Returning to the Workplace: Interview with the CEO

Returning to the Workplace Interview with the CEO Feature

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What better way to kickstart our “Interview with” series than Hive’s very own CEO and Founder, John Ryder, talking candidly about the challenges Hive has faced in lockdown—and our plans on returning to the workplace.

At the moment, most organisations are facing the same uncertaintiesand we’re no different. 

Seemingly overnight, Team Hive went from business as usual to 100% remote working. A couple of weeks later, many of us were furloughed. As a business, we had to change tack and adjust our course to deal with what was happening. Now, with some of us itching to get back into HiveHQ, the next obstacle requires careful preparation and a steady hand at the helm (okay, no more nautical metaphors).

Of course, there has been no well-trodden track for our leadership team to follow over the past few months. But we’ve navigated our way through by leaning into change, asking the right questions, and looking out for each other.

Most of the organisations we work with have similar stories. And we thought that by sharing some of them, it might help us all navigate returning to the workplace—and beyond.

So, without further ado, it’s over to John to share his practical approach to reopening HiveHQ…

Has Hive suffered from the enforced remote working?

In some ways, yes, but we’ve also gained a lot. On balance, we were well prepared in terms of already having the necessary technology, process and culture in place to transition to remote working. But the camaraderie and team spirit that’s central to who we are as a collective have always been fostered in the office, and that’s been difficult to replace; I know that some individuals are really missing it. 

If I’m honest, one area that we‘ve maybe fallen short is in our onboarding of new employees. That process was totally geared up for an office-based induction, and we’ve had to learn as we go and adapt it for remote new starters. We haven’t quite perfected it yet, but we’re getting there.

How has Hive made sure everyone has what they need (practically and psychologically) to work effectively?

The week prior to lockdown—when we guessed it was coming—we ran a trial day where everyone worked from home so we could all gain a bit more of an understanding about the challenges and practicalities we’d each face. Obviously, different issues have arisen over the course of the period, but that day really helped. 

Even so, I have to admit that we didn’t get it bang on. And all the way along, we’ve learnt (and continue to learn) through feedback. 

Personally, I’ve found that supporting people psychologically is a massive team effort; leadership, managers and co-workers all play significant roles.

As leaders, we’ve made sure to be as visible as possible and kept in regular communication with everyone, sharing updates whenever we’ve had them and providing employees with the opportunity to ask any and all questions they have. We’ve also encouraged managers to frequently check in with their team members—especially those who were/are furloughed—to make sure they have everything they need. At a team level, we’ve found that rituals, like regular virtual coffee breaks, have been the best way to maintain social connectedness.

When it was announced that offices could reopen, what did Hive do?

It was great to learn that we had that option, but we certainly weren’t going to rush into anything. Our first priority was to understand the appetite our employees had to get back to HiveHQ. We asked the question and found that although most people were content for now to keep working remotely, some were very keen to get back in. 

So, we looked into the logistics of returning to the workplace, began the preparation process, and announced that the office would be open (with restrictions) from the beginning of August for anyone who wanted to go in. But nobody was under any pressure to do so.

What steps have been taken to prepare for returning to the workplace?

We’ve completed a series of risk assessments, in line with government advice, and introduced certain controls to mitigate those risks—like closing the kitchen and putting a limit on the number of people in the office at any one time. We’re currently communicating all of that to our employees.

And just as we did before lockdown started, we’ve decided to do a trial run before we reopen, with a small team working in the office to see if there’s anything else we need to address.

How has employee feedback influenced decisions?

It’s been absolutely critical. The main reason we’re opening HiveHQ and making it an option for folk is because of feedback from the workforce. We directly asked our people about their appetite to have the choice of returning and we also explored mental health, wellbeing and working from home set-ups.

What does the future of work at Hive look like?

From here on in, the new normal is that working from the office will be optional. It may well be that some people spend the vast majority of the time working from home—which is pretty much up to them. We’re also looking at hiring completely remote employees in the future, so we can recruit from further afield than North East England.

We see this as a great opportunity to rethink the role of our office. Is it still a standard office with assigned desks, or a hot-desking space? Or somewhere to use just for collaborative projects and meetings? We’ll outgrow HiveHQ in terms of headcount shortly, so these are questions we’ll need to answer in the coming months. 

One thing I think it’s important to note is that this isn’t about saving money on office overheads. We expect to have to work harder and budget bigger on initiatives that aim to repair the challenges that remote working brings, so it might be that any savings on office space are simply reallocated.

However it turns out, we’re excited about our more flexible and autonomous future, which—as always—will be shaped by our employees through continuous feedback.

Connect with John on Linkedin; he’s always up for a chat! Or, if you’re keen to get a ‘returning to the workplace’ survey up and running, drop us a line at hello@hive.hr

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