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The HaBO Village Podcast

The Dos and Don'ts of Managing a Hybrid Team [Podcast]

Episode 171: Michael and Kathryn discuss how to manage a hybrid team of remote and in-office workers. If you've been forced to shift to a remote or partially remote model with your team and are struggling to make it work, then this episode is for you!

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In This Episode You Will...

  • Discover how Michael and Kathryn's learned from their mistakes when it came to managing a hybrid team.

  • Find out the dos and don't when it comes to hiring remote workers.

  • Learn best practices for maintaining a healthy company culture with a remote or hybrid workforce.

“If we take the time to invest in the relationship, and the trust-building pieces, then ultimately, the trust builds faster."

- Kathryn Redman

 

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Michael:             Hello and welcome to the HaBO Village Podcast. I'm Michael Redman.


Kathryn:
             And I'm Kathryn Redman.


Michael:
             And this is a podcast that develops the whole leader for the whole business. And the purpose of that is so that you can develop your business in three areas or your life. Basically, we want you to have a successful growing company that's financially successful. We want you to be fulfilled in your work. And we want you to avoid burnout.


Michael:
             Today, we're going to talk about this whole issue of the hybrid team or the remote team, the remote company, or maybe your company can't go remote but you keep hearing about all this stuff. We're going to talk about that because we've had to deal with that over the last few years. And we'll tell you a horror story of why we hated the whole concept. And then we'll tell you some really success stories on how we've learned to adapt and actually thrive in this weird new world that has employees that never come into your office.


Kathryn:
             There you go. And I don't know. We're recording this on St. Patrick's Day so happy St. Patrick's Day. I'm wearing green. You're wearing green. I'm British so I'm actually just wearing green out of loving my Irish friends.


Michael:
             And your Irish husband.


Kathryn:
             And my Irish husband.


Michael:
             And your Irish husband.


Kathryn:
             Oh yeah. And that.


Michael:
             So, we make a joke that we have a cross-relational marriage.


Kathryn:
             Cross-culture.


Michael:
             Cross-cultural marriage because Irish, English. Yeah. Okay.


Kathryn:
             I don't know. Watch Downton Abbey if that confuses you.


Michael:
             Oh boy. There you go. Okay. So, let's talk about this whole idea of hybrid. Here we are in 2022 and we're kind of three-fourths of the way through COVID. COVID is not over yet but it's definitely diminished a lot. The world has shifted and changed in so many places. You listen to the media every day and you hear the fact that hybrid is the only way to go, or actually remote is the only way to go. What do you think about all this remote stuff?


Kathryn:
             So, I have so many thoughts having done a six-and-a-half hour remote training yesterday.


Michael:
             Oh yeah.


Kathryn:
             So, the first thing is that I think there are incredible gifts to be had in the learning of what it looks like to actually have a remote or hybrid culture. The opportunities to access employees that you couldn't access who are not going to move to where you live and not having to move them. So, that's a huge advantage of being able to tap talent that is not in your area. I think that's massive.


Kathryn:
             I think that the downside, especially if you're hiring somebody to work for your team, is what happens to culture. Because one of the things that we've seen and we've heard and we've read about during these last couple three years as this whole thing has unraveled is that companies that had a strong culture going in to COVID, when everything got shut down and everyone had to be remote that could, obviously frontline workers aside and that, but everyone that had to go remote, those companies that had a strong culture going in, they did okay but it was hard. And it eroded their culture a little.


Kathryn:
             Those that didn't have good cultures going in, I don't even know how they survived. And so, that piece of the puzzle is a really big deal. How do you tap into the opportunity that hybrid work affords you? How do you create or maintain the culture that you want to have within your organization when people are not together?


Michael:
             Yeah, it's really clear that the research says that whether you want to call it deteriorated or hurt or whatever, nobody believes that it was as easy or easier to move everybody from an office to computers and to do all that stuff. It just wasn't. We had the experience recently where we were working with a client. And all of a sudden, our first meeting with them was in our conference room. It was a phenomenal meeting, lots of chit-chatter and everything else.


Michael:
             Our second meeting with them was on Zoom and they were in two different places. They weren't even in the same room. And the whole mood and the culture and everything the vibe of, the way they interacted with us and communicated with us was so much different. Some of it was because Zoom technology doesn't allow you to chit-chat over each other as easily. And some of it is just this kind of like one person talks at a time because you can't have five people or two people talking over each other. So, everybody's trying to be patient and waiting for somebody else.


Kathryn:
             Yeah. And it totally affects the flow of the communication and then you don't get kind of body language.


Michael:
             Yeah.


Kathryn:
             You get facial language ...


Michael:
             And upper body language.


Kathryn:
             ... but not the whole deal. And it's really interesting what a big difference that makes. So, if somebody is not facially expressive, Zoom can be a real challenge because there's a lot going on there.


Michael:
             Yeah. You know what, I wonder sometimes and this is just curiosity. Well, I wonder a lot, why is it being in-person is so different because I want to always break it down and codify it and that kind of stuff? And part of it is I've heard people say, "One of the things is you can move your eyes and your head around and you can see a whole person head to toe."


Michael:
             And when I first heard the fact that the brain, especially the back of the brain, when I heard this from somebody studying neurology and psychology and all that, and you're with me I think on that podcast with David Allison and we were talking. And he was saying that one of the things that the research has shown is it's very disconcerting to the back of the brain, this part of the brain that's made for fight or flight, for survival and everything else to see a floating head, right?


Kathryn:
             Right. Yeah, especially now you blur your background, you have those funky things when people move around and suddenly their arm is no longer there is you're like, "What's going on right now?"


Michael:
             The front of my brain says, "This is fine." The back of my brain is slightly irritated and slightly uncomfortable which is causing a slight amount of the chemicals for fight or flight to enter the body. The other thing that I think happens in real life is I think we totally underestimate because it's so part of our existence, the impact of sound on our body. Because we think when I'm listening to you, I'm only hearing you through my ears but my whole entire body is feeling sound.


Michael:
             And the fact that I can't have that on Zoom, I mean a little speaker is not the same and it can't produce the same frequencies and all of that. And I think sometimes we feel the frequencies or when we laugh, we feel that or when a room gets louder, we feel it and for some people ...


Kathryn:
             Yeah, the shared excitements, all of that stuff.


Michael:
             Yeah, because emotions are contagious. We know that from decades of research. So, I just think, okay, these are reasons why this is getting harder.


Kathryn:
             Well, the other thing too is on Zoom, I mean, obviously we're talking about the struggles here but on Zoom, we talk with our hands. And when you're in front of a camera and you're just in a little confined space staring at a screen, you tend to be like, "That's kind of awkward," so you keep your hands down.


Michael:
             Well, when I talk with my hands and I can see myself, my hands disappear off the screen. So, like I go to give an example and all of a sudden, I'm realizing you can't ... If I have a hand, the left and right like it's this wide and you can't see my hands, I'm like, "Okay, now, I've amputated hands."


Kathryn:
             Exactly.


Michael:
             So, I think there's ... I find this stuff so interesting because we're trying to figure out what's going on, why is this working and the reason. Some people are like, "Why are you wasting time thinking about this?" Here's one of the reasons I think about it. If I can codify what's going on, maybe we can compensate for it. If I don't know exactly the parts of it, if I don't know how ... back before they had a microscope, you couldn't tell what was in blood so it was just blood. But now, we know we have white cells and red cells and plasma and all that kind of stuff. And we can do different things with it and design treatments because of that. How do we treat this process?


Michael:
             Now, let's talk about a little bit about our journey in this. Our journey with people being remote actually started probably 14 years ago ... well, 12 or 13 years ago-ish. We had an employee who was great. We really liked him. He was just a valued member of the team. And his wife's family was in Seattle. We're in Northern California. And he wanted to move right. And she wanted to move, wanted to be closer to the family. So, he was like, "Okay, let's do that. Can I still work for you all?" "Well, okay, let's try this."


Michael:
             And in 2010-11-ish, it was a completely different world when it came to Zoom.


Kathryn:
             There was no Zoom I don't think.


Michael:
             Yeah.


Kathryn:
             Well, maybe it existed.


Michael:
             Well, you know what, there wasn't Zoom but there was GoToMeeting I think existed but it was pretty rough and all that kind stuff. Broadband was just not hardly anywhere except in major areas. I mean, I think maybe we had it but it was ... Well, we didn't have what we have now. It didn't go well. Short end to the stick is it did not go well. And it ended up in a very frustrated employee and very frustrated on us. And a lot of miscommunication happened. And a lot of poor leadership happened on our part and on my part.


Michael:
             And I started learning a lot about my leadership because I didn't realize I didn't want to be on the phone all the time. I was good with people coming in and out of my office. I was good with walking around and talking to people and having meetings or even short meetings. "What's going on? Give me five minutes of an update."


Kathryn:
             Well, none of us want to admit this but I think many, many humans, they really can only pay attention to who's in front of them. And so, that's kind of the old out of sight, out of mind. And so, I think what happened with this employee was he gradually got less and less attached and we got less and less attached. So, there was this whole detachment thing where he didn't feel like he was part of the team. And we didn't do a good job of knowing how to help him feel like part of the team because we'd never done this before. So, it was just not good.


Michael:
             Yeah. Now, here's some other things that were going on that are probably important. What we learned over time and we ended up running ... After he left the company, we didn't see him for about 10 years and then we ran into him and spent some great time catching up and all that kind of stuff. I'm going to talk about all this because this was his environment and what's going on. First of all, he was working from home like so many people are.


Michael:
             His marriage, he was fairly newly married. He'd been married about a year but their marriage started degrading. They were both working from home because they both had remote jobs. Their marriage started degrading. They weren't going out and leaving the house much. They had moved to a new city, they didn't have a great support group, community around them. And he started getting more and more frustrated in all these that basically, it was more isolation.


Michael:
             Even when he got off work and got off the computer, there was stress at home. He came to work not fully present. And then there was bad communication from our side. At times, bad communication from him. Expectations, everything else. So, you start to see that starts to spiral. And again, we own that we made mistakes.


Kathryn:
             Definitely.


Michael:
             But what happens is we have a relationship with our employees and our employees have a life. They have other influences that are going on in their lives that impact them during the day. And to tell an employee, "Leave your issues at the door," I get what you're saying at some level. But the reality is these are whole people.


Kathryn:
             They bring them whole selves to work.


Michael:
             And they bring their whole selves to work. And they can shut their mouth and they cannot talk about it. But the bottom line is they're still going to be impacted. I mean, look, if your marriage is falling apart or your kid is sick and really ill and you're worried about them or some other catastrophe is happening in your life and you come to work ...


Kathryn:
             The attention is totally divided. It has to be. None of us can do that.


Michael:
             None of us can do that. So, these are challenges that in this movement of everything's great and everybody is saying, "Oh, we're more productive at home," I think most people believe that our introverted-type people and that kind of stuff, completely believe that they're more productive at home.


Kathryn:
             Yeah, for sure.


Michael:
             I think out of the majority, I don't know if it's majority, out of a lot of people who believe that they are productive at home, they are not because we know that the majority of people believe they're productive at work than when they come into the office. And we know that 74% minimum of adult workers are disengaged and less than their full productivity period in America.


Michael:
             So, the idea that they're going to be just as productive at home is a small subset of people who, A, are productive at work and have the right temperament to be able to handle this. Now, fact is we've got this situation. We've got to deal with this, COVID forces into it. So, how do we make the best of it and start working on it? And then, as a leader, this may be your favorite method. We've got friends and clients that this is their favorite method of everything. They want to be remote. They don't want to pay for an office. They want to save the money.


Michael:
             They want to work out of their own home because they're already ... because they're entrepreneurs, they're already productive and self-leadership and everything else. They're doing those kinds of things. It's like whether they're in a coffee shop or in their house or in the office, they're working. So, with that, how do we make use of it? Because we had this bad history, what was the turning point for us that started to make us think, "With all this stuff going on and all these potential problems with it and I swore we would never have another person again."


Kathryn:
             It's dangerous what you swear, isn't it?


Michael:
             I mean, yeah, it is. I said it out loud to the staff all the time. I wanted to make sure every employee knew, "You leave, you're not working for a remote."


Kathryn:
             Have a nice life. We love you but bye-bye.


Michael:
             What changed that for us?


Kathryn:
             Well, I think we would agree that the initial change was just we were forced to all go remote.


Michael:
             Well, no, something changed before that though.


Kathryn:
             Well, then enlighten me. I'm trying to remember.


Michael:
             It would be a certain person in Idaho.


Kathryn:
             Yeah, that's a small detail. I love when you ask me questions that I should know the answer to and I don't. That's mortifying. So, yes, what changed for us was that one of our longtime employees, she'd been with us probably eight years at the time.


Michael:
             At the time, seven-and-a-half to eight years.


Kathryn:
             Yeah, seven-and-a-half to eight years. Came to us and said, "So, I am going to move to Idaho because my husband got a job and I really want to keep working for you. Is there any way we can work this out because you've been telling me for years that you won't do remote employees?" So she had been cultured into this like, "That's not going to happen."


Kathryn:
             And she was incredibly valuable as an employee. She was hardworking, really committed. We had a lot of trust in her. So, we literally just stopped and said, "Okay, maybe it's time to rethink this and give this a shot." And I would say that we went into it with cautious optimism but a little bit of like, "This may not work."


Michael:
             Yeah. I think we all said that out loud.


Kathryn:
             Absolutely. And so, Paige moved to Idaho. She's been up there now two years, right?


Michael:
             Roughly two years. Well, she was up there ... Actually, it might be a little longer because she's was up there before COVID.


Kathryn:
             Yeah. So, we started getting used to having meetings with one person who was remote. And the interesting part of that is it felt like a gracious transition for us because she was so already part of our culture and everybody here knew her well. So, they worked hard to keep her part of our culture. So, we never experienced the sense of disconnect that we did with that first employee that we tried this with.


Kathryn:
             We never experienced ... We miss her. I miss seeing her. I miss hugging her because I do that. And yet, we found just this rhythm of being able to work that just totally worked. It worked for her. She loves being a part of our company still. It was interesting because when COVID hit and we had to all go remote, we'd have at least a little practice, we'd had a warm-up, right?


Michael:
             Yeah.


Kathryn:
             So, that was the first thing that happened that moved us into it. And then obviously, COVID head and then, by golly, we were all remote.


Michael:
             Yeah. And Paige is very structured, organized person. She's very relational. But one of the things they did knowing when they were moving up there and looking for a house that she was going to work, they found a house that had an office space. She has doors on the office. And with that process, I've been told by her husband, I've been told by her, I've been told by friends that go up there and have visited, I've been told by her mother, and maybe you have too that she literally is like, "When I'm in my office, everybody leaves me alone." And she goes in there. And she's part-time. She works three days a week since her oldest was born which was born after she started working with us.


Michael:
             So, when we walk through that process, I'm like, "Okay, here's a person who could do it and here's a person who has been able to have that structure." Zoom has really been able to be a really powerful tool now because going from our first experience with the gentleman 10 years ago or 12-13 years ago, and now the technology is better, the video is smoother. I've been on video calls where there's like 40 people on the screen and it works. And if everybody has decent internet access now at their house or wherever they are, there's that flow, right?


Kathryn:
             Yup.


Michael:
             So, with Paige, we realized we could turn the monitor on and the computer on in the conference room and we could all still gather in the conference room for our Monday morning meetings. And we'll talk about our wrap. Many of you have heard about our wrap on Friday afternoons. And if you haven't, we'll explain that in a minute. But that's our social time at the end of the week.


Michael:
             But the regular communication has worked. Then we had COVID.


Kathryn:
             And we had COVID.


Michael:
             And everybody had to go and we hated it. We hated it with a passion at first because we didn't need to be together. We weren't one of those classified, qualified frontline or mandatory services.


Kathryn:
             Well, we have the ability just based on what we do to work from home or work from anywhere. We had that built in which is again not everybody has that privilege, but we had that just by nature of what we do. It was not hard to do that. But we didn't love it. And I can remember one of my employees who's an extrovert and wants to be with people and the lockdown happens and then it gets extended and it gets extended some more and two weeks turns into months, and I remember her saying, "It's like Groundhog Day. I just keep getting up and doing the same thing in the same place over and over again." And it was hard. It was hard for some of our folks.


Michael:
             Yeah. Well, I want to shift in a minute to talking about some real practical things on what we did actually to manage that real fast and then talking about how we're managing it now. Is anything else that you want to say about as we went into that? I mean, we were just forced into this process where like so many companies in the world, "Okay, this is it. Wait, we don't have people."


Michael:
             This morning, I'm working in my office. And I have a lot of meetings usually. You and I are in a lot of them together. And they're very productive meetings and everything else. But today, I get to work in my office and I'm working on some stuff. And there's a project and a couple of issues that are happening with that project that are ads buyer and technical guy had some questions. He popped in I think three times this morning. And he's really good about saying, "Is this a good time? Am I interrupting you?"


Michael:
             And it was perfect because my door was open. It was great. I was able to just go pivot. And I was able to answer some questions really well. And there was this quick back and forth that I know we didn't have that kind of back and forth when we were all at home because we're all back in the office now. And I saved tons of time. And I came up with a solution after four or five minutes of just bantering back and forth. That was just kind of off the cuff that probably saved us, I don't know, a few thousand dollars and possibly dozens of hours, if not, 50 hours of work.


Kathryn:
             I'm going to want to hear about that later.


Michael:
             Yeah, on a client. Because it was like, "Well, this is the solution." And then also, you're looking at the cost and you're going, "Okay, here's the cost." But you don't want to get into a sunk cost, it's a monthly cost to solve the problem and then just have that for the rest of your life. And then I was like, "Oh, okay, blah, blah, blah, boom."


Michael:
             I guess that could have all been put together and sat in a meeting and we could have scheduled a meeting and all that kind of stuff. But this is nice and timely and the flow was there and it worked well. Those are the benefits of being in the office or just laughing and hearing somebody else laugh in the middle of nothing and walking out of your office and going, "Okay, what's the joke?" And just engaging for a moment and taking a break, causing you to stand up and get your blood flowing and to move around a little bit, there's so many benefits to just that human interaction.


Kathryn:
             So, the other thing you have to know is while all of that said and Michael just made the statement, "We're all back in the office." Obviously, you automatically know that Paige isn't.


Michael:
             Yes.


Kathryn:
             You also need to know that in the last nine months, we have hired two remote employees.


Michael:
             Virtual assistants.


Kathryn:
             Yup. So, one's in Minnesota and one is in Tennessee.


Michael:
             Now, it's important. I use the term virtual assistant. They are not your typical what you might think of somebody in another country who you just send off work to and they do it and they send it back.


Kathryn:
             No.


Michael:
             These are actually more like administrative assistants that are remote.


Kathryn:
             Absolutely.


Michael:
             And they are part of our staff meeting.


Kathryn:
             They are part of our team, the whole deal. So, it's important that you know that because here we are talking about, "Yeah, we really love to be in person," and yet, as I mentioned at the beginning, one of the benefits of this kind of remote hybrid culture stuff is that we have the opportunity to tap into talent that isn't here. And so, we pulled up our bootstraps and said, "Okay, it's working with Paige. What would it look like to intentionally hire someone? And then, how do we craft our world so that they begin to feel like they're part of the team?"


Michael:
             Yeah.


Kathryn:
             So, we have done that.


Michael:
             Yeah. And I want to give props to Great Assistants, the company. I think it's greatassistant.com or greatassistants.com. And just give them a shout-out because we got a recommendation from a friend. And he said that he knew the CEO and had known them for years and really appreciated them. And then when we checked around, we realized that another company that we know with some friends had hired five people through this company. And they only do these US-based virtual assistants for US-based companies.


Kathryn:
             One of their primary things is to hire an assistant for a CEO. That's like their big thing. You're a CEO. You're at the point now where you need to start handing some things off. You need somebody to control your life is how I put it. And so, the first person that we hired is my assistant. And she is helping me tremendously. And she's helping me from a completely different time zone.


Michael:
             I mean, I hold the CEO position in our company but we chose not to do that for me yet because I actually have support from you and Vicky and the team. And we were thinking so strategically that would be the best thing for you and so let's test it to see. And how's it gone?


Kathryn:
             You know what, it has gone brilliantly. So brilliantly that we did it again and hired a second person to support another member of our team.


Michael:
             Yeah. And she's coming along brilliantly, too.


Kathryn:
             Yeah. So, I think one of the reasons that it's working and there are multiple. But one of the reasons that it's working is because we have this mantra and you will have heard us say it, we're going to say it again, we'll say it as many times as we have to. But it's hire, train and fire to your values. So, one of the things that happened during this process was that the folks that ended up coming on board with us had been really well vetted to make sure that they aligned with who we are as a company, as human beings.


Kathryn:
             So, that ability to understand that if you're going to hire and try and figure out how to craft people into your culture, if you're bringing them on new, hire, train and fire to values. So for us, that has been maybe the biggest reason why it's working. And our team, again they had had practice with Paige. And they worked hard in the onboarding process with me and with our new gal and all of the different things that we're participating in. I mean, we have this weekly wrap and it's at 4:00 Pacific so on a Friday.


Kathryn:
             My assistant in Minnesota does not want to hang out with us at 7:00 on a Friday night. I don't know why that is. I think it would be a better choice than anything else she could be doing with her husband and kids. But that's the one piece that they don't get to be regularly a part of but we're doing a special one coming up this week or next week I think. And we do this annual awards thing. It's around the Oscars. It's just one of the crazy traditions we have where every member of the team gets an award and we wanted to include them. So, we're moving that wrap to much earlier in the day which sounds like a no brainer but ...


Michael:
             I didn't think we're moving it. I thought they were all ...


Kathryn:
             No, actually they're joining us.


Michael:
             Yeah. They're all joining us in the evening.


Kathryn:
             Which is good because we eat and drink alcohol so that's probably not something we want to do at 1:00 in the afternoon.


Michael:
             No.


Kathryn:
             So yeah, so special time, they're just going to join us for that because it's a culture building, team building kind of effort.


Michael:
             Yeah.


Kathryn:
             So, that's one of the ways that we're pulling them in along with all the other conversations that are happening. So, it is working well and we are finding ways to create culture with folks who are not present in our office.


Michael:
             Yeah. I mean, it's powerful. So, let's shift a little bit. Here's what we're doing right now. As we said, we are in a hybrid mode. We are in a hybrid mode long term as far as we're concerned. If I could have my total wish list, I would actually go to everybody in the office. I like that but I'm like that.


Kathryn:
             You are. I am like that, too.


Michael:
             And so, we would love that. And quite frankly, you may be saying, "Well, everybody's moving that way." Everybody is not moving that way. There are a lot of people moving that way but the word "everybody" is not true. We've been talking to some of our friends in Silicon Valley and basically what they're saying is, "Do not believe anything you hear in the media." The majority of the tech companies are saying you will be coming back into the office to some extent, you're not going to be 100% remote.


Michael:
             There have been rumors that certain companies have said to people, "If you're going to stay remote, you're going to have 80% of your paycheck. We are taking 20% away because we believe there's a certain amount of productivity and efficiency that you are losing by being at home, a certain value to us, at home." There are a lot of people who are mad because they feel like their personal rights are being violated. But they did get a job with a company that had requirements for the job.


Michael:
             Now, they want to renegotiate with COVID because they like being at home and not having to take shower all the time or whatever.


Kathryn:
             Working in my jammies. It's like [inaudible 00:29:00].


Michael:
             Especially programmers. But that is going on. That's a real deal in Silicon Valley. I'm sure it's a real deal in other places. We know that Google and Facebook and Apple for three have all invested in property, significant investments in property. They could not unload if they wanted to. Apple's new headquarters ...


Kathryn:
             Spaceship.


Michael:
             The spaceship. Google's properties. There is a possibility that Facebook could dilute some of their properties because they're in many cities they've been in long-term leases but they are leases. So, they're buying in skyscrapers and taking out ... The one in Austin is they had before COVID I believe seven floors of two skyscrapers, kind of a tower. And with that context, that when I did my tour, they had blown a hole in two of the floors. There's three floors that are stacked together in one tower, maybe four. And they had blown holes in and then put in a staircase inside.


Michael:
             So, there's only two elevators that come up and down in that tower so you have all these challenges. So then, moving back and forth between the floors to see people, moving back and forth between the floors to the commissary or the big kitchen area that they share because tech companies like to do that, you walk there through the stairs. They could give up that kind of stuff and give up leases.


Michael:
             But the other companies like Google is investing in London now at over a billion dollar that they just announced in the last six months, acquisition and development project. They've announced that the place is there leasing in New York City, they're purchasing. So, there's a lot of stuff going on that's like, "Why would these companies actually invest in more buildings for their people to be in if they're going to let them all be at home?" It makes no sense.


Michael:
             And their video for the London place talks about how much they value the interaction and interplay and they will feel like that's going on. So, here's how we've done it. Well, you want to describe how we've managed our hybrid stuff and how we do stuff and how it's changed here at the work, what are some of the things that stick out to you how we've changed to keep our culture quality?


Kathryn:
             Well, one of the things is that obviously, there are meetings that we would have normally done face to face and we do them via zoom. So, even though we're in the office because we have remote employees, everybody's in front of their own computer in their own office and we do it all in Zoom. We were laughing the other day about ... laughing in a sad way, kind of grieving, laughing sad about our conference room and just how few people like all the meetings we used to have in there and there's just less and less.


Kathryn:
             But that's one of the things we do is that everybody is adapting that way like, "You know what, we're just going to do this all on Zoom so that everybody is equally placed right on the screen," as opposed to sitting in a conference room and having one person or three people now on a screen while the rest of us are together. So, that's one way we've adapted.


Michael:
             It's a lot harder. And that's interesting because I know that what was going on before COVID, the companies that create tech were trying to put more interactivity in the conference room so that people could remote in. But the goal was for the most of the people to be in the room with a few people who had to remote in type of thing, whatever the reasons were. And now, we're choosing, because we did the hybrid with Paige, but we're choosing right now because of just investment and technology.


Michael:
             And quite frankly, the technology is not as amazing as to create an experience like that where there's eight of us in a conference room and three or four people or more and maybe a client or whatever on Zoom. It's easier to go to Zoom and go, "Okay, now, we're all getting a rhythm of this. We're getting used to it." It's actually a better experience than the hybrid at times.


Kathryn:
             Yeah, definitely. I really want to be though in the world like of Star Trek where literally, they hollow in. I just want them to hollow in and then be part of the meetings and then hollow out. And that'd be awesome but we're not there yet. Maybe next year.


Michael:
             I think that there's some acceleration in the R&D world that would be exciting to talk about on a nerdy podcast.


Kathryn:
             I'm like, "Don't talk about that right now."


Michael:
             Yeah. So, our Monday mornings are our staff meeting. They have moved from the conference room to Zoom. That has created a positive experience. We spend the first 10 or 15 minutes of our conference and we have a big meeting on Monday mornings. It's 90 minutes long because it's really our big check in, our core team is 10 people.


Michael:
             And then, all of our subs and people that we interact with on a regular basis to do all the other stuff, there's probably about 25 of us, just so you have an idea of the size of our team. And so, we've got ... I mean, 25 peoples a lot to keep going and keep busy and keep project managed and all that kind of stuff. So, our team's there. And we spend 10 minutes, 15 minutes catching up on the weekend, "How are things? Blah, blah, blah." We use it as a time and I know that sometimes some employees get a little frustrated at different times because it's like, "Can we just get to work?"


Kathryn:
             It's not efficient.


Michael:
             But it's important to just have, and you and I usually let that go a little bit and let people just communicate, talk, tell dumb stories or whatever because it's in those ... We really believe there is a part of culture that's hidden in those moments that seem useless.


Kathryn:
             Yeah.


Michael:
             And unless you're really social ... If you're really social and understand that's you're going, those aren't useless moments.


Kathryn:
             Well, and understanding that so much of somebody's feeling like they're part of your culture is building trust. And when it comes to building trust, there's the saying, "Slow is fast and fast is slow." So, if we take the time which feels slow, if we take the time to just invest in the relationship and the trust-building pieces, then ultimately the trust builds faster.


Michael:
             I like the other saying that goes along with that at times is, "Go slow to go fast." And so, we do. We take those moments to make sure that those things are built so that the rest of the meeting actually can go quickly as we're talking because it doesn't feel stunted or awkward. It's like you didn't just step into the middle of a conversation. So, okay, everybody's acclimated again especially since we can't see each other's feet and talking is awkward. And you're dealing with all the inadequacies of Zoom and video conferencing.


Michael:
             We have our meeting. And sometimes we have a training session attached, just a short training session on something that's important. And then we end. The other major event that happens is our wrap that we talk about and it's every Friday, 4:00 to 5:00. It's been that way for over 10 years. I can't believe it's been that long. And we literally have our staff, if this is the first time you've ever heard about this, we have our staff on the clock but they are ... Wait, it's not for working.


Michael:
             It's not a working meeting. We're going to sit and debrief. And we kind of have a sub-core value, it's not one of our five of celebration. And we just believe you celebrate things and you hang out and you just give time to allow everybody to breathe together. So, we have appetizers and beverages of different kinds. And we video in and we have microphones and stuff. And we have the setup, kind of like the conference room where people can remote in. And we do that in our more loungey living room area at work. And we all gather together on the computer or in the living room.


Michael:
             And if people are working at home because they might have gotten infected with Omicron and they're not sick but they have to be home or for some reason they can't ...


Kathryn:
             The plumber's coming and they can't leave.


Michael:
             They all get on the computer and come in because that's what we did over COVID. We had everybody at home doing this wrap. It was a ritual of ours that we kept.


Kathryn:
             Yup.


Michael:
             And it works. And you're saying, "Well, that's great, blah, blah, blah. What's the proof?" Well, I think this is not the only evidence of what happened. But if you look at us for the last two years, '20 and '21, we didn't lose money. We either were broke-even or grew which is hard to say for a lot of companies. We kept almost all of our clients. We kept all of our employees.


Michael:
             And we had a really good morale. I mean, it was hard at times. We were pulling together and supporting each other. And there were some rough spots for people but we were there for each other. And as owners, Kathryn and I decided to make some decisions along the way, here and there, to make sure we're supporting them, that we're sacrificial and could have cost us money and could have cost us profit at the end of the day because we said no to certain things to say yes to supporting people in our staff.


Michael:
             And that worked out. And so profitably we're there. Culturally we're there. And the retention of good employees and our team and on top of it, there is always this amazing value in coming through a shared tragedy or something together like COVID. We made it together. And those kinds of things, you don't take lightly. And I think the evidence is really key.


Michael:
             So, if you're looking at hybrid, there is a couple of things we really suggest. One, this is a thing, hybrid or totally remote. This is a thing. Not everybody's doing it but it's not going away. So, if you're totally in, you got to pay attention because you can lose some stuff with your enthusiasm of not having an office and not having to worry about all those expenses and being at home on your own. You've got to make sure you perk up your leadership because it took more energy for you and I to lead in this time than probably most of the company I think. I mean, it's been exhausting at times to think about everything.


Kathryn:
             And then to the degree that you're able and there are limitations but to the degree that you're able to make the experience consistent for all employees whether they're here or remote. So, for example, this is definitely extra effort but if we're ever doing a celebration, if we're ever doing a little party or whatever else and our remote employees are going to remote into that, we make sure that we actually send them little like care packages that have the same kinds of stuff in it that we're experiencing in person.


Michael:
             Yeah.


Kathryn:
             So, those are huge pieces of making them feel like they're not second-class citizens. And in the hybrid world, we don't want it to be us in the office and them in the field.


Michael:
             That's the big danger of hybrid.


Kathryn:
             Yeah. So, we're working really hard. And time will tell. I mean, we're early on and to the three people as opposed to just one person, but you had a conversation with my assistant just to check in with her about how she was experiencing our culture. And I didn't listen to the conversation but I know that it was incredibly positive.


Michael:
             It was. And again, that was a choice I made to take time out of my schedule to really make sure ... I knew that having a conversation with this person and just checking in on how they're doing and how they're experiencing us was going to be a valuable investment to her of just saying she matters. And I'm willing to listen as the CEO who she almost never sees or talks to.


Michael:
             So, those kinds of things are happening in our office. I hope that this conversation has been helpful for you. If nothing else, just a peek in behind the curtains of how is it happening in Half a Bubble Out? What are they doing? And I'm just going to leave you this one more tip. If you are listening right now and you're like, "Okay, well, you guys have a team of 10. And you're going to send stuff home, that's fine."


Michael:
             Here's what I suggest. If you have a larger team that is remote, a larger company and you have more remote people, first of all, if you've got more people, you've got larger revenue, make sure that a percentage of stuff goes into those little gifts and things like that and then break it up into teams. Let the teams. Really encourage your managers to make sure that they're caring for their people culturally, as well as project managing their work.


Michael:
             And make sure they're equipped for it. Make sure they're trained for it. And then give them some budget for it. Really give them some training and some encouragement and the money to be able to do a little bit of stuff. I promise you, it will pay dividends. It really does, especially if you as a company have hired, trained and fired to your core values as a principle, then you've got quality people. And it just costs so much to replace quality people or to recover from their inefficiencies because at home, it's just harder and harder for people to stay motivated or they get off track and don't get on track fast enough.


Michael:
             So, I hope this is helpful. This is Michael Redman.


Kathryn:
             This is Kathryn Redman.


Michael:
             And this is the HaBO Village Podcast. And this whole podcast is about helping you become a whole leader for your whole business and thinking about these things. So, we wish you the best this week. Have a great week. And I hope that you can figure out and process your own challenges on remote hybrid or maybe only office if you're in my ideal company. Thank you very much for your time. Bye-bye.


Kathryn:
             Bye.