Flexibility First: Humu’s Hybrid Work Values

Helen-Alice Miranda
VP of people

When it comes to COVID-era calendars, change is the only constant — as anyone who had to reschedule something (or everything) in 2020 and 2021 knows.

In light of so much continued uncertainty, our team realized it wasn’t productive to make set-in-stone plans for our return to the office. Any false sense of certainty we got from dates on a calendar became moot when they inevitably were moved around.

So instead of setting specific dates, we’ve decided to share guidelines for how we’ll approach working together over the next six months. At Humu, we know that great teamwork doesn’t depend on where the team is. We chose six months because it’s a long enough time frame to help employees plan ahead, but short enough to flex as needed.

Rather than drawing a hard line in the sand, like “everyone back in the office by Labor Day; and then you must start coming in Monday, Wednesday and Friday” or “no more work-from-home in 2022,” here are the norms that will set us up for success in both a remote and hybrid world. 

Humu’s values for making work work — from anywhere 

With so much still up in the air, we chose five key norms that our team can be certain of over the next six months.

1. Flexibility: We’ll continue to be thoughtful about people's schedules and personal responsibilities

Many organizations are facing backlash when they mandate in-office time without explaining their reasoning or showing they’ve clearly thought about the impact on the people affected by the policy.

At Humu, when in-person work is an option, we’ll come together for a purpose and on purpose. We have an office in Mountain View and employees who work remotely across the US, UK & Ireland. The office is a place for people to come together, for in-person collaboration like design sprints and employee onboarding, or milestones like quarterly planning meetings. Focused task time, on the other hand, usually makes more sense in a quiet place, like at home. 

We will continue to offer flexible work hours, regardless of location. We communicate our working hours and share when we’ll be unavailable by keeping our calendars current. It’s normal to see personal commitments such as “daycare pick up”, “exercise”, “outdoor walk” on Humu calendars during the work day.  We optimize for how people want to work in addition to organizational health, employee wellbeing, and allowing for life and work to live in harmony. 

2. Leadership: Managers help teams set clear goals, check in on progress, and show empathy

Humu’s managers are in charge of translating our cultural norms into day-to-day life for their teams. It’s their responsibility to evaluate employees’ growth and development opportunities equally, regardless of location, and set guidelines for collaborating on team projects. We trust teams to set and track the metrics that make sense for them. We also expect managers to allocate new work and opportunities fairly, to the best person for the job, not the person who gets the most facetime.

While working with our customers during the pandemic, we discovered that there was a strong correlation between empathy and manager effectiveness. At Humu, we encourage managers to make checking-in on team members during 1:1s a habit. This helps us make sure no one is feeling left out or unmoored by recent changes.

3. Remote inclusion: You don’t have to be there to be included

Since March 2020, we’ve planned all Humu meetings with the assumption that at least one person will join remotely. All participants, even those in a room together, join via video calls to ensure equitable conversations, and all activities are remote-friendly.

Team brainstorms, for instance, now look like cursors in a collaborative Google Doc or Jamboard (a virtual whiteboard). We share all meeting notes asynchronously post-discussion and clearly mark our timezones and out-of-the-office statuses on Slack so people know when they can expect a response. If there’s an in-person contingent at any meeting, that group is responsible for setting up the video conference tool first thing so that remote attendees don’t miss any side conversations at the beginning of the meeting.

When planning events, we take time zones and family commitments into account, avoiding meetings that might conflict with non-work priorities like dropping off kids at school in the morning on the west coast or being offline in time to cook dinner on the east coast. We also rotate host times for recurring events to ensure that we’re not consistently optimizing around one timezone. We also record all company wide meetings so people can catch up on their own time if needed. 

4. Connections: We’re all in this together

For all of remote work’s benefits, it can be incredibly isolating. Many of us miss the casual, friendly interactions that made the Humu office hum with life.

To help those cravings connection —or food— Humu covers any lunch that team members share, in-person or over video. The “Lunch on Humu” perk encourages people to meet and eat with people they might not otherwise, and to get to know team members on a personal level without the pressure of a project. 

A team is only as strong as its 1:1 connections, so we encourage regular social check-ins, game nights, and group celebrations. We’re all experiencing this new way of working together, even if we’re physically apart.

5. Iteration: Experiment and try again!

As People Science pioneers, our team loves testing and learning. We’ll measure the areas we’re hoping to track using quantitative and qualitative data from our Humu survey. There is no one perfect measure when it comes to understanding the new world of work, so to make sure our hybrid  model is going as well as possible, we plan to test and iterate on different ways of working as we go.

We share hybrid work tips and templates for fun team activities in our Slack channels, like #hackoftheday —did you know you can schedule a Slack message ahead of time?— and in our biweekly All Hands.

Every six months, we’ll evaluate our organization-wide norms based on feedback from internal employee surveys. Tweak by tweak, we’ll build the best hybrid team possible: together.

Ready to help your teams work better together, from anywhere, with Humu? Request a demo today.