We Can Hear You Now: Designing Hybrid Models With All Employees In Mind

Considering both the in-person and virtual employee is key when it comes to designing a hybrid work model — these San Francisco tech companies are taking the experiences on both sides of the screen to heart.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Sep. 29, 2022
We Can Hear You Now: Designing Hybrid Models With All Employees In Mind
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“We can’t hear you.” 

For the past few years, this dreaded phrase has punctuated the soundtrack of virtual meetings everywhere — brought on glitchy video, sluggish Wi-Fi and muted mishaps. As many tech companies shift to a hybrid model, they strive for more streamlined, inclusive collaboration in which virtual and in-person attendees converse without the bane of button fumbles and frozen screens. 

This elusive hybrid meeting calls for careful orchestration: Designated facilitators, easy-to-use microphones and a reliable internet connection. 

Harvard Business Review (HBR) recommends giving virtual participants a life-sized presence in the room using multiple monitors. “These large images help in-person attendees accept remote colleagues as full participants and provide a constant reminder to include them in the conversation,” HBR’s Carey Greene wrote. 

The voices of both remote and in-person employees are the driving force behind RingCentral’s hybrid model. As a communications solutions company, RingCentral has brought its people to the forefront of hybrid design using its proprietary technology. 

“Each conference room is equipped with our own video conferencing tool, which transforms any meeting space into a dynamic video conferencing destination,” said Alvin Lam, SVP of talent. “Our goal with hybrid work is to encourage collaboration, innovation and flexibility for virtual and in-person employees.”

From elevated multimedia spaces to flexible workweeks, tech leaders are placing people at the center of their hybrid designs. Built In San Francisco sat down with EquityBee, Leyton and RingCentral to find out how savvy companies are reimagining hybrid work.  

  

RingCentral group photo outside
RingCentral

 

Alvin Lam
SVP, Talent • RingCentral

 

RingCentral is a software company that aims to empower businesses across the globe to work together with communication solutions. “We know how valuable it is to have work-life balance — finding a happy medium where our people can be highly productive and have time for a full life outside of work,” Alvin Lam, SVP of talent, told Built In SF. In the office, RingCentral aims to help the office feel like home. “We’ve welcomed our furry friends into our US office spaces,” Lam added. 

 

Describe your hybrid work arrangement. 

We’re so excited to welcome our employees back to the office. We acknowledge the past two years working remotely has been a challenge. Hybrid work gives us an amazing opportunity to combine the best of what we learned from working remotely with the irreplaceable benefits of in-office human connection. 

For RingCentral’s hybrid work arrangement, employees within a 35 mile radius can come in three days a week. Teams will be able to select the three days that work best for them, their schedules and life outside of work. We have updated our workspaces to encourage collaboration — with additional huddle rooms, more casual work spaces throughout our offices and refurbished outdoor spaces to spark creativity and efficiency. 

Hybrid work gives us an amazing opportunity to combine the best of what we learned from working remotely with the irreplaceable benefits of in-office human connection.” 

 

Why did you choose this arrangement, and how do you think it sets your organization apart as a place to work?

When coming to the office was optional, seeing the empty desks and hallways left people wondering, “What’s the point of coming in?” But having an office with a much greater number of employees lends to stronger social connections, higher energy and greater creativity. Critical mass really matters. 

The second reason was to continue building a fun, engaging and inclusive work culture. Collaboration and communication is not only at the forefront of our technology but also part of our culture. Creating a space where our employees can connect in person to share ideas, get to know each other over lunch, coffee chats in the break room and fun company events all help nurture our culture. 

 

What lessons from the pandemic and remote work in general have influenced your hybrid work model?

As a collaboration company, we’ve explored and prioritized the importance of empowering, supporting and becoming stronger together. Building successful relationships requires trust and transparency. With this, we wanted to create a safe space and environment for people to connect in person again. 

We learned that fostering a community of collaboration works better when we are together, operating in unison. We’ve also learned that bonding with our peers is important — and fun. 

Over the past couple years of remote work, we recognize meetings may have taken up the majority of our work schedules. But nothing replaces the value of in-person connection and having face-to-face conversations. Solving problems and impromptu interactions not only helps advance our career skills, but helps us all continue building relationships and trust with all our team members.

 

 

Oren Barzilai
Co-founder and CEO • EquityBee

 

EquityBee aims to help startup employees exercise their stock options and take ownership of their shares. Co-founder and CEO Oren Barzilai is an advocate for remote work. “As the CEO of a company whose mission is to help all startup employees participate in the success of the companies they helped build, I hear all kinds of stories about businesses being siloed and teams not working together — even when they work within the same four walls,” Barzilai told Built In SF. “I’ve found that hybrid and remote workforces can in fact be more coordinated and empathy-based than their in-person counterparts.”

 

Describe your hybrid work arrangement. 

EquityBee is a high growth startup and a global company. Originally founded in Tel Aviv, my co-founders and I moved our corporate headquarters to Palo Alto: the startup capital of the world. Over the course of the four years, EquityBee has been fortunate to hire based on talent and not proximity to our offices. As a result, we have key leadership and a growing workforce who reside across the globe. 

Our global offices are not only hubs for our local teams to work from: We host several events and team-building initiatives, including multiple company offsites. 

The tools and systems used to create a virtual work environment have accelerated our productivity.” 

 

Why did you choose this arrangement, and how do you think it sets your organization apart as a place to work?

The pandemic threatened to limit the scope of work for businesses around the world. From a talent perspective, it prompted us to pave new avenues for productivity and connectivity on a global level. Our team is multicultural and multifaceted. The tools and systems used to create a virtual work environment have accelerated our productivity. 

EquityBee, being a multinational company, employed some of these systems prior to the pandemic. Out of necessity, we took full advantage of them post-pandemic and continue to grow a team that contributes a diverse set of skills, creativity and innovative ideas. Our hybrid and virtual workplace model has worked to our benefit and to the benefit of our customers.

 

What lessons from the pandemic and remote work in general have influenced your hybrid work model?

The pandemic posed a unique challenge: How do we keep our momentum and scale our business in a work environment that is in flux, divided and remote? 

The hybrid model we use at Equitybee has proved to be advantageous over the traditional work models. With a global team, the hybrid and remote model has facilitated powerful collaborations and connections. When navigating multiple time zones is the norm, we have seen our team become more mindful of schedules and deadlines. We host weekly all-hands meetings and virtual water cooler chats so that the full team can spend more time engaged with one another. 

 

 

Conference room at the Leyton office
Leyton

 

Pam Tavilla
Head of People • Leyton

 

Leyton is a consultancy firm that aims to quickly improve the financial performance of its clients without impacting their core business. Leyton’s specific US expertise is in the implementation and optimization of research and development (R&D) tax relief and credits, the employee retention credit (ERC), and state and local sales tax credits. Head of People Pam Tavilla told Built In SF that Leyton values the advantages of both virtual and in-person collaboration. “The buzz around the office really motivates our employees to work hard,” Tavilla said. “But we also are very remote-friendly: The days our employees are not in the office, they are working from home with constant communication.” 

 

Describe your hybrid work arrangement. 

Leyton has physical office locations in Boston and San Francisco — both of which really exude the culture and values we are very proud of. Our employees come into the office two days a week to collaborate with their team and other teams throughout the company. On these days, they are met with fresh coffee, snacks, lunches and happy hours. 

We conduct biweekly all-hands meetings with in-person and online viewing options. Leyton prides itself on flexibility and always encourages employees to make a change if it works better for them and their family. We are set up for employees to be anywhere in the world and still be able to do their job to their fullest capacity. Our employees report loving this arrangement.

 

Why did you choose this arrangement, and how do you think it sets your organization apart as a place to work?

We chose this arrangement to make sure the entire company is together one day and with their individual team on another designated day. We also have employees that come in on off days to enjoy the office and get some quiet time. Our offices are always open and inviting for our employees. This arrangement really sets us apart as when we talk to candidates.  

We understand that the way of working has changed — employees crave flexibility.” 

 

What lessons from the pandemic and remote work in general have influenced your hybrid work model?

We have learned that we can be successful remotely. We onboarded plenty of employees during the pandemic that were completely remote to start. Returning to the office and meeting their team in person really enhanced the relationships.  

We understand that the way of working has changed — employees crave flexibility. Long gone are the days of having employees come into the office five days per week, but there are parts of the job that are more successful in the office than remote. 

We also want employees to have a good work-life balance. If taking a break outside or in a different state is what they want, we support that. Being able to come together for in-person events in or out of the office has been extremely successful.  

We also have some employees that have moved during the pandemic and are now fully remote.  We invite them to the office quarterly and know they are able to do their jobs successfully from their new locations. 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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