In April, Silverchair released our second Workplace of the Future survey to ask more of the questions we need answered in order to fine-tune our evolving hybrid work model. We compiled some insightful data from our survey in January, but we wanted to capture the nuance of how our people and our teams are thinking about re-engaging with our headquarters and face-to-face with one another. What we learned as at once affirming and surprising. 

This time around, we had 65% response rate, which, although not excellent, is nevertheless representative of our workforce. It is not surprising that we had a lower response rate this time around given that all of the questions called for free text responses. This was a deliberate survey design choice we made to ensure we were not boxing people into predetermined answers and truly listening to their preferences.  

Here are the highlights of what we learned:  

Silverchairians overwhelmingly want to come back to the office a few days a week, with predictability and flexibility​. Most people expressed a preference for predictable days at headquarters (ranging from 1-4), with the option for flexibility (i.e. more or fewer days) as needed​. And, many people said they would like to come in when other members of their team are there to promote collaboration​. The top three reasons our people want to return to headquarters are:

1) the opportunity to socialize with and build community with people;

2) meetings/collaboration/opportunity for serendipitous problem-solving; and

3) the desire for work-life separation and a change of scenery. 

The vast majority of people believe their WFH arrangement is superior to the office; however, they still want to return to the office because of the opportunity for collaboration and community building​. Those who said working at headquarters is superior clarified that this is because of the opportunity for community and collaboration rather than better equipment or other aspects of the technical setup​. 

Heads down work requiring concentration and large company meetings are far and away the main activities Silverchairians experience better remotely​. We asked people to tell us what job-related activities they thought were better done in person rather than remotely. Then, we asked what job-related activities are better done remotely rather than in person. In the better done in person category, collaboration topped the list​. People also mentioned various types of team meetings, sensitive meetings, training, and culture building. 

When people were asked what would be their main reason for choosing to work at headquarters in a pandemic-free future, the opportunity to socialize with and build community with people topped the list. This was followed closely by meetings/collaboration/opportunity for serendipitous problem-solvingMany people mentioned the desire for work-life separation and a change of scenery. And, of course, a handful of people quipped about the good Charlottesville food and our lovingly curated office snacks. 

Teams

When people will feel comfortable returning to the office depends heavily on health/safety concerns and whether their teammates are present​. Overwhelmingly, people said they would feel comfortable working at headquarters when they are fully vaccinated​ and/or everyone or the majority of Silverchair is fully vaccinated​. This is part of the reason why Silverchair has since adopted a pioneering policy – effective June 14th – that anyone who works at headquarters must be fully vaccinated. We have received an overwhelmingly positive response to this policy from employees expressing that they feel seen, heard, and care for. #silverchairstrong 

The vast majority (about two-thirds) of people said they feel comfortable “hoteling” (i.e. working at a station that is not permanently assigned to them). However, people expressed a strong preference for predictability of work stations, and cleanliness is of paramount importance​. I was a little surprised to see that about a third of Silverchairians still want a private office or a dedicated work space. I wonder how opinions about hoteling might shift over time as health concerns abate. 

In future blogs, I will share what Silverchairians are learning about the norms that lead to effective hybrid work. Comments from our most recent survey overwhelmingly focused on the quality of communications during meetings, including the suggestion that video is required and that people use headphones to cut down on echoesPeople also repeatedly mentioned need for clear overlapping work hours and agreements about transparently indicating and updating our status/availability. Several people mentioned the need for organized communications, ensuring in-office conversations are conveyed to all relevant team members and that important information is conveyed in an organized and predictable way rather than word of mouth. 

Our experience of re-emerging from the pandemic at Silverchair so far has been that our people are sincere in their desire to offer valuable and honest feedback that strengthens the way we work. We remain committed to listening attentively and adjusting our plans accordingly. We will continue to share what we learn! 

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