3p PT. We have been thrilled to see employees have the opportunity to relocate to be closer to families, to new locales for the fun of it, or to be closer to personal hobbies and interests.
We are incredibly excited by the potential for greater geographic diversity to impact our goals of building a more diverse and inclusive workforce at Juniper Square, and over time expect to be able to tap into the full potential of our global workforce.
4. In-Person Matters
Last but not least, we acknowledge in our plans for the future of work that being together in person really, really matters. For the vast majority of us, interacting via a computer screen alone isn’t enough. 80% of our employees told us they were less effective at building new relationships while remote, and only 5% said they were more effective.
The reality is that humans are social animals. With a year of Zoom under our belt, we realize that a computer screen is no replacement for an in-person interaction. Studies on Zoom fatigue like this one from Stanford have described what we all feel: Zoom limits our mobility, it’s exhausting to look at ourselves all day, maintaining direct, up-close eye contact with limited non-verbal cues puts a huge cognitive load on top of the normal challenges of work, and the buffering and delays in video communication can really impede communication.
So we’re not naive in thinking that Digital-based work is a panacea, and we acknowledge that even our employees based in the Cloud have a need for regular, face-to-face interaction. For this reason we ask all Cloud-based employees to be willing to travel once per quarter for team-building and community events, once it becomes safe again to do so.
We have also invested in techniques to try to reduce Zoom fatigue. We have “no-meetings” Wednesdays; we encourage walking 1:1s; we try to switch to phone calls (which are often much easier to cognitively process) whenever possible; we upped our healthcare benefits and added support for mental health, which has been heavily utilized by our employees during this challenging year; and, we’ve added a monthly home office stipend, as well as a one-time reimbursement allowance for setup of a home office, so that people can be comfortable and productive working from home.
In closing, the last twelve months have been a roller coaster ride for all of us. Untold tragedy with the lives lost to Covid and the economic impacts of the pandemic, but also incredible hope and optimism for humanity with the remarkably rapid development of a vaccine. It’s an incredible time to be working, and especially to be working with technology. If how we work resonates with you, come join us!
You can check out our open jobs here.
Here’s to an incredibly bright future of work!