Replace the office with a coworking travel budget

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who’s heard of the corn song. And the kind that doesn’t spend enough time on TikTok. If you are the old one, please enjoy these finds of Corporate HR Corn TikTok. Today, the hybrid problem is hard to solve, but a startup is throwing money at the problem. Slack’s accessibility manager explains how her job works, and new research from Upwork reveals the toughest roles to hire right now.

Plus, read to the end for thoughtful Twitter on the role of the corporate whistleblower.

Meg Morrone, Editor-in-Chief (E-mail | Twitter)

Have a job, go travel

Hybrid work has its flaws. Companies pay for underutilized offices, teams get disparate amounts of in-person time with management, and hybrid meetings are still… hybrid meetings.

This week, I spoke with a COO who said her company culture was “fractured” when she tried hybrid working, so she found a better way to bring people together. Ken Weary, COO of 312-person analytics firm Hotjar (owned by Contentsquare), explained why Hotjar closed its office and now gives each employee an annual stipend of €2,000 to work together around the world.

Before settling in Portugal during the pandemic, Weary himself spent years living and working nomadically, moving his family of four around Central America, Europe and Africa. Hotjar’s mailing address – and its CEO – are in Malta. The rest of the Hotjar team covers 46 countries.

Hotjar’s desktop experience took place in 2019. The Malta team visited on Wednesdays, worked together in person and had lunch with the CEO.

  • It was great for the 15 or 20 Malta-based employees who came in, Weary said, but it shut out most of the business.
  • “They had 20% facetime with the CEO one day a week where they could roll their chair, tap him on the shoulder, ask him a question,” Weary said. A clique formed and “it created a small divide in our culture”.
  • Within about a year and a half, Hotjar decided to give up having a physical office. “There are companies that work best in the office and there are companies that work best in a fully distributed fashion,” Weary said. “When you’re trying to make a cross or a hybrid, you’re trying to eat chocolate cake while on a diet. It just doesn’t work.

Now Hotjar is taking a different approach: IRL coworking weeks which the company calls Work Togethers. Any employee can use their 2,000 euros to go to a Work Together or to welcome colleagues for a week of coworking in their hometown.

  • Work Togethers have taken place near employees’ homes in Mexico, Canada, the Netherlands, Cape Town, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Malta and the United Kingdom
  • Most Work Togethers have an average of six or eight participants. But more recently, some Work Togethers have attracted 20 or more employees, and employees are planning about one Work Together per month.
  • An upcoming Work Together in the Dominican Republic — hosted by a customer service employee who lives there — is becoming so popular the company may have to limit attendance, Weary said.

It’s not a free-for-all trip, and Weary said a few rules are key. Work Togethers are not company-wide meetings, nor are they team or department meetings – these are held separately. And it’s not a vacation.

  • Work Togethers should be open to the whole company, and information about them is shared publicly on Discourse and Slack. “We didn’t want it to be the same group of five traveling together,” Weary said. “It had to be an open community aspect that was shared at all levels.”
  • Employees can only organize a Work Together in their home city, and each Work Together must last one week. “You can’t, be, like, I’m going to Hawaii for a day to work with Sally and then stay there for two weeks on vacation,” Weary said. “We want to make sure you’re actually doing work.”
  • Employees can choose not to use their Work Together budget, but they can’t give the money to their colleagues. And while sometimes a Work Together host invites colleagues over for dinner with their family, there’s no staying at each other’s homes.

Companies considering a similar model need to build it thoughtfully and think about the problems it tries to solve, said Tired.

  • “Much of our work is being moved to an asynchronous platform, all online. The product that we have built and continue to evolve – all of the engineering and support for this software – is 100% built in an asynchronous environment,” Weary said. “This week of working together is a bit of community building.”

— Allison Levitsky, journalist (E-mail | Twitter)

“Accessibility is never over”

Before Sommer Panage joined Slack, there was no centralized team working on accessibility.

Panage said some people were focused on desktop accessibility and others on Slack for mobile, but they were scattered across the company. Panage joined Slack a few months ago as Senior Director of Engineering and has helped bring the company’s accessibility efforts together under one roof. Prior to joining, she worked on iOS accessibility efforts at Apple and held positions at Twitter before that.

Slack recently improved keyboard navigation and introduced a new interface for screen readers as well as what the company called “an ongoing effort to fill in the gaps.” Panage said bringing together a unified accessibility team has helped Slack focus on these different areas and work with teams across the company to build new features with accessibility in mind. But she stressed that the work is in progress.

“Accessibility is never over,” she told Protocol. “A common challenge for companies is to say, ‘Oh, we made our product accessible. And now it’s done. But this is not the case.”

Read the full interview.

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The struggle for top talent is always real

Upwork’s annual “Future Workforce Report” revealed that companies are struggling to hire top talent. The report, using survey data from more than 1,000 U.S. recruiters, was released Thursday.

  • Nearly 70% of managers expect to hire more workers in the next six months. And 60% say it’s hard to find quality talent to fill positions.
  • Hiring managers need to fill accounting, IT and networking and operations roles with urgency. Customer support will also be a key role over the next six months, said 52% of hiring managers.
  • The positions for which it will be the most difficult to recruit? Data science and analytics, architecture and engineering, and computing and networking, respondents said.
  • Nearly 60% of managers who hire freelancers said they plan to rely on more in the next six months.

Engrave your paper business cards

The traditional business card is dying. According to the Wall Street Journal, at least one person replaced it with a chip containing contact information in their hand. That’s a bit extreme, though; you might want to consider using a business card QR code generator instead.

—Lizzy Lawrence, Journalist (E-mail | Twitter)

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Thoughts, questions, advice? Send them to [email protected].