How to Successfully Pivot to the Future of Work As A Tech Giant w/ Meaghan Williams @HubSpot
It's one thing for a small startup to go remote overnight when CoVid hit. It's another when a tech giant like Hubspot does so & successfully
Here's the recap...I've been quite interested in hearing some stories of how some tech giants pivoted to remote work. While most were and are still desperate to go back to the office, others fully embraced it and have been super successful in moving toward the future of work. In this episode, I spoke with Meaghan Williams who months before the pandemic had already started the company on its journey. I was honestly blown away at how much thoughtfulness and effort went into building an equitable hybrid and remote experience even before the world shut down. This significantly helped them go fully remote overnight with little hiccup and continually design an optimal experience for those staying remote forever and those who came back to or eventually want to be in an office X days a week. This was probably the most enjoyable episode I've recorded to date and learned so much.
Meaghan Williams on Twitter
Hybrid Work Report Blog: The Future of Work at HubSpot: How We're Building a Hybrid Company
Medium post: How HubSpot Makes Hybrid Work, Work
Remote isn't just about the physical place you work
Spoiler: Hubspot started the remote journey years before the pandemic which helped them understand remote isn't just about where you work. Sadly, so many companies (even most remote ones) are still stuck on this idea. If you allow people to work outside of an office, you're doing remotely right and therefore building a better culture. This is totally false.
Meaghan and Hubspot understood there's so much more to do it right and to ensure you build an awesome employee experience. Like how mentoring will work when you can't look over someone's shoulder, how to prevent proximity bias in progressing people's careers, and so much more.
Remote started to maximize employee happiness
Hubspot had employees over the years who needed to pivot to remote. Whether following a loved one, helping support aging parents, or any other reason. They were an employee because they were super talented and Hubspot didn't want to lose them simply because they wouldn't be coming into the Boston office anymore. Over the years more and more employees requested this ability and flexibility. What's amazing is that rather than see these employees as outcasts or treat them like second-class citizens that are simply accepted they did the opposite. Meaghan's responsibility became how we build an enriching and engaging experience for those outside the Boston office. Wanting them to be first-class citizens like their colleagues in the office. Doing this helped employee engagement skyrocket because they saw a company doing everything they could to help ensure their success working with the company.
Doing remote right requires everyone in the organization to be on board
In the beginning, all teams in the company were involved in designing how to support remote work. This meshes well with my idea that a 'Head of Remote' is the new COO (check out the episode). Requiring them to have experience working across the entire organization. Remote isn't just a People Ops item. Yes, People Ops are crucial to things like employee engagement and learning & development. But you need teams like Finance to better understand how to compensate people globally and the tax issues they face (even when using an Employee of Record). Legal teams to understand the compliance and legalities of hiring people globally and how that impacts the business. IT teams not only get equipment properly set up and shipped globally but to secure company resources when everyone isn't on a corporate network. And so many more. As they got all these teams' insights they did what every great remote team does. Document everything. Which not only helped ensure the information was centrally located and easily accessible but helped automate the future. No longer requiring getting these teams together for meetings every time they need to hire someone new.
Invest in up-skilling managers
My favorite topic and one very few remote companies are doing today. Hubspot understood their managers knew how to manage people, well in an office. But how do they manage people remotely? And better yet, as the pandemic ends how to best manage people in a hybrid setup. Having the skills to lead some people sitting next to you and others on the other side of the country/world. And as mentioned earlier, to ensure proximity bias doesn't arise, no second-class citizens and everyone is equally engaged. This is damn hard but Hubspot understood it was fundamental to their success moving forward. So they heavily invest in it.
A/B test everything
Every company isn't Github. So their amazing content on how to be remote isn't one size fits all. Teams need to test, retest, and keep trying new ways to do everything with the company. Always trying to learn and always trying to find what works best for their team. For example, Hubspot tried things like meetings with cameras on and off to better understand the impact of burnout. More or less Zoom meetings and more. I've been doing these tests with my teams around engagement. During our bi-weekly meetings (fun time) do we play games, do show n' tells, bring in family, etc. What else can we do to build relationships within the team? Co-working sessions, book clubs, etc. Testing and always asking for feedback to understand what works best for your team.
Scott - [02:54 - 02:57]
Hey Meaghan, how are you doing today?
Meaghan - [02:57 - 02:59]
Hey Scott. I'm doing well, thanks. How are You?
Scott - [02:59 - 03:15]
I'm doing well. Thank you so much, for joining. So calling in from Boston. Are you at an official office? Cause I see a brick background, so I don't know if this is like No. A like a nice kind of fashionable, they say like apartment background. Oh. Like, a bare brick background, or is this part of a HubSpot space?
Meaghan - [03:15 - 03:26]
I know it's very deceptive that way. HubSpot is a lot of brick. I am actually in my home and this is the one brick wall we have in this house. Nice. And I set my outfit right in front.
Scott - [03:26 - 03:29]
Love it. That, that's awesome. how's everything in Boston?
Meaghan - [03:29 - 03:45]
Things are good. Yeah. We are being treated to a, long-awaited rainy day. So it's the day after a long weekend here, a rainy day, and we're getting into fall. Nice. So it's a good day to be working from home. My favorite type of day. Absolutely. How, where you are?
Scott - [03:45 - 04:27]
Yeah. Everything is, everything's good. Still hot and sunny here. so I definitely miss it. I think it was the last episode I recorded, I spoke about it. Someone in one of my networks had mentioned, I think they were in upstate New York and this was maybe like one or two weeks ago. And they said, Oh, we went outside and you got like that, that smell, that first smell of like fall. And I, I remember back in the days of New York, it was somewhere like around now going outside and then thinking, ah, okay, I get this fall smell. Ah, football season's coming. Great. Ah, pumpkin spice everything. Pumpkin spices coming soon. Pumpkin spice. Exactly. So all these things are coming down the pipe. But here, just yeah. For another couple of months, it's, still warm and sunny. But so as long as I don't get the cold winters, I'm, very happy.
Meaghan - [04:27 - 04:29]
Seems like a fair trade-off.
Scott - [04:29 - 06:02]
Indeed. Indeed. so before we dive into the topic again, the way I'd like to start off conversations is with a non-top topic, just to get the conversation started and notice, we're gonna actually doing a deep dive into this. So it's somewhat related that you held and you've been holding a kind of a remote role at HubSpot. one of the big things like the last 12 or so months is this idea of the head of remote, head of remote, head of remote. Now everyone looking for a head of remote. I'm very bullish. Sorry, not bearish. I'm quite negative on, on this role. I'm a big believer. I, I've interviewed for a number of these roles. I've spoken to lots of recruiters, I've spoken to lots of companies that are hiring in this role, and it seems very much they're not looking for the right person. Cause I kind of feel that we really don't know what they really look for. and I kind of seem to look for someone who has, like someone who's gonna implement tools, like what's the right collaboration tool, what's the right video tool, what's the right documentation tool versus it's a much bigger kind of holistic picture for me. I did at least one episode last season, with the idea of like, the head of remote is really the new coo. someone that comes from my experience being, you know, the first higher ed and vision and being like the operations person when building and scaling the company, like every day was involved in finance and in it in operations and in hr and in all these different aspects. And if you really want, because Right, what is remote? Remote is not the physical location. Okay. Where maybe it's like an operational thing where you have to send like a payroll or something like that.
Scott - [06:02 - 06:28]
There are legal things and it's a culture piece. And like there's so much that's involved here that very few people I think have this experience. So I kind of would love to get your sense of, again, having a role where you're trying to build a remote culture and help remote the remote experience, but then love to kind of hear your two cents on what is this role about? Or people even looking for the right thing. Like Yeah. Let let me know what you think.
Meaghan - [06:28 - 07:45]
Yeah, absolutely. It's a great question. And I think that I agree with you in the sense that when it comes to, you know, what makes a great head of remote, if you will, I think a huge piece of it is exactly as you mentioned, that if you're gonna have a head of remote, that person needs to understand, you know, how, all of the legalities work in your different entities. They need to have a sense of what the taxes are going to look like with the remote workforce. Yes, there's a culture side, Yes, there's a technology side, but there's also a hiring side and a legal side. There's so much that comes into it, that I think that if one person's gonna sort of be at the, at the top of those decisions, absolutely it is going to be someone that can be knowledgeable on all of those different pieces. On the flip side, I think that it's important to note that when it comes to a truly remote-first company or even a hybrid company like HubSpot, it has to be everyone's job to make remote work, right? So it can't come down to this one person or even this one team. I think everybody has to agree that we're going to make remote work together. Yeah. and so I think it's a balance of both. but you know, I think that's something I, I quickly learned when I started out in my role at HubSpot is, you know, understanding how much goes into remote work and how many different players Yeah. you need to have involved in those conversations to make it work successfully.
Scott - [07:45 - 08:03]
Yeah, absolutely agree. so the easy first question. The way we start off every episode is just telling us a little bit more about yourself, and obviously, we kind of teased to the idea of you've been in a kind of remote experience role at HubSpot. so tell us a little bit more about the role and what you've, what you do in that role.
Meaghan - [08:03 - 09:07]
Yeah, absolutely. so I started in this role back in 2019, well really 2018 when the job was posted. HubSpot had a population of maybe a hundred remote employees. 95% of them were in the US but they were noticing that this was becoming an increasingly popular option. they also, to their credit, noticed that there wasn't really anyone fully putting together guidelines, and processes. No one was really sort of leading the charge on remote. And one thing we believe about HubSpot is that our culture is so, so important. The employee experience is so important. And so even though it was 100 employees, they wanted to make sure that those folks had an excellent experience and had an equitable experience. And so prior to the pandemic, they posted this role. At the time it was titled Remote Work and Inclusion Program Manager. and I was fortunate it was the dream job at the time. It still is. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to get that position and that first year I was learning a ton. <laugh> <laugh>.
Scott - [09:07 - 09:07]
I was, I can imagine.
Meaghan - [09:07 - 10:20]
Yeah, exactly. There was no process in place. There were no guidelines. if you wanted to go remote, some folks would just ask their manager. Some folks would put on a presentation. Right? There was, things were happening all over the place. and so my job was really to create some guidelines and some consistency to have we approached remote work and then make sure that for anyone who was remote again, were they able to get a promotion. Were they able to attend culture? Were they able to, really and truly engage in conversations and ideas and opportunities versus just watching them happen on a Zoom screen? Yeah. so that's what I worked on really the first year. And then, of course, Covid hit a year later, and our entire company went remote. so it was a busy year. Yeah. But really I was thinking about all those lessons that I have been fortunate to learn, really from our remote population, thinking about how do we now empower this global company that for many of whom they had never worked remotely before. Sure. How do we teach them the best practices, so that they can continue on in this world? And then once we went fully hybrid, it was really about adjusting those lessons for a hybrid versus the fully remote environment.
Scott - [10:20 - 11:43]
Yeah. That's awesome. so my hope, I'm hoping to do a couple of episodes that are very much focused. I've had this interest, at least for the past year, to speak with people like yourself who have been working with a company that is more than 25 people Right. When the pandemic hit. Yeah. Or if you think about it, when company's no switched over to remote. Okay. If you have a startup, 25 people, 50 people, Right. You can, you can pull the bandaid and say, Okay, tomorrow we're remote, we're gonna get that on the slack and ocean and whatever we're gonna do, we're gonna do this thing. And okay, it's gonna be painful for, I know for a couple of weeks, but we're gonna get through it when we're talking about hundreds or in larger companies. Like, it's a totally different story. So my hope is kind of across a number of episodes to really get the story of how, where it started and how it moved, and what transition was like the first day, the first week, the first month. Like all throughout that and kind of the plans afterward. So I think the easiest place for the best place to start is obviously right, the origin story. you had mentioned there were a couple of people who wanted to work remotely. Like again, it's not, I mean, you had companies that during the pandemic were in the office and then overnight remote or the other side was you had companies that started remote first day. You didn't really have companies that said, Okay, we're in the office and you know what, hey, let's, let's try this remote thing. Or there was a handful of people who wanted do it. So I'd love to maybe understand, again, maybe a deeper dive of like what that origin story was.
Scott - [11:43 - 12:02]
What are, where is it people that were maybe in Boston that wanted to move out or had some kind of whatever scenario that they said, Hey, I wanted to work remotely. And like what that process was to say, Okay, this group. And like again, is there a structure, like exactly what, what did the origin story of this, all look like here?
Meaghan - [12:02 - 13:28]
Yeah, absolutely. So we've actually had remote employees since our very earliest days of the business. we hired our first remote employee, back when we were at a tiny startup. And it was essentially, you know, they found the right guy for the job. and he happened to live in Arizona at the time. And so they made it work. And then I think primarily we were based in our Cambridge office and that's where most people were. But as HubSpot grew and evolved, we had these employees who were incredible. They loved HubSpot. We did not want to lose them, but life was taking them elsewhere. Maybe their partner got a job, You know, maybe they needed to move back in with family to be a caretaker. Any number of reasons could have brought them to the decision of needing to go remote. And I think it kind of aligns nicely again, with our culture. Yeah. We kind of said, you know, we'll make it work. Right? We didn't have a full process, but we didn't wanna lose these employees. We wanted to make it work for them. And so we allowed folks to go remotely sort of organically. but it was at that point of around a hundred employees that we realized this is becoming a trend. Right. This is something that is really picking up steam and if we're gonna get this right, yeah. Then we need to really put some guidelines process in place and make sure that these folks are, are being taken care of, and aren't going to go remote and then get stuck in their career. That was a big concern of HubSpot. Yeah. So that's ultimately how it evolved.
Scott - [13:28 - 14:37]
Awesome. I would love to even, let's, again, my hope is really the nerd out here. You really just go really deep and really go deep on this topic cuz it's beautiful to hear like the idea, okay, we had people early on and we wanted to make sure we did this right. Right. Again, wasn't this now, so we spoke about the head of remote. What tools, what communication, whatever tools can we bring in? We wanna be able to hire the right way. We wanna be able to onboard the right way. We wanna make sure that there is no proximity bias in preventing people, from rising up. So these were things that were thought about early on. If you can let, let's again, let's try to dive know as deep as we can of like what that early process, what it looks like. Like again, was there, were we hiring people but maybe we were hiring people's contractors instead of full-time employees? Again, maybe, especially if they're outside of the US Again, the companies like Deal and Oyster and employee record companies didn't exist. So you, and that's how we started in Envision. We hired everybody as a contractor, you know, PayPal or wire transfer them money every month. And then like what were the processes? What was the documentation like? I would love to hear just more about those early days of what you're doing in that first role.
Meaghan - [14:37 - 16:13]
Yeah, absolutely. So I think it was really interesting in the sense that one thing that's true about HubSpot is that we really believe in the full-time model. And that's because our founders wanted everyone to be able to have full transparency and to be a shareholder. And so because we didn't have that contractor model prior to my role being introduced. Yeah. Every time someone wanted to go remote, essentially everyone had to sort of get together and figure out a point solution. So for example, you know, we've got someone who is going to be, let's say in Ohio. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we need to make sure that we're taxing them correctly. Yep. We're a New England based company. Do we have benefits that are going to reach them? We've got someone from benefits, someone from payroll, someone from hr making sure that all these things are happening. Then you maybe add-in, you know, different entities that depend on the country Yeah. Sometimes there are, you know, elements of compliance and regulations Sure. Require very specific needs for someone who's working in a home versus in an office. Yeah. That's made even more intricate when you add in something like a visa to the process. So again, we sort of, for each individual employee pulled in all these teams to make it work and get it right. The challenge was again, that just wasn't gonna scale. Yeah. So when I came in, one of the things that I did was I looked through the entire employee life cycle from the time that we're interviewing them all the way to what does an offer letter look like? Yeah. if you're working from home in different states or again countries as the case may be, things like, you know, do your benefits or taxes change if you are going to be working in a certain state in Germany versus Berlin?
Meaghan - [16:13 - 16:48]
Yeah. Yeah. and I really dove into all of that, put it all into documentation, and then started to automate the processes so that as these requests started to pour in, we didn't have these meetings happening for individual employees. We just had a process. Yeah. And it took a lot of time to get set up. Yeah. and a lot of stakeholders <laugh>. but that's why I say a lot of my job was really project management at the start. Sure. Cause I was just getting everyone in the same room and figuring out who needs to do what in which order to make sure this is gonna work at the end of the day. Yeah.
Scott - [16:48 - 17:56]
And it's quite a valuable thing that you have done because it's obviously setting up the foundations for where the next question's going to be. March, I forget March 11th. March 14th, something like that. 2020 bang, everything world closes. Everybody's for home. Again, these companies who didn't have this, it was like literally pulling, pulling the bandaid, lights on, lights off. You're in the office yesterday, today, you're home. Would love to hear again that experience of like, what did day one look like? You know, what did week one, month one, what was the communication seemingly it came from, from the executive team? What was the plan like thinking about, again, nobody expected this to last as long as it did? You know, were there thoughts especially cause you had a foundational piece there, were there thoughts around Okay people may not have a proper desk and set up. Are there thoughts of okay, do they have the right equipment and if not, do we get them that if they're now working from home and like the benefits and do we pay for maybe a life of electricity internet Again, I would love you just know, take me through what did day one look like? What did week one look? What did monthly look like?
Meaghan - [17:56 - 19:30]
Yeah. It was a wild month. I'll tell you that the good news for us was that at the time we had nine entities. And so in those nine entities, we had the ability to have remote employees in all nine. So we already had the groundwork of the benefits, the taxes, what the paperwork needed to look like, and all the compliance regulations. So we were very fortunate that work was foundational and absolutely What we, I think was hard for us was that prior to Covid we would say that, you know, if you wanna work remotely, that's where you do your best work. Yeah. That's amazing. We can get you set up, but it is your choice and your responsibility. Sure. so you need to have a space that's gonna work for you. Yeah. you need to be able to have, you know, a strong internet connection too, we now are in a situation where folks are living with five roommates or they have four kids at home. Mm. their internet. That's great. <laugh>. Yeah. and so how do you enable folks for whom they don't have the ideal situation and furthermore they don't do their best work at home? Sure. That was a situation we had never been in. We were prior to Covid enabling folks who wanted to work remotely. Yeah. Now we're trying to help folks adjust who did not wanna be there and were not doing their best work remotely. and so we did that in a couple of different ways. I think the biggest piece was empathy and flexibility. We were very transparent, with our managers and with our entire employee base that this isn't going to be easy for anyone.
Meaghan - [19:30 - 20:31]
You need to be empathetic. one thing I love is that we very much embraced, you know, your kids wanna join the Zoom, Not only that's my favorite. You want that. We actually set up, like kids' events. We had events where we would specifically bring kids in. so there was a lot of that. We tried to do a lot of experimentation around, you know, just camera off help people. Yep. do more zoom meetings and more sort of, you know, coffee hours help people, or is that exhausting at a certain point? Yeah. So there was a ton of experimentation there. ultimately we did end up providing people stipends to help get them set up with Sure. their desk and all of that stuff. We also, once we went into a sort of full hybrid model, introduced remote monthly stipends, which I think helped with the internet piece. Sure. but those first few months of adjustment, they were really hard. I think we learned, of course, a ton. but it was very different from the approach that we had been using for a year. And I think that some of our biggest growing pains and lessons were learned in those few months.
Scott - [20:31 - 21:43]
Less deep, deep dive on that off the idea of. I wanna talk about the kids' part next, but you know, one of the things I heard consistently, I, I helped a lot of companies move over to remote that, especially without the idea of presence, Right. Productivity used to be based on presence. So then they kind of replace those ICU with, okay, let's do a morning zoom, stand up in an afternoon, zoom, stand up and like all these things I had to know what you're doing. So even like what did even that look, was there like new processes? Because again, you had some process in place, but in theory was probably just one person who was just kind of getting along with your team, and whatever the team was doing, they just kind of fell in line with now an entire team's not there. Very few managers had the absolutely. The opportunity and the experience of leading remotely. So most people that I've come across have done it wrong and I can't blame them cause they had, they had no idea what they were doing. but even what did that look like? Were there new processes put into place? Like, like what did that look like? Or again, because you had that structure, you had some people work remotely, you really kind of knew what the right way to work remotely was versus again, unfortunately, these zoom fatigues and all the other things that people complain about and adding and check-ins and all this replacing the idea of presence, with a virtual presence.
Meaghan - [21:43 - 23:22]
Yeah, absolutely. So as you mentioned, we were lucky that we already had a lot of managers who were doing this well and had figured this out. We had manager training that we could fall back on that was specific to managing remote employees. That said, we really hadn't been in this situation with the exception of one team. We didn't have any teams that were fully remote. Yeah. nevermind, you know, across different time zones. And so it was an adjustment for a lot of managers and yes, I'm sure you've seen absolutely in your work, there's a lot of folks who they wanna do a good job Sure. Don't know how to do it in this environment. Yeah. And that's where I think we see these legends of, you know, keep your slack green. like, checking in every morning. And I think, we're fortunate that we didn't encounter that behavior so much, but what we did have was a lot of managers who were just feeling lost, they didn't know how to support their teams in this environment. And so what we did was one, we scheduled AMAs, with myself and with our management and leadership development team Yeah. Where we just gave managers estate space, frankly. That's awesome. to help them talk about what's scary for you, what do you not how to do, and where do you need guidance. That's fantastic. So there were a lot of, lessons that way and training that way. We came out with, training that was more specific to leading in an all-remote environment. Mm-hmm. versus just including one remote person and the otherwise <inaudible> environment, which, you know, there's a nuance there. Oh, for sure. and then I think the third thing is really just reminding folks what our culture code says, which is, it's not about the number of hours you work, right?
Meaghan - [23:22 - 23:57]
I don't care if your slack.is green. Absolutely. But what I care about is what you've produced and the results at the end of the day or for the month. And so what we really have on managing <laugh> focus you like, what are those results, right? If you're in, you know, sales and services, support that might be metrics based, but if you are not, you always need to know as a manager what is the outcome. It really doesn't matter how they get there, as long as that's what they deliver at the end of the day. And your job is to support them on that journey, not to surveil them along that journey.
Scott - [23:57 - 25:21]
It is absolutely music to my ears. And I want, I wanna take that last point and pulled it out cuz this is also something that I've spoken about probably I think more on season one where I, I've heard years since I've been remote, I've always spoken to especially founders, that the idea of work is not presence, it's output. Right. It's a, it's a simple math equation. You have a specific deliverable by a specific time. If you've done it, check the box you, you've done great. But as you said, if you're a developer and you push code to GitHub, if you're a customer support person, you answer 20 tickets and whatever tool may be. But there are certain roles, especially I think more than anything else, like operational roles where you don't really see the end product as much. or it's not like on a day-to-day basis. It's not. So if you implement this new process to remote engagement or something like that and you have new tools to make coffee breaks or things like that, you're not gonna get feedback like a week later. Like, Oh my God, my remote experience went from a two to attend just by this. Like, it's going to take weeks and months and things like that. So in, in that specific environment when you're thinking about that, and again that's the absolute right way to do, it's based on output with those types of roles. Like how do you, or how has HubSpot kind of looked at that where you have an operational thing, you may never get that feedback? Where it may come like trickle-in from employee feedback and engagement served. The survey is after something is rolled out before. Like what does that kind of look like?
Where again it's not as easy to change, support tickets, sales, clothes, things like that.
Meaghan - [25:27 - 27:00]
Yeah. When there are not those hard metrics, it's so hard. Exactly. and that's true of my role, right? Yeah. There's no hard metric to find for my success. Same with my team. Yep. and so what we encourage managers to do is we have a lot of templates, you know, one-to-one, we have templates for what you should be talking about. What are you working on, what are your goals, and what does success look like? we use shortlists here, so what are the, you know, five things you're gonna focus on and accomplish? But some of those are gonna be long-term projects. If you might be just in planning meetings and project management meetings for four months at a time. Yeah. But again, sort of relevant to asynchronous communication, all of that should be documented. And I think that that's really what we encourage managers to think about is where is the progress seen? Where is it documented? What is the output? Even if the final result isn't ready or feedback hasn't come in yet. Yeah. At the end of the day, you hired that person to do a job. What was the job? What did you need them to do? Yeah. and what are the sort of stepping stones? So that can be a tough conversation for managers. We also have a template around setting expectations in the first week. And we talk very directly about what does success look like in the first 30, 60, and 90 days week tracking what does success look like a year from now? How will I know if I'm not doing well, where are we going to track progress? and so we really push managers and their team members to put all of that out there on a document and have that conversation in week one. Meaghan - [27:00 - 27:03]
Cause that also kind of eliminates the anxiety. Right.
Scott - [27:03 - 27:03]
Meaghan - [27:03 - 27:07]
You Never wanna be in a job where you're worried about am I doing a good job or not.
Scott - [27:07 - 27:10]
Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yep.
Meaghan - [27:10 - 27:16]
Think that that's, you know, that's key. And I'm sure that you've seen that in the various roles that, that you've found too.
Scott - [27:16 - 28:40]
Yeah, absolutely. I think especially in the operational roles, it's, as we've mentioned, there is no key deliverable. There isn't any sale, there isn't money that hits the account, or no new feature or blog post that goes out. So it's, yes, looking in theory with impact is so, especially with maybe those remote experience, okay, you do your pulse surveys comes back like this, you implement new changes, new whatever may be, do pulse surface afterward, you get feedback like has there been a change, a positive change in the right direction? And yet some things obviously take longer. maybe I'll leave that the kids part for the end, but it's, I mean it's phenomenal to hear like there was so much thought process around this and, and templates and documentation that were ready from, from kind of day one. Cuz I mean in theory this is how the podcast started. I can whatever January 2021, I said no, what good can I do for the world? Right? Everyone was struggling to be able to lead remotely again, zooms all day long. And I said, Hey, I've been doing this for eight plus years. I've been building and leading remote companies. Let you share my experience and what I do and what worked and what didn't work and bring on people. And it was just to kinda give that opportunity for upskilling, just some kind of training in some capacity because again, there's very little that that exists out there still to this day for kind of training in that space and so much more within a company that had it. So it's absolutely fantastic to hear that. so when gonna move on, So we kind of spoke, okay. Day one things were in process. So again, the expectation originally right?
Scott - [28:40 - 29:41]
Was covid. Okay. Is it gonna be a couple of weeks? So people go home, okay they work from like their kitchen table, they whatever the setups aren't right? And we'll figure out taxes and things later, but then like month one goes to two and three and four and five and six and there must have been at some point where the team thought, hey this may be like a longer-term thing that we're thinking about. And like what was like, was there at that point like what maybe time point, like what was the inflection of okay we kind of just, again, HubSpot absolutely did a lot better of a job, you know, having more process and pieces in place. But was there kind of a transition of okay, now we really need to go into overdrive, but again, maybe now making sure that people have the stipends and making sure that all these different processes and things set up? Cause we're thinking, okay, this may not be over now as soon as we hear it. So I'd love to hear if they're like, was at some point where you kind of realized, hey, this may be a long-term thing. How do we set ourselves up for working remotely as an entire organization for the long term?
Meaghan - [29:41 - 31:14]
Yeah, I think there were really two points. So one was probably towards midsummer of 2020. and we sort of started talking about it like this is the new normal, right? We heard all the time just around the world, you know when we go back to the office when this is over. And I think we Really Had to embrace the fact that like, no, this is it. It's gonna be the day for a while. Yeah. and so what we encourage folks to do is for anyone who, you know, was maybe hesitant, to fully embrace this model and we're just waiting for it to end <laugh> push folks again with training and with enablement, with documentation. Amazing. Let's Embrace it. Cause we're not gonna change anytime soon. So what do you need to make it work? and we encourage them to really take on those best practices. So little things like updating your Slack status, and your calendar, and we gave them just tips, small things you can do that's gonna make this easier, as we sort of embrace the fact that this is gonna be a little longer than we expected. Yep. And then I think the second pivot point was, you know, as we ended 2020, we went all in on this hybrid model where we introduced instead of a world where we had the office for remote. Yeah. It was an office flex remote. Sure. and so that was where we fully went in on that strategy. We introduced the stipends, we introduced all of the new models of how often you can come into the office and what that looks like, and how often you get to choose. Yeah. And I think that gave folks sort of a new vision around remote work.
Meaghan - [31:14 - 31:39]
You know, everybody does truly do their best work in different places Sure. And sometimes at different times. Absolutely. and so depending on which entity you were in, Covid was going a little bit differently by the end of 2020. Sure. and so it gave us a chance to embrace that from a global strategy and recognize that, you know, things look different in the different countries we operated in. Yeah. And so we had the strategy that could carry over through all those different places.
Scott - [31:39 - 31:57]
That's awesome. so I'd love to hear like as this process was moving along, like what did, what did you learn, cause obviously it was a learning process. what were some of those things that you learned? what were some assumptions that you had early on that worked out and, and ones that didn't, and what were maybe some things that went right and some things that went wrong?
Meaghan - [31:57 - 32:38]
Yeah. Code was definitely, it was a huge learning opportunity for me, I think, you know, Oh yeah. Side, like learning to make sourdough with everyone else. I had a lot of lessons learned, I had a lot of stakes made. and I think that you know, a big one was this assumption that you can sort of create an environment for someone that will enable them to do their best work. There are people for whom working from home, it's just never going to be their ideal situation. You can do it, you can throw money at them, you can throw whatever you want. They wanna be surrounded by their coworkers. They wanna be outside of their Home.
Scott - [32:38 - 32:39]
Meaghan - [32:39 - 33:17]
I think that was really hard for me as someone that chooses to work from home. Sure. Fully embrace. but you know, we heard that from employees. We heard, you know, I wanna be in the office or I wanna be in a coworking space. Yeah. I can't. Yeah. and so that was a big learning for me. I think another thing was just about how you sort of embrace life and work. one particular mistake that I speak to often is I used to talk to people about, you know, your best work-from-home setup is a neutral background. Yeah. You wanna eliminate noises. Eliminate distraction. Yeah. Naturally what that made people feel was, I can't bring my whole self to zoom.
Meaghan - [33:17 - 33:26]
Bring my whole self to work. Yeah. you know, should I worry about my kids entering the screen or my dog barking or the poster I have in the background?
Meaghan - [33:26 - 34:13]
And so I, I had to really take a step back and realize that, you know, my intentions were to have sort of, an easier space for conversation, but that wasn't the impact that I had. And so we, we took a step back with our recruiting team so that all the way up to your interview, you knew that you could show up to that zoom. Sure. And the way that you felt truly represented yourself without worry about kids and posters and whatever's in your background. And so I think that sort of perfect home office or you know, a perfect neutral setup that we see on Pinterest, that's not the way it should be. Not at all. and that was a bit of learning for me too. And I think an important lesson and what it means to truly work from home and have that work-life balance where you feel authentic and you can bring your full self to work.
Scott - [34:13 - 35:29]
No. That, that's, that, that's amazing. It brings me back even in the beginning of the days of Invision. We had probably about, I think two people early on that were absolutely fantastic employees, but they just didn't work out because they couldn't get past that idea of working from home. Like they needed people, they needed noise and they needed action and it just didn't work out. I mean they were great, but they just, and I for years, it's funny, I've gone back and forth for a long time. I said, Okay, the future of work is a combination of remote and co-working. And then I kind of, during the pandemic, when everyone's working from home, I'm like, okay, well obviously work from home and that's the future. Forget having to go anywhere. And like I've kind of enough flip flop back and forth and now I go back in like the camp of yes, there are people who just can't work at home for whatever reason. And I think like the, I'm a big believer in the idea of the third space. I think the central headquarters, that idea is will, will be, will be dead hopefully in a couple of years. but yeah, it's interesting to kind of see that and see experience of, I've argued this point of know getting to know people and how building relationships get in the office, you get to know people better. I said I get to, I know people much better from seeing them on Zoom than I ever did in the office because in the office it's like, "Hey Meaghan, the people ops person, Hey Scott, the support person. That's all I know. But when I see you at home and like, Oh that book, oh I read that one."
Scott - [35:29 - 36:07]
Or the things like whatever crocheting things and I see your kids or you have a cat or like, I get to see you as like the parent and the animal lover and the plant thing and the reader of this. I get to get so much more of a deep sense of who you are. I've had so many of those cases where I'll see, especially like a picture in the background, I had one I think last week where I saw somebody like whitewater rafting. So I used to love whitewater rafting when I was young. And like as soon as I saw that, like just brought up that conversation and you get to pick up something and then build a conversation, potentially a relationship on something that you again would never have known about that person, know to begin with. yeah, it's quite, quite interesting.
Meaghan - [36:07 - 36:08]
Scott - [36:08 - 36:34]
So kind of maybe moving on a little bit. So again, you've had the processes, you've had the procedures. Unlike most companies would love to maybe hear what tools you, and I know you kind of mentioned training a little bit. If there were any like actual courses like a manager would actually go through like a multiple week course or any kind of like something like that that you implemented, you know, to make remote more successful or successful HubSpot and like what are you thinking about in the future?
Meaghan - [36:34 - 38:09]
Yeah, so in terms of training itself, so we have as part of our sort of five Rs plan, um, which was a plan that we came up with last year to combat burnout that was really coming out of the pandemic. one of those pieces was rewarding and that was re-boarding our managers. So we had all these managers who they know how to manage. but what they didn't necessarily know is how to manage in a hybrid environment specifically. Sure. And where we've got some folks who might be co-located and some folks remote. Yeah. so that training has been critical. And then in terms of the tools themselves, I think tools are what really make or break work for you. and for us, I think it really breaks down to three categories, right? There's tools for synchronous communication that's tools for us which would be Zoom, sometimes Slack, It depends on how you use Slack. Sure. for us, asynchronous is also, we use Loom a ton. It's super helpful when we have global teams especially. Sure. obviously, things like Google Suite, and even email, are great tools for us. Yeah. And then tools for collaboration, things like, Smartsheet. Yeah. I would argue all three of those categories absolutely have to be present if you're going to have an effective strategy Yeah. And make all of these things work together. Otherwise, you're gonna be on Zoom all the time which no one wants. Yeah. or you're just writing for hours. Yeah. And what's exhausting too. Yeah. There has to be a balance. and so I think those are the tools that we really lean into. We do give each team the autonomy to say, you know, hey we prefer this tool or whatever works for them.
Meaghan - [38:09 - 38:23]
but we make sure that everybody has training from the day they start on the tools they're going to be using. Because what's more intimidating right? You start, and you don't even know how to open your email. Email. You're gonna find that You're supposed Yep.
Meaghan - [38:24 - 38:30]
So we make sure that everybody is fully trained and comfortable with those tools so that they can just get to work.
Scott - [38:30 - 39:54]
Yeah. One of the things I'd mentioned, or I said a big believer in the idea of com, all these companies that are looking to get people back in the office, right? Even though they saw productivity was like through the roof during the pandemic. And my sense of it was for the last 10-something years, we have used cloud-based collaborative tools even in the office. So we were using no Figma to do designs or sorry, Envisions. You do designs we're using no Google Sheets. We're using some tool even when we're sitting in the same conference room now putting things into Jira and did Charo and then all of a sudden the pandemic hit like you removed the office. Well the tools didn't change so people were able to be as productive cuz they were just using the same tools where the real gap was, was like the relationship was the water cooler moments, was the conversations, was the engagement. Like there were tools really, I mean I'll say haven't been there. there's been definitely ways to kind of hack your way. Like I, I've done for, for many years. especially my time in a vision, but I've always been a believer, Okay, now post-pandemic, that's when all these tools that really we focus on relationship building and culture and engagement will start blossoming them in because okay, we've had all the work tools. Those are, those are, you get bored of those already. Like now we need those pieces. Okay. Now that you're not going to see your colleagues maybe more than once a year. How you build relationships, and how you make those connections. and those I think are super important to be moving forward to one your point, to think to your points.
Scott - [39:54 - 41:06]
So I'm a big believer that the future of remote work is as asynchronous by default, again, as you spoke before, Right? It's based on output instead of presence and all the things like that. To me, totally outdated, remote is moving in that direction where I think even the idea of nine to five and the four-day work week, like lets all kind of going to go by the wayside. But we'd love to hear, cuz again it's mentioned, you mentioned that you have asynchronous tools. So it seems like there is some type of process. There are some things going on at HubSpot now to better prepare for async. we'd love to hear like what, what I guess what work you're doing, what you thinking about, and especially on the side of like the relationship building and the connections between employees. Cuz again, right, everybody knows how to write in a Google doc, right? You can always easy enough to replace that or use Slack potentially in the right way or move to twist or something like that. But especially with async and even more than remote where again, you're not talking so much now all the time. It's much more deep work. Like how are you even thinking about it now? How are we gonna build relationships? Like how are we gonna build those deep kinds of connections within the team when obviously the future more the future of work moves towards more asynchronous by default? Tongue twister here.
Meaghan - [41:06 - 42:31]
Yeah. Yeah. Well I think, you know, to your earlier point, you know, in terms of training people on just how to use asynchronous best practices and the tools there, I think one thing that's been really helpful for us is we have an internal communications guide, that we give to every employee. And you know, it's interesting I think for a lot of us things like Slack, email writing, and Google Sheets as you mentioned, it seems really intuitive. But then you've got someone who, you know, has never been in the tech industry. Yeah. or someone who has their first job off college and they don't know or they don't know the nuances. Yeah. Right. I used to get questions all the interesting, you know, can I use emojis on Slack if I'm talking to my boss? It seems like such a silly question, but it's interesting. It's very interesting not observing the other behaviors Yeah. That you would see in an office. Right. You don't know if it's okay or not. Yeah. And so our internal communications team came out with really just rules of the road, which channels do you use for which types of communication? What are response times looking like? Yeah. What are some of the acronyms that we use? and what is sort of the style of writing that we have here so that folks have some idea of what it looks like, to communicate across the company? So that's been super helpful to us. And then that also has lent itself to building relationships, in an asynchronous or in a virtual environment. So things that have worked well for us, I know a lot of folks use things like donut and shuffle.
Meaghan - [42:31 - 42:55]
we have a HubSpot-built app in our Slack infrastructure that Yeah. Basically just matches people on a cadence that you define a number of people that you define Nice. And so we encourage folks to connect that way and that tool itself can be added to things like our ERG slack rooms. so you can connect based on something you're passionate about. Yep. It can be added to our interest-based black rooms, though I'm in a crochet HubSpot channel.
Meaghan - [42:56 - 44:13]
And I can be matched with other people that that's Crucially important. Crochet. Yeah, exactly. You'd be surprised how many crochet zooms I've been on at this point. but I think what we try to think about is where can we help people find sort of common ground, whether that's by interest, by location. We have a slack map of where everyone's in the world. So Sure. If you're in Nebraska Yeah. You can find the other folks who are in Nebraska and meet up with them. Sure. and we've taken that a step further as well. We have a remote meet-up stipend. So even if you're not in an office or traveling back to an office Yeah. We want folks to find some communication or rather some community locally. Yeah. so we help them find out, you know, who's in your area, Here's some money to grab a coffee with them or That's awesome. Together with them for the day. Watch the company meeting perhaps. And a lot of those efforts I think allowing folks to do the meeting themselves Yeah. But giving them the avenues to find each other and find that common ground has been most successful for us. but honestly, that's, that's a place we're still learning and growing. I'm curious, you know, you've been to so many different remote, places at a place like Envision where it's completely remote. How did you all build community there when there was no, you know, common ground office necessarily to go back to?
Scott - [44:13 - 45:41]
I think similarly to what you said, I mean it really came through Slack itself. You know, creating channels and sub-channels and kind of connecting on specific topics. it came down to leaders, hopefully being good leaders and creating those opportunities, you know, for the team to get together. know, I, I run my two teams now, cloud app asynchronously, all the work portion of stuff like meetin, a team meeting is one on, ones are done asynchronously. And every other week we get together as a team and we play games or we do like a show and tell or something just for the opportunity. It's not about work. It's just get these people together, let them have some FaceTime, let them interact. and it's, it's all about that in again, in remote intentionality. So leaders have to understand, hey, these people aren't seeing each other ever often, however often it is. We need to go build those relations. We need to intentionally create those opportunities. So some of, I think yes, kind of our, our grassroots things like it's Slack or a crocheting channel or a parent channel or a catch channel or something like that. And then again, I think it's no company leaders have to say, Okay, how do we create those intentional opportunities outside of like the whole IRL? and I love that idea. I've heard a couple of companies that use this kind of incentivize employees to go meet or work with each other. And I think it's absolutely a fantastic idea, especially in the sense of like at best, I mean, if you have endless funding, I mean really how often is an IRL? Once a year, twice a year maybe if you do team. And so in most probably people are maybe getting to meet each other two times a year, three times a year. Scott - [45:41 - 47:03]
What do you do in between them? And then those times, so yes, you have all the virtual, but if you have that opportunity where again, you have a person, two people in Nebraska and say, Hey, go meet up somewhere in middle, we will pay for like the transportation cost from one person. The other we'll pay for lunch. And again, it's not paying for a whole company to get together. It's paying Okay. You know, maybe 50 bucks for lunch and some gas or a train ticket from point A to point B. I love that. I love the hearing and all these things that you've been thinking about and doing like the, the right way to be running these things for, for so long. So kind of know, pull it back into something we've obviously spoken about here that HubSpot is a hybrid company. From your perspective, obviously from HubSpot's perspective. Like what is that? What does the future purpose of an office look like? I think again, my point is it actually has nothing to do with work. No. No work really gets done there and get its relief for people to kind of get no get together. But I'd love to hear again, what are you thinking about? Because how many offices do you have? And like I know like the great things I've heard are like Dropbox and Salesforce, like they've gutted their offices, they've totally redesigned 'em to be kind of like, I'll call like hangout places. And this was something I spoke about on like three or four episodes on season one, where the future office will be like a coffee house where you have small tables, you hang out like you have a good time and like the reemergence of the ping pong table, right?
Scott - [47:03 - 47:25]
They always argue, Oh no ping pong table. That's not the culture. I said in the future it's probably going to because if you're gonna have the opportunity to get together and spend time like that once a week that you're coming in or what have you. But we'd love to hear what is HubSpot thinking back of the office, how the office is like you keep the central headquarters and maybe go more micro space. We'd love to kind of hear like what, what you guys are thinking about over there.
Meaghan - [47:25 - 48:53]
Yeah, it's a great question. I think there's so much talk around, you know, the office is either it's in or it's out. I think for us it's like the office isn't, it's not dead, but it's different. Yeah. And so I think that's a big thing for us. One thing we do recognize is that to our earlier conversation, some people do their best work in an office and we're not gonna take that away from those people. Sure. and so what we have had to learn, and this has really been a journey for us, is what do those folks want the office to look like? We think about it if the folks that do their best work in an office surrounded by other people are going to an office and there's no one else there. Yeah. or they're going into an office only to be on Zoom the whole time, they're still not getting what they need. Yep. And so that's been a challenge for us. we have an incredible collaboration team and business infrastructure team. Mm. And they've been really doing a ton of surveys and just meeting rooms with folks, to understand like, what did your day look like in the office? Yeah. What was hard, What did you expect that you didn't see you? Sure. and they've been reworking and experimenting with spaces so that we have more pure collaboration spaces. So like you mentioned sort of those open spaces with couches. Yep. Big meeting rooms. they've also been thinking about four hybrid meetings. If you're going into an office, we don't just want you sitting at your desk at a laptop the whole time. So they're reworking our meeting rooms to make sure that, you know, there's always two screens so you can see remote people.
Meaghan - [48:53 - 49:00]
Yeah. And you can see what's shared on the screen always at the same time. Sure. and then That's interesting. Yeah. It's been really, really Interesting.
Scott - [49:00 - 49:01]
That's, that's an interesting idea.
Meaghan - [49:01 - 49:56]
Yeah. Because of course, you know, you wanna make sure that truly remote people who are zoomed in or dialed in, however, the case is Yeah. are always fully present. Yeah. They should just be a voice. Sure. so that's one thing we believe really strongly. And we're also just thinking about, you know, what is the office going to look like for productivity? So do we need more, smaller meeting rooms where people can go in there to focus? We've got folks who, again, you know, they had the five roommate situation. Kids need a quiet space and that's what they want. so we're reworking a lot of the offices to accommodate those needs and making sure that we're listening to employees and pivoting as needed. And we frankly had to pivot a lot. <laugh>. Yeah. But I think that one thing I really love about that team is that they're open to the fact that they might get it right. They might also need to keep working at it for more. And that's gonna be worth it.
Scott - [49:56 - 51:22]
I think so much about the future of work, it's, I get so excited to think about all the op possibilities and it's gonna take time. Right. Some things are gonna work, some things are not gonna work, some things are gonna work 50% and it's all gonna be like a, a learning experience. And I think to that will come I think to my last question cause I know we're, we're running out of time and I'm a big believer that most remote companies today, what I like to call bucket three companies are simply doing remote wrong, right? They're still stuck in their office-based methodologies, endless sync meetings, and hiring just regionally and so many of these other office-based practices that are obviously not aligned with the future of work. for you who obviously had been doing this pre-pandemic, whose role was to kind of build this remote infrastructure and move forward absolutely. With all the work that you've done, what advice can you give company leaders and individual leaders to help them ensure that they're moving forward in the right way to meet the expectations of the future of work? Right. Because soon, No,, I like to debate this point quite often, right? The idea of remote is a benefit or a perk that's done remotely now where we work. Like the next thing, it's how we work and that's going to be very much focused on like asynchronous. So again, soon we'll be in like the idea of forcing people back to the office is the same thing of synchronous meetings, right? So if you're not offering asynchronous by default or just as good as forcing somebody back to an office, many of these people again, have been stuck in this old way of working.
Scott - [51:22 - 51:33]
So again, as someone who's obviously leading and building with a great organization, what advice can you give leaders of like, Hey, this is what you need to be thinking on this, what you need to be focusing on again as we move forward with the future of work.
Meaghan - [51:33 - 53:04]
Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that you can't, just, as you mentioned, you can't copy and paste your office way of working Yeah. Into a local environment. It will not work. yeah. It's just not gonna scale. It's not gonna work. People aren't gonna be happy. And so I think knowing that start from scratch when it comes to thinking about the hybrid environment and how that's going to scale. Don't think about how are we gonna get a B and C from the office into a remote world. Start over rewrite. Yep. And I think as you're doing that, you have to listen to your employees because one thing that is true, you and I both know this Yeah. When it comes to remote work, everyone's experience is personal. It's, you sure what works for you in the US might not work for your employees for us in Japan. Yeah. Right. So making sure that as you are thinking about that playbook, is it going to scale? Is it going to work globally? Have you listened to your employees and actually iterated on that feedback? Those three things I think are huge. But I would also just challenge everyone to ask themselves, what is the purpose Yes. Of anything, you're implementing. Yep. If you're gonna ask someone to keep their slack green, what's the purpose of that? Right? Yeah. What's the purpose behind it? And if you can't answer that question in a way you're proud of, it's not something you should implement. so it's, it's not an easy answer. I think it's something that takes a lot of work and a lot of iteration, but it is so worth it to be able to provide an environment for employees across the world to do their best work. Meaghan - [53:04 - 53:05]
Scott - [53:05 - 54:01]
I think and then the most important, I think the point that you've made, at least from, my sense, it's listening to your employees. This was what, it's baffled me, baffled me for the last year and a half. Very clear 70-80% of employees expect full flexibility. That's either for them to decide when and where and how they're going to work. Yet you see the apples and the Facebooks. Teslas, you're going back to your office. But it's been clear you've, you've spent millions, especially Google I think to me is most baffling. Cause they've done all these fantastic research projects internally around culture and hr. You've spent millions of dollars gathering feedback around this whole remote thing. And it's been crystal clear. You have a good chunk of people that wanna be fully remote. You have a good chunk that wants, most people want flexibility. So where, where did all that go wrong? And they're like, No, you're going back to your office. Like what the, what was this point of spending all this time your money, getting the feedback to say, we want flexibility. If you then decide, no, we're not gonna give you flexibility.
Meaghan - [54:01 - 54:02]
Scott - [54:02 - 54:49]
Totally baffling to me. but Meaghan, again, thank you so, so much. I, my whole idea, I mean, I never really knew HubSpot of being really kind of a pioneer in, in leading all this. You always hear about the labs and the dos, which I, I've done absolutely fantastic work, but for me even doing this so long, I know I heard a hotspot, it was, it was never kind of in the same realm. But to hear all the work and all the great things that have been implemented, you know, even back since 2019 that you've been working on and all this stuff has been there, it's absolutely fantastic. how can people who are listening get ahold of you, find a find, like get in contact with you, and is there the publicly facing like documents, like all the stuff that you've mentioned that you've been giving to, to leaders and managers? It is some of this publicly facing it is like, how do people get ahold of it? And we certainly wanna put it in the show notes.
Meaghan - [54:49 - 55:15]
Yeah, absolutely. You can find me on LinkedIn. my LinkedIn is MCW 22. and then in terms of our strategy, if you go to hubspot.com/hybrid, you'll see a lot of our hybrid approach there. Awesome. tons of documents linked. You can also search the HubSpot blog for the topic of hybrid. A lot of folks around the company have written about, the way that we train managers best practices, and things we've learned along the way. So there's tons of documentation there as well.
Scott - [55:15 - 55:34]
That's awesome. Awesome. Meaghan, again, thank you so much. It was fantastic to have the conversation. Fantastic to hear all the amazing work that you've done there at HubSpot and all the great things that HubSpot is doing and thinking about doing and really leading the charge for the future work. So greatly appreciate the time and you know, for everyone listening until the next episode, have a great day.