How to actually do hybrid remote right w/ natalie nagele CEO @Wildbit
Hybrid remote will likely be a compromise vs ideal setup for most companies. Therefore it will fail for most companies. To work, a hybrid remote company must really be a remote-first company with workspaces.
Here's the recap...In today's episode, I chatted with Natalie Nagele, an OG of remote-work. Natalie is the CEO & Co-founder @ Wildbit. We spoke about how companies should be thinking about engaging their in-office vs remote employees. Whether to do hybrid events where some people are in person and others are virtual, or separating engagement opportunities by cohort, or doing virtual only. We also spoke about different types of virtual team fun you can implement and how often you should do so. Finally, we discussed how proximity bias may impact promotions & career trajectory for hybrid teams.
Facetime may decide whether you're promoted or not
Remote companies, especially those building a culture around async work, are building companies where success and productivity are based on output and impact. At the moment, very few companies fall into this category. Meaning, even in hybrid or remote organizations success & productivity are based on perception. That perception is mostly affected by time. Taking that old mentality of seeing someone in the office past 5pm or the person you always bump into at the watercooler. In a remote environment, it translates to checking in & out of Slack at the beginning of your day, who sends and replies to DMs after 5pm, and who's the chattiest and Gif king in the team Slack channels.
For these remote companies moving forward, it will be difficult to measure true impact to help guide promotions and career trajectory. Companies will still rely on the above to decide who gets the fancier title and larger paycheck. For hybrid companies, it may likely mean those people in the office will get the lion share of the promotions. The only way to prevent this bias is to change the mindset of productivity and success. Where we look at output and impact. Meaning, productivity is a simple math equation of deliverable + time frame = productivity. This will be a monumental first step for companies to take to create a better culture. Fix this bug, launch this content piece, answer 20 Support tickets by end of the day.
By using this method, it's clear as day who's actually productive. Once companies get to this point, the impact of that math equation will come into play. Of those 5 calls with sales leads expected per day, how many turned into sales. Of the blog post shipped every Wednesday morning, how many leads and signups does it bring in.
Using these 2 points to direct promotions and career trajectory is most fair, equitable, and clear to all parties.
Get people together for a purpose
Now that everyone knows work gets done quite well at home (or anywhere in between) the office will have to serve a new purpose. It's no longer the only or best place for working. So asking people to come together will need to serve a specific purpose. That could mean every quarter getting your executive or sales team together for a quarterly kick-off meeting. Strategizing and planning how to attack the upcoming quarter to maximize success. Whether on-site or at an off-site allowing the team to spend time together outside of just doing work. Which will help build more trust and better collaboration. Better helping achieve those goals being laid out during the time together.
Some leaders may think it's crazy but just getting people together to build better relationships. Spending that time and money not really focused on work or getting things done. But building a stronger team. I saw this at InVision. InVision had 2 IRLs. The first focused more on meeting customers, brainstorming around work, and similar. The feedback was clear from the team. The team wanted to use that time together to meet each other and deepen relationships. And of course, make new ones. The second IRL then focused more heavily on that aspect. There were certainly working sessions but most of the day focused on non-work. The feedback was significantly different and more positive.
If everyone comes into a space ensure it's the same days
For Wildbit who've been remote-first for years, they faced a challenge when going to a 4-day workweek. Initially, they allowed each employee to choose their day off. It didn't work and the company moved to set specific days. The same will happen for hybrid teams. If 3 of 6 people on a team are in the office the same today, logic has it they'll eat lunch together. They'll go for beers after work. They'll collaborate on something together that will get lost from the rest of the team. Something will be missed by some of the team when individuals are left out.
[00:02:13] Scott: Hey Natalie, thank you for joining today. Super excited to have you here. How are you?
[00:02:19] Natalie: I'm well. Thanks Scott, for having me.
[00:02:21] Scott: it's a pleasure and an honor, again, as we spoke offline, I've been a big fan of yourself and Wildbit, and certainly as one of the OG remote companies that have pushed a lot of great content on how to do certainly remote, and leadership and employee culture and, things like that. Super excited to read all that over the years and very happy to have you here. So thank you so much for joining today.
[00:02:47] Natalie: I'm excited to have this conversation.
[00:02:50] Scott: Awesome. So for season two, we've been starting off with. A question pulled from somewhere on, cause usually news or some kind of other format to start to cover a conversation.
That's not really specific to the topic. So I was listening to a podcast last week with Sahil the CEO from Gumroad, who was talking about interviewing async doing async interviews, and very much, it seemed to pull from there at the idea of. He had no interest. He has no interest in actually speaking to anyone during the interview process and potentially after they've hired them, joined the company as well from a remote perspective, async is certainly going to be the future.
It offers so much amazing opportunity in a remote space, but I'm very much know working remotely for 10 years, being very passionate about it. I feel like. Getting to be like a slippery slope, like people who haven't been doing this along, see Hey, there's this amazing opportunity and taking it too far.
Towards the point of getting away from the idea of you hired people, at least I've hired people over the years, more on the culture and personality fit. Do they fit the team? Do they fit the business? Do they fit the culture? Do you feel like this is a person that I want to work with and having that team camaraderie, that team feeling?
Hey, this person is a part of the grand mission. They're connected to the mission. They've connected the company like this whole no big unity thing and feels like it's has the potential kind of slip off into, okay. Individual Cognis who are part of the machine that have no interaction, no collaboration.
There's none of that. No comradery. There's none of that. Part of that team mission might just crazy. Or is there again the thought of maybe this being, unfortunately, taken in, the wrong direction?
[00:04:43] Natalie: I don't think you're crazy. I also just think, generally speaking, we have to remember that there are all kinds of people looking for all kinds of things out of their careers.
And I will say that like in the early days, And business 21 years and remote all of that time, the very first while that employee was in Romania, before there was chat before there was zoom before there was there was chat, sorry, there was ICQ, but there was we were sending Western union wires, right?
This was like a very unknown thing. We hired most of our employees in the early days, completely asynchronously. Maybe there was like some conversations Some kind of chat. Maybe we, at one point we today, chat like all kinds of stuff in the early days. But folks weren't speaking English or English wasn't because it wasn't there for language.
Maybe felt uncomfortable speaking English. And we actually went through an entire transition before. There was one point. Sent down voiceover IP phones, like actual like desktop phone pick up a phone. Cause video. Yeah. Video chat. Wasn't a thing. It was just Skype. But even that was really hard to use.
For those who remember what Skype used to be like. And so that was real. And when we, those folks, like you're talking about comradery and like in a small team like that, when we first met for the very first time retreat in Cyprus, there was a small group of six of us when we got into a room together.
Physical emotion. There were tears, there were hugs. Like we were so connected to each other and had never spoken a word face-to-face with each other today. I could never imagine doing that. Of course, I want to see people. I want to talk to them. I want to get I wanna understand them, but that's a very Wildbit current culture thing.
And I had just hung out with Sahil a couple of weeks ago in Mexico city. We were at a conference together and we spoke together about kind of employee future work, whatever you want to call it now. And I think he's, built this incredible space where for folks who that's really important, they want to get in and they want to get out.
They have their own that's coupled with things like 20 hour work weeks or like flexible time and things like that, where sure. There are people out there that absolutely just want to come in. Make some money, do some good work for a great company. And then they have their own side projects, their families, their hobbies, their whatever that is.
And aren't coming to work to build community. And both of those are of course. Okay. Thought leadership is funny because. Somebody like Sahil says something and you'll see a whole hoard of folks that are going to do that too. And it's you got to pause and say that is soft.
And I have this general philosophy that all businesses are snowflakes and that's like there is no two businesses that are the same because every human in that business, a huge business, a collection of human beings. And no two human beings are the same. So what works for Sahil and Gumroad and the individual humans.
Okay. Won't necessarily correlate directly. I think that's what remote work provides is there is more option, right? And if you look at remote work less about rules, because now we're just taking the office. We had rules around the office and now we're trying to create rules around remote work.
We can say Hey, this is a cool way of thinking about the future of work. Yeah, what fits my organization? My personality as a founder, as a hiring manager, blah, blah, blah, blah. And start your thing. So I don't know. I don't think you're wrong. I just don't think there's a one size fits all philosophy.
[00:08:12] Scott: Yeah, it's interesting. I wonder if it's maybe personality or role type, like maybe for an engineer. Okay. You're heads down and code all day long anyway. So for that, you may not have the same interaction. But yeah, I just have this idea of when Michael Jordan was with the Bulls, he was the greatest player ever anyway.
But there was a much difference when he was playing on the Wizards afterward. It wasn't the same thing. Or if you're looking at, in football or soccer or Leo, Messi, Barcelona, totally dominant greatest player ever, when he plays for Argentina, it's a totally different because it doesn't have the same piece that there isn't that same teamwork business, that same fluidness and the same kind of shared mission.
So yeah, I, I think it'd be definitely something interesting
[00:08:55] Natalie: to have. Yeah, but I don't know that necessarily. I think you're right. And I will tell you that we have folks who've been at Wildbit for 16 years, 15 years working together, and they spent most of the beginning of their careers working asynchronous.
And built an incredible bond and they are like the team like when they work together, they know each other, they understand what you know. And I think you're right. It's personality type. It's the role. With some of what we've built Wildbit is very much in service.
What kind of company I wanted to run in like I like people, I like talking to people. I like building cultures. That's exciting to me. So I don't know that if Chris on his own would have built this company like this
[00:09:44] Scott: good question. Good question then. So getting back on track for the show, the way we start is to introduce yourself and tell a little bit about the origin story of why.
[00:09:56] Natalie: Yeah. I'm Natalie Nagel. I am the co-founder and CEO of Wildbit. I run it with my husband, Chris. We have been doing it. The company is 21 years old. We've been doing it together for 17 or 18 years. He started at Chris, started it when he was very 20 years old and dropped out of college and basically said, I'm going to do consulting work and was doing like kind of brochure sites lots of flash.
For those who know flashes or it doesn't make sense anymore. And just as a way to make a good living hired the first employee was like I said earlier, the first employee was remote based out of, yeah. At a time when remote wasn't a thing at that time, there was very little risk and some incredibly talented folks outside the US who were just doing really innovative things.
Some of our first folks on the team were rails developers who like translated. The book of rails whatever Russian, right? Like they were the first ones. And so there's a lot of, there's a lot of opportunities there and a lot less risk. We pivoted from a consulting company into a product company and now only 12 years maybe.
Yeah. Maybe it's more than that. Have only done, only run our own products. We have subscriptions that are products that support others suffer a developer team and also veering into a little bit more of how we work space with we have a job board called people first jobs that try to connect other people, first companies with incredible talent and the other way around.
[00:11:37] Scott: Amazing. So I learned yesterday that the company did have an office for some amount of time in the Philadelphia area. It doesn't have one hour, we'll get into that further. But did the question, did the company start as a, in-office obviously outside the, person that from in Romania, did the company start off as an office based company with people coming to office and then decided to.
Remote afterwards, or the company started the remote and said, Hey, maybe we have a couple of people here. We were in Philly. Maybe you'd like to spend some time together, work in an office. Then you move to the office, which I guess which came first.
[00:12:10] Natalie: Yeah. So we were always just Chris and I, we either work outside of our, out of our house or we worked in we, one time we rented like a little office space just for the two of us.
We'll leave the house. I don't have a space almost like a before coworking spaces, birthday. And we did not, we opened our first actual physical space right around the same time as we brought a few folks from on H1B visas, into the U S to help us get. Bringing the products kind of a scale of products.
And so when, those folks were coming into the U S they inevitably chose Philly, like Y w where else would they go? And so we now had five or six people that were in Philadelphia, and we were like, okay, we need a place to physically work together. Yeah, I've talked about this before, but remote work is beautiful, but remote work, if you're requires like a physical space in your house, and if you have a one bedroom condo, you don't have a space in your house and you have work, and yeah. We needed to give people a place to work. And so that was the origin of the office. And that continued for about six or seven years. We had maybe seven or eight years. We had a physical office before we ended up w we went from no office to like, full-blown we're going to hire in Philly.
We're going to have a hybrid model. Philly plus remote. We always have remote, but like Philly plus remote to then scaling that down to almost like a coworking, like a while the coworking space where we had an office, but it was transient, no permanent desks to now we are back to fully remote.
[00:13:50] Scott: Interesting. Absolutely. We see a lot in the news that complete use a post pandemic or deciding, Hey, they want to move forward with the hybrid model, whether it's a three-two hybrid model, whether it's whatever type of capacity. And I think we'll, dive into different types and what may work best.
But why do you think so many companies are deciding and going the hybrid model versus going to fully remote model post pandemic. Can they solve the opportunities? Hey, work gets done fantastically. It's pretty clear that people who love you have a good 30 plus percent of people who don't ever want to come back to the office.
Another 30, 40% want to have that flexibility. So what does that reel, what do you think is a real driver to move towards the hybrid model?
[00:14:37] Natalie: I think there are probably two things at play. To your point. There's a good chunk of people that really want to go into the office. And I think that's a real reality and companies are trying to support both.
I think we could talk about how we handle the whole remote thing, but I'm a big proponent of investing. If you're going to, go the remote route, you need money to be able to bring people together. Like that. Togetherness is extremely important to your earlier point about building community.
And actually working on hard things are really hard to work off remote. But the the other side, I think in some ways it's just it's a gradual effect, right? There is a, we all went into. With intention and we had a long process it, and all these things, these companies were thrust into is into a, world in which they just they're trying to pick up the pieces.
And I have such respect for how hard that is for them. And I think just migrating it back to figure out who's going to come in. Who's not awesome. Scott, they all have leases. There's not really a practical way for some of these like huge corporate companies to be like, ah, yeah, give me giving all the space back.
I truly don't know. Promote is, beautiful. Yeah, no, for sure. And in some work is. So work is easier done that way. I, again, promote was a tech thing, right? Remote was a software developer thing. Software developers don't need a lot of interaction. They need a direction and then they can run know, you salespeople, you have some you have Marketing teams.
You have a lot of different, types of creatives who like feed off each other's energy, who needs to have meetings. And then you have companies that just do client services, and that is it's different. We were remote, but all when we declined services, we remote, we, a lot of our co customers were local.
We would meet with them. We would present things to them. We had one customer, our biggest customer at the time was in Virginia, but we would go to Virginia and see them and it's, those things are real. And I can see a world in which at least experimenting with figuring out that middle ground is really important.
[00:16:59] Scott: Interesting. I had the feeling that it's really more of companies. Okay. They understood, Hey, work gets done fantastically, but there is none of that engagement. There isn't a community building there isn't a relationship holding. Okay. Which I can understand. And I think the biggest issue is because the reason for that is over the years, right?
Even when we were in office, we had cloud-based collaboration tools. We had Trello and base camp for project management. We had Invision freehand and mural for what digital whiteboards. So even when people are sitting physically next to each other or in the same conference room, they're still using these cloud-based tools to do their job.
So when you remove that office, the tools remain the same. So that collaboration, I worked continued to move forward. But no one has thought about, okay how do we recreate those team? Building those conversations, those serendipitous moments. I don't know, I'm trying to solve myself. How do we recreate the communication and the team building?
And for me, I think that's the, at least to me, the reason why companies are looking to get back in at least somewhat of an office, but can't, they really achieve that. Combination of doing some virtual things. Obviously, you said IRL is whether it's a company get together where it's regional, whether it's enabling people to meet each other and work with each other and doing things like that, isn't there a way to really achieve that team building and engagement combining again, those IRL aspects with hopefully tools that are coming out now to build the relationships better virtual.
[00:18:27] Natalie: Absolutely. I, and I think that those things take time to understand, and in the individual cultures of these organizations have built I really, I want to take a more optimistic perspective of I think this is a step in the right direction and, a change to say, we have to figure out what this means to us.
I do. I want to caveat a little bit that like, there. Community building in a team and a company is not always about making friends, but it is for some people that's a really important aspect. And remote virtually, like a lot of what we've seen over the last two years is superficial garbage.
Like these zoom things that we're all trying to do and try to create, that's not how relationships are built. And I don't think anybody's really cracked that. Totally honest, we have not cracked. And we've been doing remote for 21 years. It is extremely difficult to build deep bonds with people without doing direct work together and without smaller group belonging.
And there's. There's a very performative aspect to what we're all trying to do. And like independent MC trying to build bonds and trying to build community. And it's not going to, and you see this in the gray I part of it probably is this fear of you see this great resignation, you see this like great reshuffling, you see all these things happening.
People stay because they're committed to the people they work for. Like we know that. One of those reasons, like when they do surveys is people are feel connected to their coworkers, to their managers. A lot of times it's less the mission and more like the people that they build community with day-to-day remote.
Goodness. That's hard. And we all have. Arguably can't really base our decision on going remote for these big companies or companies. I've never done it before, based on their experience over the last year and a half, two years, it's not real life. I also am curious to see how I don't believe this is controversial.
I don't believe that remote work workers for everyone. I just don't. I don't actually think that that. Mentally good. I don't think that it's physically good for folks. I think that it's a cost that companies have to start to incur. Honestly, like I have so many friends, lawyers, doctors, all of these things that like all of a sudden, they're like at their kitchen desk, who's paying for the extra bedroom who's paying for the bigger house, right?
Like who's paying for the faster internet who's paying for the air conditioning and the heat that has to be on during the day. These are real, truly like. The things that we're, passing on to the employees. I have a great friend who walks to an office every day. She just can't, she doesn't want to be home.
She wants to get dressed. She wants to leave the house. It's more productive that way. And so I think there's just generally. Much more like the gray area of it's, what's exciting to me about this. What the pandemic did, is it kind of somebody said this and I'll steal it. Like it was like, it sped up a slow moving train, right?
Like it took something that was going to get there eventually in a pandemic just blew past it. And now we have. And optionality is where I get most excited about is like now, yeah, people, at least in the United States, we can say that and, broadly in the Western world are now given this opportunity to say, what do I want?
And remote is now feasibility, not just for tech, but for lawyers, for accountants, for psychologists. My therapist is doing everything virtually, right? So now you're just giving people choice. And that choice is really exciting. More so than the dog. We now will have to be remote. And this whole thing is how dare you go to an office?
[00:22:14] Scott: Terrible. It's interesting here in Israel, it's the opposite approach, where again, everyone saw the value out of it. Everyone saw the increase in productivity and things like that, but here in Israel, there's still that push to get everybody back in the office now Speaking about this, I've met hundreds of founders over the years.
Been trying to beat the drum for remote work, especially because everyone else, there's such a huge deficit in the amount of talent that's here. I read recently they were 20,000 unfilled engineering jobs, just engineering alone. Probably similar were outsourced no to different parts of the world.
We just don't have enough people in this country. And while the real opportunity is to go remote, to open up your know marketplace to the entire. And there's still that pushed in the forest. Okay. We got a higher here. We got a higher here and. T to me, it makes absolutely no sense. And yeah I, would love to see where it goes and what is really that triggered then makes a decision, get past that and say, okay, this, we accept this at the future, whether we want it or not.
And the only way we're going to grow. And I think this is, I've seen a lot coming out of Paris and in Berlin, me and a lot of startups there over the last few years, coming to that same approach. Hey, there's only a limited amount of developers and UI designers, things in power structures. And we know if we're not curing cancer for not getting the people tomorrow, we're simply not able to compete against Facebook and Google and so on and so forth.
Maybe not for long. So we have to be remote first company from day one because that's the only way we're going to grow. So it's interesting to see different cultures locations looking at this opportunity. Totally. A totally different way.
[00:23:51] Natalie: I think that there's a value to taking away the noise.
The news and everybody talking about it and really reflecting on is this the right thing for me? Company for my personality, for the kind of culture I want to build back to like optionality and that, and now it is an option. I can find folks. You can get so much support now, even just like operationally with like payroll companies and this kind of thing.
And that kind of we didn't have any of that in the early days. And so it's there's so much more choice. And again, that speeding up of that slow moving train is like all of a sudden, the last two years, it's almost overwhelming. Operational support there is to do a remote thing and it has to be from a place of intention, right?
Like what, I'm seeing is a nasty side of it, where people are like, oh, we're gonna do remote. And now how do I make sure that people are working not only what software do you use to spy on your employees to make sure that they're sitting at their desk. And I'm like, how about no software?
Because I hire adults. And that's not what I do. And Yeah, it ties a little bit to we run a four day work week. For a long time for 2017 and it's all related, right? Remote work to us is a lot around fulfillment and productivity and all of these things and work life harmony.
And like all those, all the things that are packed into it. And that's how we get to work 32 hour work weeks. But that's a super intentional step-by-step process that we've taken over the years.
[00:25:31] Scott: Yeah. I've been saying for a while that what Postmates. Promote leaders like yourself. The big thing that needs to be done is killing off the moniker.
Remote work. It's not about work. It's remote life. The location independence allows me to live the life that makes me happiest. And you can see just more than the remote actually in a remote work side. But I think you see it also in. Issues and things that you're seeing and with logistic companies and companies not being able to hire truck drivers and people working in a cafe or in the ports, because they know, Hey, I could work for $15 an hour working hard for eight hours, or I can drive an Uber or a Lyft or no D deliver for door dash or things like that.
And to work around my schedule, have a life and fit work. So I think it's really, I think it's a beautiful thing that we're at the. For a long time, especially in the Western world, it was always you lived to work. And I think we're now getting to that point where that script is now flipping over to now, you're working to live.
You're now having the opportunity that your life is at center and work is now enabling you to live that life in kind of fits nicely within the puzzle versus being booked. Bookended okay. Have a little, maybe in the morning you have a little bit of life at the end of the day, the weekend that you have a life with the rest of the whole middle is.
Much work. So I'm really hoping that we see that finally switch over to the right way.
[00:26:53] Natalie: It's funny when you say that it might, where my mind went is for years we made fun of millennials for how much they saw the world that way. Like, why do I have to work to live? And everybody said, they're so lazy and they're this and they're that.
And then we get hit by this pending. And we're all reflecting deeply on our lives and what we want to do and why are we even doing this and how much money do we need? And all of these things and all of these tropes, and then all of a sudden we're like, oh no, we don't want to work to live. We want to live to work or sorry, work.
We want to live. Yes. The other way. And it's yeah, they've been telling you that. And yeah. And you've been, and everybody teased the millennials to say you're all so lazy. And it's no, there is a better way. This is super weird, but the robots, right? That's the joy, right? Why can't we live in a world where we, as humans work less and the robots do the things that we don't need to be doing.
Let's redirect our Spears a little bit and think about what's the purpose of being a human and it's creativity. It's art. It's thinking it's philosophy. It's love, it's joy. It's spending time together. It's building community, right? What the robots do the. What technology do the things it's supposed to do, which was supposed to make our lives easier?
And instead, we're just working harder.
[00:28:15] Scott: other, yeah, it's just life. And I know when I went remote I was able to take my kids to school every morning. I pick them up. I take them to after school activities. Go to lunch with my wife once or twice a week, I can go on a hike every day.
I get to live the life that I wanted to live and work just seamlessly fits in into that piece. Again, it's not okay. I can act to go to wake up at five o'clock in the morning to go for a run because now I got to go commute. Now I come home and then I can maybe do something and watch Netflix for an hour before I fall asleep at no 10 o'clock.
Because my whole day in the block is in the middle. So yeah, it could rant on this no for a lot, for a long time. But when I try to get us back on track obviously your company was, hybrid for a little while. I think there are lots of different hybrid models that are being spoken about the forest three, two that apple and Google and all of them wanted to go to, which they all had a mutiny on their hands and have to do return on that one.
There are three options where you can decide which three days or two days you want to work here and there. Yeah. Also, I think all going all the way for what I believe in. Certainly, the only possibility for remote to be, successful is the office is a park it's here. If you want it, how you want it when you want it.
[00:29:33] Scott: Yeah, correct. It's Hey, if you live in that one, one bedroom condo, and you don't have fast internet or whatever it is that you need to see people great. Here come nine to five, Monday to Friday, whatever you want. If you want to come once every two weeks to have coffees with the colleagues and go to lunch and then go home to actually do work.
Hey, that's great too. Yeah. A perspective is there a right option for hybrid? If there is, what do you think?
[00:29:58] Natalie: is the same answer? I don't. I was so not, I can't, no, there's no right answer. I do think there's things to look out for. There's a. We fell into some obvious now like issues where we first got an office, Chris and I are in the office, and so we're having side conversations. We're not sharing it back with the rest of the team. Now you have this huge issue of the decisions are made with no context. Conversations are had, people are changing things, moving things around, and now you have an. The scenario, and that is a horrible place to be.
That is poison. If you asked me what really, and then you have the other issue, which is, I think we've seen this even pre pandemic. And we saw this a little bit too, which is we were on our way out of our office before the pandemic kind of our coworking space office before the pandemic, because it ended up being one of those things where once everybody was comfortable at home, Nah, I need to come in and they would come in only with intention.
There was something to do. So I think truthfully, there's probably some value to say, Hey, we have our weekly or monthly meeting, let's all come in and have that meeting, or let's have strategic moments of time where the face to face is just more effective. There's this thing that I've always been.
That you can't replicate on zoom and we proved it. We tried our hardest over the pandemic, but you can't when you're solving strategic long-term problem decisions or. Or, solving really complex problems. Some of that work happens when you're not talking about it. We do quarterly off sites with the larger leadership team and we try to do it remote and we did everything we could, we'd like stacks and happy hours and all the things the first one we finally had together in person, it's just, it's dramatically different.
It's sharing a meal together since taking a walk together, it's going on a hike. It's cooking, breakfast, whatever that is. Yeah, solutions happen then, and you build a level of trust in each other that we always said retreat was like, That retreat was so critical, it would feed you for a year and every new person would be like, oh, now I understand when you type this, you're not actually angry.
That's just how you are, or you start to pick up on those cues. I could see a world in which, to me hybrid, if you have everybody in the same city or in the same vicinity and they collaborate closely together, there's. There's a study that was done a long time ago at MIT.
It was in a book called people were a long time ago. And it, the idea was they were trying to solve for this issue of scientists, researchers, trying to figure out how to spend, they spend most of the time deepen their. But then there was this serendipity concept, right? This, like we bumped into each other at the water cooler and gosh, we reinvent the world and they realize no, that's actually not true.
That doesn't actually happen that way. We feel like it happens, but it doesn't. And so they built an office, they actually built a physical space. And I haven't researched this in a while, so I don't know where that space went, but they built a physical space that was designed for this. Mostly PR like deep work capacity that intertwined in certain moments where you needed to come up for air, you would see other human beings.
And that's kinda how I think of like the hybrid solution. If you do have everybody in a physical space and there's a lot of value to being in the physical space together and even in the city together, there's like a collective community building that I think we still were very tribal. And I still think there's something really beautiful about being committed to a physical location together.
In the way that like you can use that physical space to build those moments of connection, build those moments of deep conversations. I'm sorry. Murals, the lovely software white boarding on, a screen just for me is extremely painful. I want to be able to like scribble. I want to sit back and look at it for five minutes.
I want to feel the energy of folks in the room when I put something on a whiteboard and it's not received well. Like we're having difficult conversations. It's hard to picture that with six, seven people, I can grab a pen from somebody and go scribble on a whiteboard real quick and get some really great things out of it.
And it's much harder, but you don't need it all the time is I guess my point. Sure. Strategic moments in time. So for us. We have a cadence and annual cadence where we all pause and plan together for a week, no work is done. And then we go back and then we go deep into our work strategically. Like I said, the leadership team means quarterly.
We do it as an offsite. We do it physically in person and. We're off to the races, right? We don't need white boarding. We don't need any of that stuff, but for that three or four days it's critical. So I think like when you talk about hybrid, I would want to see that sure. Use it as a coworking space.
Fine. But I would also really want to see it. We used with intention okay, the leadership team means here or w every time we kick off a new project, we get together for a week here, every Tuesday at let's all just come in and collaborate on stuff. Sure that becomes like a really powerful space.
It becomes a whole base. It becomes like a grounding mechanism of this is how we're all connected to something, but it doesn't need to be obviously I think a three, two, like those kinds of things are goofy because there'll be weeks at a time when you're deep in on work. And why would you commute?
You just want to go to work and do your work, and then you come up for air and then you should collaborate.
[00:35:49] Scott: Yeah, I think that they'll lend to my next question, but from some of the companies that I was just consulting with, getting them moving over to the I'll call it a proper remote model. And that was one of the suggestions that I made.
If you're all in the same city or in a relative area, you can, why do you need to be in the office X amount of days? Why not? Maybe a case of rent an Airbnb. Villa no. Once a month, once every six weeks get everyone together, have a Winola catered, barbecue and a pool, and people have fun and have the interaction in real life.
They can do note that was white boarding sessions. And again that's, the in-person opportunity again, to do people need to come into the office three times a week, two times a week, or just yet, like you've mentioned, had the intentionality of once every X amount of time. We need certain teams, all the team to be at one place, get it together.
Have a good time. Do what you need to do, and then go back out and focus at home to keep working. But you're no three, two, but it brings up a question which you like, and a lot of companies have one seemingly look in this direction for companies that are going to move to a three to model your thoughts of good companies, look, to get all the people back into the office, those same three, those three days to have that overlap, or is it better to give that flexibility to let each individual employee decide of what three days they want to be in?
[00:37:10] Natalie: The only correlation I have a strong opinion is when we launched our four-day work week. Our first iteration of that was to let everybody pick their fifth day. And that didn't work for us because what ended up happening was there are the way we work at least is like, nobody works truly in isolation.
We work in extremely small teams, two or three people, but it created all kinds of challenges where like somebody who was off on Tuesday when you throw up with somebody off on Friday and. There's no inner interaction. There's no connection. Standing meetings, things like that. Let's say we have our monthly all hands, like it just became really tricky to collaborate.
And so we actually pulled that back and said everybody's off on Fridays, except for our support team that they alternate Fridays and Mondays. But that allowed us to just basically consistently Wildbit works Monday through Thursday. For the most part, I could see a similar, thing, either folks or some folks would be creatures of habit and come in the same time, some folks fall. And I think it depends. I could see a world where it could get really tricky because if too, if you're a team of three and two people come in on Tuesday and you're at home, they're going to definitely sit around a table together.
Cause that's when it gets to see each other. And they're going to talk about some things and they're going to have discussions and they're not gonna be. Yup. Intentional. And Nicole, excluding somebody, but something's going to get missed in context. So again, back to that if you're going to force people then give them some parameters.
I think otherwise you're goofy. There's a, lack of core. Like I don't quite follow the logic if you're going to force people to come in, but you're not going to tell them why you're forcing them to come in. There's no intention or purpose behind it. Then you're just like babysitting your team.
And I get really annoyed with the babysitting of people. Because if you're babysitting your people, you have some serious, issues around management and product and measuring success and all kinds of things that are just all kinds of opinions. So either you just say we're a fully we're an on-prem team and that's what we are and that's our culture and it is what it is.
Cool. That's fine. There's going to be plenty of people who will love that. Or you said we could have for these reasons. And that's why we're all in together. Or you say it's just an open co-working space have at it. It's yours to use that we're going to, as a company, provide you the physical space to do your best work.
There's that a little bit of a gray area there for me where I'm like if you're just doing it to measure the butts and. I got no tolerance for that. That is a organizational disaster. And that is your problem. And you go fix that real fast because that's just, that's doomed to fail eventually.
[00:39:57] Scott: Yeah. Yeah. I, completely agree. I've felt that. Th having to consecutive days make sense for that overlap? No, to have people there at the same time, so we could do the engagement. And again, it's much easier for a company than to do their office culture that they know how to do when people are on site. But I looked potentially on the other side, now it's, everyone's onsite for two or three days the same day as well.
Now's the great opportunity for doing those FaceTimes, right? So you have your all hands meetings and your team meetings and your one-on-ones and your, this meeting that, that, When you suppose to actually get work done during the day, if you're sitting in a 6, 7, 8 back-to-back face-to-face meeting or in your office now, so we're going to take advantage of you being here in the office to do these interactions.
[00:40:41] Natalie: Exactly. What's in meetings is everybody, but when, how many backs, events and meetings that are rehab to me, that's a behavioral, that's a company culture thing. I have a friend who works for eight back to back zoom meetings a day. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:40:55] Scott: no differently. But when I think we think about this, cause I see the productivity right during remote productivity went like this.
Fantastic. Wonderful. Now in theory, come back to your office now you're back. Oh, yes. Another whole other conversation
[00:41:12] Natalie: . Irrelevant, but that's not any relevant productivity went up in burnout, went up until I'm weary of the productivity numbers. Can we just for a second because we were at home, we had no place to go.
We buried ourselves in work because we were so scared of what was going on outside of our doors. I don't know that we can, again I just think that there's a real danger of marching on the beat of that drum. That was a unique moment in time. I'm a big remote work as a hundred percent more productive.
[00:41:52] Scott: Yes. Yeah. I thank you for saying that. I've been saying the same thing. Hey, this is not remote work. This is chaos. You, couldn't why you're burnt out. Why'd you have no interaction because you can't leave the house? You can't go to the cafe. You can go to the supermarket. You're just locked in your house.
You wouldn't get out of the house. So what else are you going to do? Especially if you have kids, it's I have four kids, a couple of them we're learning on zoom. So everything's I need the iPad. I need. What am I supposed to get work done? So I needed to cow now organize my schedule to be at different times now to try to catch up because I've missed some of that time.
Yes. It makes sense in that scenario, why people were working past five o'clock, but people were theory working more because they had nowhere to go. There was nothing else to do. Maybe they had an impact at home or what was going on with their family. Yeah. So then how that ties back to the office at the company now sees, okay, we're productivity is going down, which in theory it should go down either way after, after the pandemic and.
Does that change their mindset saying, oh does that push them back to her about hoping? Oh, okay. Now to getting people back in the office, productivity got down, cause now we're doing all of these face-to-face meetings. Now. They're not actually doing works. They have to commute. And at the time maybe we should move back to remote.
Cause then we're going to, in theory, get all that productivity back. I think it's a no it's a cycle.
[00:43:03] Natalie: know what I was thinking, you were saying how successful you personally are? And I find it extremely admirable. I'm not that good at it. Even after all this time where I feel very interesting, required to be in front of my screen.
Like it's something I'm constantly working on and the way we think about the computer, we, Chris has. The thing he says I want to think of it as a sewing machine, you don't sit in front of your sewing machine waiting to sew something. You go down, you sow something and then you walk away and then you come back on the 10th to work.
And it sounds at least from what you shared, that's how you view it. And I think that's brilliant. And probably earlier when we were a smaller company, that's also how we, used to have lunches now it's different now, but anyway, but I think to your point, The answer to that. Isn't like product, more productivity, less productivity meetings in person meetings on zoom.
It's a general, the future of work is questioning what work is, what is actually performative, what is actually productive? What are we actually doing with our time? What are you hired to do my friend who I was saying, like back to back eight hour meetings, she's an extremely important executive at a humongous company.
And I can. They didn't hire you to sit at meetings, but there's something broken in the way that they measure output. And so the remote. Technically the remote just pushed us to say oh, okay, hold on a second. I can't value your output based on seeing you physically in an office now. Okay. What am I going to measure you on?
And where the companies that are struggling with it are the ones who are like, oh, now I just need you in a meeting all the time. We just have to talk all the time because how am I going to know if everything's working or not? So I don't actually worry in the way that you do about the companies like using that time physically in the office unless they already have those structural issues.
To me. It makes sense. There are probably some risks there, but I, would imagine those same companies who are like, let's have a one-on-one let's have a group meeting. Let's have a stand up, are probably doing that on zoom. So I don't know that necessarily my, theory my, my, perspective, I don't know, not even a theory.
My perspective is that there's enough broken. We've seen enough broken in the government. That's it just still not able to unstick output purpose, meaning like intention behind work, right? If you think about most of our work is performative, right? Why are we checking email all day long? Why are we working on things that don't actually matter?
Why are we sitting in meetings? That's the kind of magic, right? The magic is I need to do this. Thing this week to dramatically move my business forward and I need to trust myself that is the only thing I need to do. And therefore I can get rid of all the other shit that's on my plate.
Most of us are like what kid? Just do one thing. Like I got to do all these other things and I got to wait for something to happen so I can get that dopamine kick of reacting to a thing. And so that's the kind of stuff to me. That's much more critical to looking at like successfully live in. And not working to live.
That is the really, truly identifying what's important. Why are we doing this? What do I need from my team? What do they need from me? What's the actual thing they need, not the thing that my brain is scared to let go of. And then we can. Remote not remote. Like you're starting to really understand.
I got to go in the office because I got to do this really creative thing with my team. And that's beautiful, but I'm going to go deep into my work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Cause I just got to write the memo, put the presentation together, write the code, whatever. And there's no questioning.
Yeah. Cause it doesn't matter. Cause like I'm being measured on what I'm delivering value to the organization full stop. The rest is irrelevant.
[00:46:29] Scott: Moving to another question. How does, especially in a hybrid environment, how does facing? Not become the differentiator between promotions and career growth. I think there's been a lot written about this, that the potential of, and I've many executives I've spoken to have all admitted that they would be much more likely to hire or promote someone that they have more of a relationship, a face-to-face relationship with, but someone that they don't have with how can companies prevent this as we move forward to having that proximity bias really affect who move is where within the.
[00:47:05] Natalie: I think it's in a similar vein to really being articulate about what is success? How do, what does it look like when it's not face to face? Like we have all biases just generally, right? And so there are the people we work most closely with and people we identify with all of these things you add that I have lunch with them.
They're fun. They're I connect with them. I know what they're going through. I, make excuses for. Worst performance, because they're going through something personally, like video, whatever. I think if, you're in an organization where there is real. Individual growth value in like promotions and outputs and things like that.
The only way you protect yourself from your own bias, even if you don't intend to is to just really outline it, right? These are the types of projects. This is the type of results that we're looking for. This is the impact on the business and it can come from anybody. But ultimately this is the issue with hybrid, right?
If most of the people that report to you, if you're the higher, the person in charge of making those decisions and you have an us versus them scenario, that's a problem. And I think that's an organizational problem, right? If you have a people manager who wants to be in the physical space, It's very social in that way.
Like very much connects with people on a one-to-one basis. It's probably not ideal to have that person manage half remote and half in person, folks. There's organizational shifts that have to happen. It's probably better, maybe better to have a manager that's directly managing the remote team and then let the managers do get out on what that means.
Organizationally, you don't put employees at risk there. Yeah.
There's just like a, there's still this. Running a business is about managing people and every human is unique. And so I don't think you have to like, what's the company, what's the culture, what do we generally value? And then if you're going to make a dramatic shift of like where we used to be on prem and now we're going to not be in whatever variety, you have to go back to the top and be like, okay, who are we?
What do we value? What's important. And then bring that down and say, oops, now we have. Reconfigure, right? Does that match with the people we have? And we really like these people and they're really important to the business and they're providing a lot of value. Maybe we got to reconfigure the top or maybe we got to rejigger some things.
I don't think this is like a, you have such structural changes that happened. You can't just like business as usual. And like with some tweaks, it to me becomes a very shit is hard. This isn't supposed to be easy. You don't just like one day, wake up and say a 3000 person organization spread out all over the world.
And giant towers are now going to be like managed, led, operated, remotely hybrid, whatever these are just, it's gotta be thoughtful.
[00:50:04] Scott: Yeah. Last question. I know we're running low on time. how will potentially hybrid affect compensation? I know there are obviously people at Google and other companies are saying, they're going to reduce salaries for people who are moving out and I'd love your thoughts on that.
Question. I've been asking around this is, it the location, or is it the physical presence in the office? Because an example, you have somebody that's in San Francisco that wants to work remotely. They don't want to come to the office. It's another person who still lives in San Francisco. They didn't move out to Idaho or they didn't move to wherever they are.
They're in San Francisco, but they're working remotely and not in the office. You take salary away from that person that's in San Francisco, but it's not coming into the office. How do you see this playing out here?
[00:50:51] Natalie: So we just lost launch location, agnostic pay this summer. We're a distributed company and Basically standardized around the Philadelphia area.
That's our baseline. That's where we're headquartered in the Philadelphia area. And yeah, that's what we did. That's a very personal decision. It's not a cheap decision. It's a very intentional decision. And what it did for us was create a very clear line. We pay Philadelphia based salaries. We do not pay San Francisco based salaries.
If you are looking for a San Francisco based salary, we are just not the organization for you. I think it's of course I don't. I don't, I, I can understand from the employee perspective, like I'm going to deliver the same amount of value to this organization. Why in the world would you pay me? I get that.
I get that. And I also can see a world where that's another, not to like constantly defend these big companies, but there's that's a tricky thing to rejigger your mass when you're a giant organization that kind of forced all of our expenses and our value to a geographic area. So like there, there is like a question there around personally, I guess I would say that I could see a world in which.
We're just doing it. And either come to San Francisco and show up in the office and we put a value on that as an org, they probably wrong, but that's what they do. And that's okay. That's their prerogative to do that. And folks have to make a choice. I think the market will readjust in some ways to say, if we've been defending the fangs and saying go work there, you're gonna make a boatload of money.
Work's going to be hard. And it's going to be like long hours and only see. That's reality. It's authentic. It's, not, they're not hiding anything. And there's plenty of people who want to make that choice and the market adjusts. And then people who don't want that choice to come to Wildbit.
But. This is just another market adjustment. Now we're all remote or a lot of us. And so now it's I used to be remote and everybody's I'm coming to oil, but to be remote. And that's not everybody's remote. I can't even use that as like a big driver, a big incentive.
But the market will adjust to those organizations who if they want to place value on location-based pay and that's, their math and there's room for that. It's going to take a while for San Francisco to adjust. If you remove that, that rents have to go down. Things have to go down.
Location-based pay is not evil. It's just a thing we've done for a long time. I generally don't think most things are evil. There are some things that are really evil, but like location-based plays and evil. What's evil is if it's not transparent with evil, if is, if it's not Honest. I have very little sympathy for software engineers and like software jobs because the market is bonkers right now, and anybody can get a job anywhere.
So I have much more concerns about my, local grocery store workers and like, how are we helping them? They can't work remotely. They can't have the flexibility of time. So now, I do think that's like a market adjustment in tech and those companies have to adjust their math. To defend, so to support whatever it is that they've created and the rest of us can do location-agnostic pay and be cool with that too.
And I, and then now you have a choice, right? You can say, I don't want to work for a Fang. What are we calling it now? Mang? I don't even know what do we call it now? I don't want to work for them because I want to live in Idaho and I don't want to pay co although probably the pay cut is still really high.
It's probably the worst I would say. I don't know. And then you can go on look, okay, where are the Wildbit of the world or whoever who may be. Idaho is lower than Philadelphia and I can still make more money basing it on that. Philosophically, of course, I don't think we should pay less based on the output of work, but, or based on location versus the output of work.
But I also just it, just let them do them. I don't, there's so much other stuff that they provide to people in their careers that I think is. I don't know, they have their own philosophies and missions. Sorry. That's not the answer. Everybody wants to hear. Everybody wants me to say
[00:55:07] Scott: that's the no, that's the one that's important to get perspectives.
Very easygoing. I'm the total opposite. It's a value to the company. No, two people doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where they are. They put in the same value to the company. They get paid the same thing based
[00:55:21] Natalie: on the value Employees, unfortunately, don't get the measure of the value and that's where they have to make a choice around where they work, the company measures value.
And I don't think, I don't think it's been defined as simply as I write the same amount of code. I agree with that. Of course, I'm like, that's why we have the location of class they pay. But I also think that the company ultimately pays you and ultimately is measuring the value of the way that they see.
In their journey and like what they're trying to do. And there's math there and there are incentives like all of those things have incentives, right? So like they're making a choice because they're incentivizing some behavior. I can't begin to understand what that one is, but yeah, they're doing something.
It's either going to be great for them, or it's going to bite them in the ass and that's on them to figure out
[00:56:10] Scott: fair enough. Fair enough. I could keep talking for probably another few hours. I know you're probably quite busy, so we'll have to cut it here, but certainly appreciate the insights and the honesty in the approach of being, I think you have very easy going. I seem to be very opinionated. So it's nice to get a different opinion for some of these things and just not hear me ranting and things I'm passionate about. But yeah, I certainly appreciate you joining and yeah, if there's anything that we can include our how can people find out about Wildbit?
How can they find out more about you and all the amazing work that?
[00:56:48] Natalie: Yeah. All the contents in a while, but.com, we have a newsletter. There's some interesting stuff coming out soon. I think for folks looking for companies like this week, we launched people first jobs for a reason there are incredible organizations on there.
Not just Wildbit, but there are unbelievable companies that really prioritize people remote work. Yeah, calm work environment, all kinds of things. So like from that perspective, please I'd love for more folks to find great places to work, to make choices, right? So allow that market readjustment to happen.
You got to find those great people. And so there are great organizations on there that we're really excited to partner with us on this people. First thing.
[00:57:30] Scott: Awesome. Natalie, thank you so much for joining today. And until next time, everybody from Scott.