May
05
, 2022

The 6 Best Tools for Hybrid Teams

Your offices are reopening, it is becoming safer to meet in-person again, and most companies are requesting their employees back to work in-person at least a few days a week. At the same time, over 15.9 million people moved to a different city or a different state during the pandemic, making almost every company distributed by default.

Hybrid Work is here to stay, and we strongly believe that it can be the best of both worlds, if done right. So the question becomes: How do you do it right? What do you need to change about your office structure, protocols, culture to create a seamless collaboration environment for in-person and remote employees alike?

At Tandem, we’ve not only been thinking on the hybrid problem for years, we've lived it. Our team is hybrid, with two micro-offices in SF and Cupertino, and some fully-remote team members. We've experimented with different types of hardware and software for years to find the right mix that made us feel like a team again, and helped us connect no matter where we were. So here are our picks for the 6 best tools that every hybrid team needs:

Tandem Hybrid Spaces to teleport around the office          

Hybrid collaboration can be challenging. Remote teammates suffer from the "second-class citizen problem" - feeling excluded from spontaneous brainstorms, magic moments, and the creative energy of the office. Hybrid Spaces bridge the gap between remote and in-person teammates to make hybrid work the best of both worlds. Spaces are made up of multiple kiosks distributed across your office (open floor, meeting rooms, lounges...) to enable remote mobility and seamless interactions.

Key features:

  • Hybrid screensharing and remote control
  • Speaking and presence indicators
  • Launch external meetings (Zoom, Teams, Meet, Webex)
  • Support multiple cameras at the same time
  • BYOH (Bring Your Own Hardware) - Spaces can be setup on most conferencing hardware, from a Logitech video and audio conferencing system to a simple chrome book depending on the size of your office and your budget.

Pricing: Spaces are available with any paid Tandem plan with an additional $50/month (for up to 25 kiosks).

Envoy to manage safe hybrid workplaces

Don’t let hybrid get in the way of working together. Envoy's easy-to-use hybrid work software lets you sync your schedule with your co-workers, so you can make the most of every day at the workplace. In addition to coordination, the platform also enables you to book spaces in advance at the office, conduct employee health screenings to ensure everyone is safe and gain valuable insights based on foot traffic and space utilization.

Key features:

  • Visitors management to welcome guests and secure your space.
  • Employee health screenings to keep everyone safe at work.
  • Flexible desk booking.
  • Deliveries management.
  • Meeting rooms management.

Pricing: Envoy's pricing goes anywhere from the free basic plan with limited features to $299/location/month.

Webex Board Series for hybrid collaboration

The new Webex Board Pro and the Webex Board series let you join video-first meetings, digitally whiteboard, annotate on shared content, use go-to web apps, and wirelessly present. These intuitive devices have everything necessary for effective team collaboration at a touch of a finger. With Ultra HD video, dual-camera intelligence, a capacitive touchscreen, and spacial audio, the suite enables premium experiences in collaboration spaces of all sizes.

Key features:

  • ultraHD interactive touchscreen
  • Dual 4K camera
  • Flexible mounting and wheel-stand option
  • Two magnetic styluses
  • Seamless room and device integrations

Pricing: Reach out to Webex for more information.

Owl for hybrid meetings and whiteboarding

Owl Labs' 360° video conferencing solutions are designed to make you feel like you are in the same room during hybrid team meetings. They enable remote teammates to see the whole room and listen to everyone clearly through the tri-speaker. In addition to that, all their products are equipped with AI technology that uses motion and voice detection to auto-focus on the speakers. If you havee larger meeting rooms, you can easily (and wirelessly) connect two Meeting Owl Pros to extend the video + audio range.

Key features:

  • 360° camera, mic, and speaker
  • Smart video conferencing powered by AI
  • Motion and voice-activated focus on the speaker
  • Panoramic view of everyone in the room

Pricing: The Meeting Owl Pro - $999 | Whiteboard Owl - $599

Tonari to work and meet as if you're in the same room

The technology to fuse together two rooms in two locations anywhere in the world already exists, but it often fails to go beyond underwhelming conference systems. Tonari aims to make its users feel like the rooms they are in have been fused into one. When their devices are installed, entire walls disappear, and their advanced video and audio systems enhance the illusion that two physical locations have merged into one. The company also provides shared digital whiteboards, notification systems and collaboration tools for hybrid teams.

Key features:

  • Life-sized and room-sized displays.
  • Fast, smooth, and immersive video feed with no awkward interruptions.
  • Screen sharing between 2 portals.

Pricing: Reach out to Tonari to request a quote.

Meta Portal to work smarter from home

Trusted work apps, powerful productivity tools and the precision of Smart Camera—all on a dedicated video calling screen. That’s Portal. And it can empower you and your team to work from home together like never before. Whatever video conferencing app your team uses, Portal has you covered—Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex Meetings, GoToMeetings, BlueJeans, and Workplace. Each with features you depend on, so you can get more done together, even when you’re far apart.

Key features:

  • Smart Camera that automatically pans and zooms.
  • Share your desktop with participants and collaborate in real time.
  • Breakout rooms to split off into smaller groups to brainstorm, share ideas and more.
  • Meeting recordings to capture important details and conversations to share out later.

Pricing: Depending on the model, Meta portals cost anywhere from $149 to $349.


@rymbadri | rym@tandem.chat


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Tandem is a virtual office for remote and hybrid teams that recreates your office environment on your desktop. Try it out with your team!
April
06
, 2022

Introducing Hybrid Spaces: Teleport around the office

Tandem Hybrid Spaces

The future is hybrid

Offices are powerful spaces for collaboration and creativity. In fact, working in-person can be like a team superpower—it builds trust, and trust (or psychological safety) unlocks speed and creativity. But flexibility is here to stay - not everyone is willing or able to be fully in-person. As a result, the best companies will be hybrid.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about the coming wave of hybrid work in Hybrid Anxiety and Optimism, and we've seen it happen. Here are some snippets from this month alone:

  • Google told employees that they are expected to go back to the physical offices by  April 4th. The company dedicated the month of March to helping teams "transition to new routines" in preparation for their "hybrid work approach."
  • Apple employees will be expected to work at least one day a week in the office, by April 11.
  • Microsoft employees moved to a hybrid work model on March 28.
  • Lyft will offer a permanent "fully flexible" policy, allowing employees to choose where to work and live.
  • Uber is giving its global office workers the option to apply for fully remote work or choose from a list of other office instead of their pre-pandemic location. Employees that choose to come back to the office will be asked to spend at least 50% of their time there.

But hybrid work has massive, systemic, org-level, and team-level tensions. Employees want flexibility, but this creates a logistical nightmare. In-person is naturally synchronous and spontaneous, but these conversations are especially difficult to include remote teammates in. Overall, remote teammates are severely underpowered, and can feel like 2nd-class citizens.

The office needs to evolve, but how?

We know the wrong answer: Bringing people back to the office only to take calls from separate rooms, have less spontaneous chats, and more scheduled meetings. This is truly the worst of both worlds. Instead, we must make remote employees more powerful than ever before.

We must give remote teammates the power to engage with in-person teammates as easily as a tap on the shoulder, join in on spontaneous jams and brainstorms, and collaborate effortlessly across multiple media.

At Tandem, we’ve not only been thinking on the hybrid problem for years, we've lived it. Our team is hybrid, with two micro-offices in SF and Cupertino, and some fully-remote team members. We experimented relentlessly, attempting to solve the problems we felt, personally, and ultimately held a company-wide hackathon, where we made a major breakthrough.

Enter Hybrid Spaces:

Using off-the-shelf conferencing hardware, Spaces give remote teammates an always-on window to teleport around the office.

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Hybrid Spaces, in 2 minutes.

As an in-person user, seeing your remote teammates on larger surfaces in the office feels surprisingly natural, and makes it easy to interact spontaneously.

As a remote user, the feeling of visibility and power is visceral. There's a sense of mobility - it feels like you can teleport around the office, and be where you want to be. There's also a strong feeling of presence - your teammates know you're around, and you're aware of the hum and energy in the office.

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Joining a spontaneous brainstorm with Hybrid Spaces

Spaces transform the open floor and unlock hybrid “hallway conversations” in-between meetings, but also bring fluidity to scheduled meetings. Some features to highlight:

  • Launch external meetings (Zoom, Teams, Meet, Webex)
  • Google Calendar resource support (launch meetings automatically)
  • Cast your local or remote screenshare with one click.
  • Support multiple cameras at the same time (e.g. show people and whiteboard at the same time)
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Collaboration on Hybrid Spaces

Quick to setup and flexible

Hardware is flexible. You can get started with a spare laptop but investing in nicer kiosks (mic + camera + TV) allows for a more immersive and engaging experience. We recommend at least 2-3 kiosks to get started with Spaces. They're easy to swap out and rearrange around the office based on your floorplan and traffic.

Setup is fairly quick and self-serve, and we’re happy to schedule a 15 minute setup call to help.

Pricing: Spaces are available with any paid Tandem plan with an additional $50/month (for up to 25 kiosks).

What our pilot companies say

"Lightfox Games is fully embracing a hybrid model, allowing people to work wherever they feel the most productive. As we moved back into a physical office space, we were worried about how we could ensure we maintain a collaborative environment with some team members together physically, and others working from home. Tandem Hybrid Spaces has been instrumental in ensuring that our remote employees and office employees feel effortlessly connected. From standups, to important meetings, to just watercooler chatter, The Kiosk is the heart of our office space." — Jordan Arnold, Head of Product/Design at Lightfox Games
"Our common use cases include checking on the status of 3D prints, fostering a tighter hybrid community, and enabling the magical ability to truly teleport throughout a workspace." — Ian Villa, COO at Whisper Aero
"Hybrid Spaces allow our team to recreate the serendipity of walking by a co-workers desk or dropping into their office for a quick chat. Although we are working thousands of miles apart, Hybrid Spaces help generate serendipitous interactions and make our team feel as if we are working together in the office." — David Bromberg, Founder at Lantern

Onwards

Hybrid Spaces are now available to set up (you don't have to be an existing Tandem user) - If you want to learn more prior to setup, feel free to book a 15-minute demo with us.

As a final thought, I’m personally thrilled that—in our pilots—Hybrid Spaces are delivering on what we set out to do a year ago. From my piece Hybrid Anxiety and Optimism:

While the fine details may still be fuzzy, we can sketch in broad strokes what a successful hybrid office will look like: Those workers who are remote will have access to the flow of in-person collaboration; you’ll look back on your last meeting, collaboration session, or spontaneous conversation, and not be able to recall which teammates were in the office and which were not.

— Rajiv Ayyangar (CEO)

April
04
, 2022

This Week in Hybrid (April 1, 2022)

Hi 👋 Happy Friday!

One of the questions we often get asked, is how should we rethink office locations and logistics now that we are shifting to a hybrid work model?

There are a few things companies can do: Keep the HQ, give hybrid teams access to co-working spaces with multiple locations in the US and internationally, open multiple small office hubs depending on where most people are located... But it can sometimes be hard to decide which model would work best for you and your team.

The answer? It depends. It depends on your company culture, team preference, your industry, the nature of tasks, and so much more. So this week, we bring you an article by HBR that dives into the different variants you should factor in your decision and how to build the perfect hybrid office strategy based on how your company operates.

Rym ⚡️

This Week in Hybrid

  • Salesforce is starting to implement their "Success from Anywhere" plan and is providing employees with three new ways to work: Office-Flexible, Home-Based or Office-Based. Their goal is to empower teams to decide how, when, and where they work.
  • TCS, Infosys, Wipro and additional tech service providers are restructuring their offices to adapt to hybrid work as their employees are starting to come back to the office.
  • Manulife, the Canadian insurance and investment solutions giant, is planning to fully reopen its Canadian offices next month and embrace hybrid work.
  • Saul Wing Arnstein & Lehr said it will no longer mandate that its 803 lawyers and staff work in the office. Instead the law firm will encourage all employees to work in the office every Wednesday and another four days of their choosing each month.

HBR Article

Which Hybrid Work Model Is Best for Your Business?

As more and more employees have shown that they can successfully work remotely, leaders of large international organizations are rethinking how much work needs to be done in offices and how much can be done remotely. And while hybrid work opens up new possibilities for a competitive advantage, it also can have shortcomings depending on your firm's goals. To better understand whether your business should take up a new hybrid organizational model, and how, first consider two factors: the core tasks that need to get done and the importance of having employees in international markets. Once you've outlined these factors, consider how they fit into four models: large hubs, hubs and satellites, distributed, and global virtual. Read more.

New Tech

An Open Doorway for Your Hybrid Team

The technology to fuse together two rooms in two locations anywhere in the world already exists, but it often fails to go beyond underwhelming conference systems. Tonari aims to make its users feel like the rooms they are in have been fused into one. When their devices are installed, entire walls disappear and their advance video and audio systems enhance the illusion that two physical locations have merged into one. The company also provides shared digital whiteboards, notification systems and collaboration tools for hybrid teams. Learn more about Tonari.

Research by AT&T Business and Dubber

State of the Industry: Future of Work

"The State of the Industry: Future of Work" survey was designed to gain insights from senior executives regarding current and future work models, challenges posed under new working models, and technology accelerants to aid change in the way that businesses conduct work out to 2024. The research shows hybrid work will become the standard operating model across industries by 2024. Striking results included: 81% of executives believe hybrid work will be the foremost working model by 2024, with 56% of work done offsite, 72% lack a detailed strategy and 76% don't have the right KPIs to support hybrid work models. 100% of the respondents believe a hybrid work model will help attract young talent. Read the full research.

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March
23
, 2022

Building Trust in a Hybrid Team

By Vivy Chao, Recruitment and Culture Lead at Tandem

Brené Brown’s teachings are often referenced in the corporate world. They are are particularly relevant now that the world has shifted to heavily remote and hybrid work structures. Brown’s teachings revolve around how to build trust. According to her research, “Trust is built in very small moments” and not through grand, sweeping moments.

What does this even mean in a work environment; especially one where people don’t even see one another in person regularly anymore?

One major aspect of work that has changed due to not being in person regularly is the change in workplace dynamics (a.k.a. work politics). For some, working remotely means not having to deal with the same stressors of these politics that were exacerbated while in person. For others, these dynamics have merely shifted. According to the the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Negativity costs businesses $3 billion a year due to its harmful effects.”

Trust is a simple word with heavy implications in a work environment. Researcher Paul J. Zak, the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University, derived a mathematical relationship between trust and economic performance in his studies. The results were stunning: People at high-trust companies reported 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% higher engagement, and 40% less burnout.

At Tandem we’ve been experimenting with best practices in building team trust amid a pandemic so we can work better together. Here’s one way we’ve done that:

Creating personal user manuals

What are they? During team retros we spent several sessions deep diving into how we work best through writing, reading, and reflecting in small groups. These reflections centered on these areas:

  1. Work: What has your attention today (this can be personal, work, or both)? If possible, how can we help you unblock this? It’s one thing to discuss blockers, but it’s another to get opportunities to ask for help.
  2. Learning: What was the first thing you remember about learning that you loved? Relationship building takes time. Studies show that it takes 40-60 hours to build a casual friendship. Understanding this about a teammate gives a glimpse into what drives a teammate.
  3. Growth & self-compassion: What is a mistake that you've made in the past that made you grow? Vulnerability is an important aspect of building trust. This straddles a fine line between oversharing and building trust for many people in a work environment. However, it’s important to note that vulnerability supports a positive team culture.
  4. Memory: Name a place that holds a lot of meaning for you. Explain. A lot can be revealed about a person based on what the person says.
  5. Work style: How would you like to communicate your ideas to the team? This is an overlooked area. In school, teachers spent a lot of time helping students learn through their preferred learning style. However, this becomes lost in the workplace. Understanding what one’s learning style is and what teammates’ learning styles are can greatly alleviate the pain of miscommunication. It can also elevate the quality of work.

The purpose of a personal user manual is to allow people to share clear insight into the way they operate. Imagine the amount of time, energy, and misunderstandings saved if transparency can be built early on with teammates. For example, if a teammate feels that he/she/they operate best by sharing written reflections in a shared document, then it helps the people running meetings understand how to structure those meetings for top effectiveness. Currently very little effort is spent to understand how much information is retained after meetings and what the actual ROI is with the time spent by everyone in attendance.

Tandem’s CEO, Rajiv Ayyangar, wrote extensively on psychological safety and its importance on a team. People need to feel safe in an environment in order for trust to build. Trust seeps into every single part of business as shown in a study conducted by PwC that revealed 55% of CEOs think that “a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth.” At Tandem, a behavior that has become a staple of our company culture, is transparency. An example of what transparency looks like for us is being able to “sit in” on nearly all meetings. For me, as a recruiter, I feel many times more comfortable communicating with potential candidates because I have a more well-rounded view of what’s happening internally across teams. I know when a bug has been bothering multiple users and what the issue is; I know what the engineering team will be focused on next and why. This has translated into passive candidates having a better idea of what our product does, which peaked their interest.

Trust is a non-tangible feeling that sets the foundation of how people interact with one another. Therefore it is not a surprise how it affects work performance. Without trust, the business will fail.



January
26
, 2022

Defining the Hybrid Workplace and What It Takes to Master It

Rajiv is the co-founder and CEO of Tandem, a virtual office for hybrid and remote teams.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

“The future of work is hybrid”. You probably heard this sentence a dozen of times within the last year, and for good reason. As the pandemic starts easing down (in some parts of the world), companies are beginning to encourage their employees to come back to the office. Two factors are motivating this shift. First, research has demonstrated that in-person interactions and presence improves collaboration, team culture, productivity and gives everybody a better sense of purpose. Second, employees want to work remotely, sometimes. A McKinsey survey has recently shown that in a post-pandemic world, employees would like to be in office at least 1-2 days per week.

This new set of expectations is putting companies in a situation where they need to figure out the infrastructure, technology, and culture changes needed to transition to a hybrid work model. But in order to do that, they need to gain a thorough understanding of what hybrid work is. In my previous article on hybrid anxiety and hybrid optimism, I mentioned that the term “hybrid work” is often poorly defined. Companies (and the media) assume that is is a linear combination of remote and in-person work, however, it is more complex than that. It requires companies to shift inwards to get a comprehensive view of their workplace structure and understand where they want to take it next.

In this article, we’ll dive into the definition of hybrid work and examples of what it looks like in practice, and discuss the implications for companies and employees moving forward.

What is Hybrid Work?

It is almost easier to define what hybrid work is by looking at what it isn’t. Is your company fully-remote? Is it fully in-person? If your answer is no to both of these questions, then you are hybrid. Depending on your employees' need for flexibility, company policies, and hiring practices, hybrid work can be split into three distinct categories:

  • Remote + In-Person: Your company is split into full-time remote workers and full-time in-person workers.
  • Flexible Remote or In-Person: Your employees get to choose when to work in-person and when to work remotely. Your company doesn’t require them to be present in-person on specific days of the week.
  • Structured Remote or In-Person: Your employees come into the office some days of the week, and the company sets the remote/in-person work schedule (e.g., Tuesdays & Thursdays are in-person work days.)

What Does It Look Like in Practice?

It is important to acknowledge that because of the novelty of the situation, the vast majority of companies are still trying to figure out what hybrid work “looks like”. They are experimenting with different tech stacks, policies, and office layouts to determine what works best for their employees. It is too soon to determine who got it right, but here are a few promising examples of what hybrid workplaces might look like in the (very) near future.

Google unveiled its hybrid approach to work in 2021, and opted for a 3 days in-office/2 days remote work week. As soon as covid cases slow down, they believe that about 60% of their workforce will be present in-person a few days a week, 20% will move office locations and another 20% will be fully-remote. In order to accommodate the new structure, their real estate and workplace services team is testing different team spaces structure. Within other improvements, that led to the creation of the famous “Campfire” meeting pods. Additionally, the company invested in a colorful office space in London worth $1 billion, showing its faith in the future of the physical office as a hub for in-person collaboration and connection.

Google Campfire Meeting Rooms, Taken by Cayce Clifford.

Other companies, like Dropbox, opted for more creative structures, to empower teams to work on their own terms. In 2020, the company unveiled “Dropbox Studios”, the intentional physical collaboration and community building spaces, and made it very clear that they cannot be used for solo work. In addition to that, Dropbox embraced “non-linear workdays” and set core collaboration hours that overlap between time zones when teams can communicate and hold meetings. The rest of the time, employees are encouraged to set their own schedules, unlocking a new level of independence and ownership.

Similarly, Spotify introduced what they called “My Work Mode”, a workplace structure that allows employees to either work full time from home, from the office, or a combination of the two. Each employee and their manager get to decide the work schedule that suits them best. The company also introduced location independence, allowing everyone to pick which country and city they want to work from (with certain limitations to address time zone difficulties and regional laws), and will go as far as supporting a co-working space membership if the employees moves to a location that isn’t near a Spotify office.

Hybrid work isn’t and shouldn’t be a “one-size fit all". It will need to be custom tailored to what your company looks like and how it operates. Some of the variables that must be factored in include: company size, workforce distribution, health and safety measures, company culture, hiring practices, cross-departmental collaboration, employee sentiment, business goals... (Stay tuned for our upcoming blog! We will take a deep dive into each one of these and how you should incorporate them in your hybrid workplace planning.)

The Implications of a Hybrid Workplace

Now that’s we’ve gone through the definition of hybrid work and real life examples, let’s look into what this shift in workplace structure means for companies and their employees:

Synchronous Communication Over Asynchronous Communication. When companies used to operate fully in-person, async communication was often paired up with synchronous communication. The hallway chat about the upcoming customer meeting, the colleague dropping by your desk to ask about the status of a project, or the manager checking in on their team in real time are all examples of the seamless interactions that got lost the second the world transitioned to remote work. Spontaneous conversions were replaced by endless email threads, slack messages and an overwhelming sense of disconnect. As you plan for the future of work, it is essential to provide a combination of async and sync communication tools to empower teams to communicate better, whether they are present in person or working remotely.

Intentional Collaboration & The “A-Ha” Moments. It’s 2018, you and your team booked a meeting room to plan for your next product launch, you spent endless hours making sure that your engineering infrastructure is flawless, that the UX/UI is up to par, and that the onboarding process is intuitive. You’re brainstorming how to introduce your product to market, and then it happens. The “A-Ha” moment you were waiting for. These magic moments don’t happen as often when teams are working remotely, and may happen even less in hybrid workplace settings if they aren’t intentionally designed to promote collaboration. Mohak Shroff, Head of Engineering at LinkedIn describes it best: “The answer is not to create more meetings or email threads, but instead to re-imagine virtual spaces that can function like the classic whiteboard and other serendipitous modes of collaboration.”

Psychological and Physical Safety. One of the biggest predictors of team effectiveness is psychological safety, and it often relies on two basic concepts: see and be seen, literally and figuratively. Employees need to have a certain level of visibility into the office, policies, and business goals and at the same time, managers need to create and environment that encourages employees to share their opinions freely and any personal information that can impact their work performance.  In addition to that, companies need to, of course, be in compliance with Covid-19 health and safety regulations, occupancy limits, and implement any policies that they deem necessary to ensure that their employees feel comfortable going back to the office, in-person.

Inclusiveness & The Second Class Citizen Problem. If the transition from remote to hybrid work isn’t properly planned, companies run the risk of marginalizing their remote employees. That, in turn, can negatively impact their sense of belonging, productivity and overall trust. Workplace inclusiveness is in the details. Simple things like the communication tools you use, how critical information is shared, or whether your employees feel like they have access to their teammates no matter where they are can go a long way.

Ultimately, the companies that will thrive a post-pandemic work setting, are the ones that take the time to plan for it, in advance. Trust, inclusiveness, communication, and collaboration are all essential elements to build a company culture designed for hybrid work. And if the transition is done correctly, companies will reap the benefits across employee happiness, productivity, and innovation.


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Tandem is a virtual office for remote and hybrid teams that recreates your office environment on your desktop. Try it out with your team!