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hybrid remote doesn't mean hybrid engagement w/ Jing herman, co-founder @ 28muses

Hybrid work may be the future, but it's not the future of how you engage your team. How you engage your distributed team and in what mediums will determine whether they feel connected or like second class citizens.

Here's the recap...In today's episode, we chatted with Jing Herman, a Co-founder @ 28Muses and Head of the Future of Work community on Upstream. 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. If you're looking into different ways to build better bonds within your team and give them sometime for fun, this episode is for you.

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FoW community on Upstream



Post-pandemic work will get done everywhere. At home, at the cafe, on the beach, and in some type of office. Companies have understood by now that work can get done outside of the office and it's in their interests to allow people to work where they are most happy and productive. Plus the tools to collaborate virtually (whether sitting next to each other in an office or on opposite sides of the world) have been around for years. What now needs to be figured out is how to build relationships and engagement where employees may not see each other face to face often (or ever). Companies for years have engaged their teams via lunches, beers after work, company outings, and similar. But in the future of work, how will teams recreate these experiences when some of the team is in an office and others aren't.

Everyone needs an equal voice

When creating engagement opportunities and team fun, it's crucial everyone is at a level playing field. Just imagine a hybrid happy hour. 30 employees together in the kitchen having fun, laughing, and having a great time being together. Now picture yourself all alone at home in your dark apartment watching this via Zoom. Enough said.

Now that you're doing all your engagement in one medium now think about how extroverts vs introverts are engaged. In a Zoom, the extroverts are dominating the conversation and whatever you're doing. Probably not the same for the introverts. So how can you ensure introverts are included and have an equal opportunity to engage? Jing shared a great idea in the programs that she does going around the group and asking each and every person 2x to share feedback or something similar. Ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to share and speak to the larger group.

How often do you do team building events?

This is a full question without a single answer. In short, the smaller the group the more often the opportunity. So individual teams should be spending time together having fun weekly. Yes, every week. In theory, that team meeting where you read word by word through a PPT can be replaced by a long-form document. That meeting block can be replaced with this team fun opportunity.

Larger teams and group personas (team leads, new hires, etc) should do this at least monthly. It's more difficult to get an entire vertical together and it's quite costly. As the team grows, most likely companies replace onboarding new hires daily versus as classes monthly/bi-weekly. Having this opportunity to connect with people outside of your core team you work with daily is crucial.

Companies as a whole should be doing this quarterly. This is a great opportunity (based on team location) to bridge virtual events 2-3 of the 4 times a year with the once or twice a year in person.

Enable your team to own the engagement opportunities

Everyone is great at something and has passion for specific things. Giving ownership to all employees helps continually create new and different opportunities, and it helps ensure they are more invested. Thus more engaged in what you're doing. For example, you've been doing Yoga daily for years. You may not be a professional Yogi but you know a thing or two. It's great for you to run a 30-minute yoga session for your team. Explaining different types, positions and what they're good for, etc. You're passionate about it, so you're happy hosting it. It also provides your team an opportunity to learn more about you and build a deeper connection with you. Potentially sparking more conversations and opportunities to connect from that one event.


[00:00:00] Scott: All right, Jing. Thank you so much for joining today. How are you today?

[00:01:14] Jing: I'm great. Thank you, Scott, for having me.

[00:01:17] Scott: Where you, where are you calling in?

[00:01:19] Jing: I am in Florida right now. Miami, Florida by the beach.

[00:01:23] Scott: Very nice. Very nice. Much better than weather up north. Hurricanes and other things. Nor'easters, I've heard that they were having up in the Northeast the last week or so. You're in a good place.

[00:01:35] Jing: A lot of people from New York have moved down the last 18 months.

[00:01:38] Scott: I've definitely heard that the new hotspot of tech and startups is now moving down to Miami.

You read quite a bit about a Mayor Suarez, who's gets on Twitter and welcomes people down. Yeah. When you move down to come, meet me. I'll repost your jobs for you and things like that. So it seems there's a very good infrastructure there to get people to move down. A lot of passion and energy.

Certainly a lot of investors like Keith Rabois and so on and so forth are down there and building a new center of tech.

Awesome. So as mentioned, new format to season two. We're going to start off with a little question that has nothing related to the topic that we're going to speak today.

Just to get some thoughts. There was an article a couple of weeks ago with the decision from Amazon to give the power to decide who works remotely, who doesn't work remote, to team managers. So seemingly the company hierarchy was deciding, "Hey, we're going to stay away from this decision and we're going to put it into the hands of management."

I've seen a lot of people, very pro this. I'm personally quite against it, but I want to get your thoughts on a good thing, a bad thing, somewhere in the middle.

[00:02:49] Jing: Yeah. I think it's a good reasonable decision especially for Amazon. Which is both a e-commerce but a physical business. With like very heavy physical operations. I think it's just hard to say from the very top level which jobs actually required to be in person, and which jobs can be done in person a couple of days a week. And which jobs can be done completely remotely. I think you really need to understand that the very like bottom layer exactly how those jobs, the day to day are performed and only really the managers of that the second layer, the managers of that bottom layer can really know, understand. So to me, I think it makes sense I think tech has been like the early adopter of most technologies and trends. So it makes total sense that in tech has been the most remote friendly. Like I was the CEO of USA of GETT right a few years ago. That was a very physical operational business.

So any operational business it really, I think it's wise for the direct manager to decide, and then for the company to just offer a certain values of life flexibility and work-life balance and wellness and the right perks and benefits to make everything work.

[00:04:10] Scott: Okay. Interesting. Interesting. Maybe I need to move slightly back towards the center. I had taken a very much of it was great to see that their initial decision of doing this horrible 3-2 hybrid backfired. Revolt on hand. People like, you're not getting me back in.

So the y backed away from that forced ok you need to come back into your office, and the company is making that demand. And listening to their employees which, is definitely a great thing. But maybe the piece that I, didn't like, which again, maybe you're somewhat changing my mind to this.

Is, I highly doubt any of these managers were making decisions, led teams remotely, previously. They probably weren't up-skilled during the pandemic. So they are in this role where we're used to office culture. And this is what we know, and this is what we're comfortable. And we didn't get that opportunity to get that experience on how to do remote the right way.

So how positive are they going to be on that when their entire team wants to, or most of their team wants to be remote? Then culturally, what happens if you're on a team that says, yeah, you can work remote full time and I'm on a team that works that 3-2 hybrid model? I want to be on your team.

Like I don't want to be on my team anymore. That sucks for me. It's great for you. If I don't want to come back.

[00:05:26] Jing: Yeah, but in the US, Amazon owns Whole Foods, right? Yeah. So you can't work at Whole Foods remotely, right? Like you have to work your whole foods in person. A lot of people prefer to shop in person.

I have not gone to a grocery store for 18 months, and I'm so thrilled that I'm just even I think I'll never go into a grocery store ever again. But there are actually people that prefer to do grocery shopping in-person. So Amazon it's a huge conglomerate now. So if you own Whole Foods, you can't go a hundred percent remote. I think it really just has to be specific to the job and to the role.

[00:06:04] Scott: Okay. I like it. I like it. I'll start thinking more deeply into that. But kinda know back on track. The way that we always start off the show is maybe telling us a little bit more about yourself. Tell us a little bit more about the origin story of 28Muses.

[00:06:20] Jing: Of course. Yeah. Thanks for the opportunity. So I started my career on Wall St. I started in investment banking. I did Wall Street for eight years in banking and corporate strategy and corporate VC. Then after that, I was at GETT for a few years, which was started as a taxi in Israel. And I launched GETT taxi in New York, going later changed the name to GETT. It was actually it was actually my idea to, to rebrand the whole company to GETT because of the New York, like taxi, TLC, politics. And this whole time while I was on Wall Street, 28Muses has always been a passion project with my best friend from college.

And our mission has always been to just reconnect adults with their imagination and curiosity. And use, wonder, and play to enhance the human experience and build human connection. So we always did interactive, immersive events around New York City. A lot of it on the streets of New York in New York City parks.

And most people described it as magical. Magical was the most common term used to describe our experiences. I had little kids. I lived under a rock for a few years and my co-founder also had kids. And we decided to focus 28Muses full-time. And I think right now we're really meeting the moment and that I think in this a future of work which I, myself really, I really appreciate it.

I really embrace it right. As a mom of young kids, I felt like during the pandemic, I walked through a future work portal. And when you come out of it, I feel like my life is more together. Like I have more flexibility and more choice. I choose to homeschool. I used to work from home on my startup and build this future work community on Upstream.

And somehow I think I have more time to work and I'm less stressed and less overwhelmed than before I entered the future work portal. So to me it's really meaningful. And I think in the future work, the biggest challenge is building human connection. It's not getting the job done. I think like at the very beginning of the pandemic CEOs were worried about are we going to get the job done?

I think people have figured out ways to communicate well enough to get a job done. But now it's the weakness that's being identified across many teams and companies, it's the culture. The sense of feeling like belonging, being heard, being seen. I know that's leading to this great resignation of millions of people quitting their jobs.

So I think we really meet the moment. And we're good at bringing that magical human connection that we always were able to achieve pre pandemic. We really like intentionally test out what works well on Zoom and what doesn't. And some things definitely do much better than others.

And I think figured out a few strong experiences for teams to do virtually via Zoom. To build a human connection and really create that safe, psychological space. That being heard and being seen. And at the same time in one hour on Zoom builds empathy and confidence and communication and collaboration, all of that.

[00:09:40] Scott: A hundred percent. Tell us a little bit more about the actual programs that you do, especially with the pandemic. And the switch from assuming you weren't getting together in the streets or the parks of Manhattan anymore. When the world was locked down. Before we get there, I want to talk on to a point that you spoke about.

For me, this is the essence of hybrid work. The negative feedback that's come around for remote work. It's that, yes, companies are all realized, okay, we can get done work very well remotely. But it's the interactions, the cultural piece. I posted I think something on LinkedIn yesterday day before about it.

That for me, it's the tools had been there for the work side. We think about Basecamp. We think about InVision. We think about Trello. These were cloud-based platforms that allowed teams inside an office sitting in the same exact conference room or sitting next to each other, to be able to work and collaborate in the same space, but doing it via the cloud or doing it virtually. And certainly now when the pandemic hit and people weren't sitting there, the tools were all in place. The digital whiteboards, the project management tools, the chat tools. Like all those pieces that people already been used to all these years, using them, even when the office.

But there weren't the tools out there for the culture piece. For the interaction piece? No, again, you could talk over Zoom and Google meet or what have you, but how do you make those interactions? How do you find people? How do you find the right time? Had you build those relationships? There just hasn't been tools to do that.

And for me, at least that's my thought of why there is this somewhat negative feedback towards remote work and that need for the culture and the offices. The culture is because there just hadn't been tools that are available and people certainly haven't thought about how do we recreate the experience virtually.

So it's very interesting, at that point, I think I'm on the same line. It's now we're at a point, okay, now we need the tools. Now we need the companies. Now we need. Infrastructure to now be able to build those relationships remotely. Build that community and build that engagement. Now, when someone might be in an office and somebody may be not. Anything in between.

[00:11:49] Jing: Yeah. I'm with you. So I came from Wall Street, where culture, I think was very much built on just going out drinking at a bar after work. If you're a trader, you might go to a bar. If you a banker, you might go to the bar like midnight. Going to a bar or going out to a really fancy steak dinner with the team. Or once a year, a really big holiday party and everything is alcohol based. Which makes sense because alcohol is a great bonding agent.

And then I think in tech is shifted to, oh, the culture is because we have such a cool office. Where we have beer and we have ping pong, foosball, and you can take a break whenever you want and hang out and lounge. I think that was the tech culture. And in both cases, it was very much centered around physical space and a bond agent like alcohol. Which there were always talks of oh not everyone drinks, so not everyone can participate.

Oh but the majority of people do drink and can enjoy it. So it's just stick with that. And I think for us, because my co-founder and I were both artists I'm challenging the world to like, just think bigger like alcohol is not the only bonding agents. Alcohol is really a universal, that's why it is a good bonding agent, but what else is? Art is universal music is universal.

Storytelling's universal. Those things are embraced across every country, every culture, every race, every society. So just give you an example. So this book is a camera. It was invented by artists in New York. It pops up to be a real camera. This is basically the technology of 100 years ago. When the camera was invented. You put in a piece of photo paper, you expose the photo paper to sunlight, this tiny little hole, and you can actually develop a real black and white photograph on the spot by dipping the paper in coffee.

A real black and white photograph. So it's just art and science, but it becomes a pique experience. And I would say, I think for me, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what, gives you human connection? What is the spark that builds that connection? That bonds. And I think it's actually a simple formula, but it's not so easy to execute in this remote world.

So to me, the simple formula is just connection. A peak experience doing something memorable together, and then sharing that experience with empathy or debriefing that experience with empathy. Now, if you think about if you just go to a movie theater with friends and you just watched a movie, but then you just say, oh, that was nice. Goodbye. You're probably going to remember the movie, but you don't remember who you saw it with. You just go to dinner and just talk. Ten years later, I'm not sure you remember the contents of that conversation. But if you do something really cool, really amazing, really unique together.

And then afterwards, you go out to eat or drink or you just, you talk about it, you talk about what you experience, why was it so cool. Maybe someone experienced something different than you? Just talking it out. Those two things together experience and then sharing kind of the process of what you went through, that really makes a lasting bond. Like that people always say experiences is more valuable than an object or a gift that you buy.

So for us, every team building or it could be for onboarding a new employee, it could be your monthly, quarterly. It could be at end of year retreat or offsite. Everything has this simple formula of doing something really unique that helps your brain really focus and fall into flow. So unique that you forget to check your slack or your phone or your email actually for a whole hour. And, actually talking it out as a team and facilitating it in such a way that everyone create a specific, safe space so that everyone can speak so that no one person is really dominating.

It allows the people who are normally shy to also speak up and share their experience. That we found is it's simple, but it really takes a lot to actually execute perfectly for everyone to feel seen and feel heard. And feel like this connection to their teams.

[00:16:17] Scott: Interesting. You, hinted on it. Some of the types of events. What have you seen so far, but the companies that you've worked for has been the main or the major use cases? Is it once a month team-building event or a company building? Is it a leadership conference or getting the sales team together for like a kickoff and what have been the use cases of companies that are using it so far have been?

[00:16:41] Jing: Yeah, for a small company 10, 20, 30 people, you might be everyone doing it together. So you might serve as the monthly or quarterly events. A lot of people I've talked to I ask everyone, "Hey, in the last 18 months. What have you done in the pandemic?" What has your Team done? Surprisingly, some people have said nothing. So a lot of people have said zoom zoom, happy hours or a cooking class or a wine tasting, which costs more money. Or playing a trivia either like a free trivia game or like one of these escape the room things you can do .

So those are all good. I would say so back to your use cases for a small team, it's just building that consistency, right? If you only do a once a year. I don't know how much that contributes to culture. I think the word culture by definition, it has to be something that's consistent. For a larger company I think there are just more use cases like maybe for the management team or the board to do it as a small group. We have some events are really meant for an intimate group. And then maybe the for certain teams like the sales team, the marketing team, the finance team, each team can do a quarterly or monthly team building in order to understand each other better. You can then crisscross bring different people from different teams together. We use art and music to break down certain barriers, right? Distance generational. A lot of people, there's a lot of talk of older managers with a Gen-Z new employees how do you break down that barrier?

And even silos, right? Marketing and engineers. And then you have your maybe quarterly or semi-annual retreats or offsite where, you know, in between very intense discussions, it's great to throw in something fun, artistic and relaxing. And then also client engagement. So we have some, clients that use 28Muses for their clients. Either to just build a stronger relationship with clients or do something fun for as a client appreciation.

[00:18:51] Scott: Interesting that the companies that are using it, or are they mostly remote organizations? Are they hybrid organizations? And what is the makeup?

[00:19:00] Jing: I would say both and I've seen pre pandemic, some teams maybe they have multiple offices, so each office would have their in-person outings. Where you're going out or having dinner.

And now I think it's just really efficient and effective to do one virtual event so that people from all different offices can join. And another thing that I think is great to see is that in the future of work, the lines are blurred between like W2 employees, your part-time employees, consultants, outsource programmers, right?

Like they're really critical to your team, but , you may have never met them. They may be in South America or Europe. So I think it's amazing. One thing that's a great outcome is that. You can really bring the whole team together, people that you normally wouldn't see at all, because they're in a different country to do these few events together. Get to know them. Whether it's through something expressive or like storytelling.

You would hear stories from them that you would never hear in a Zoom call, or you might have a zoom happy hour where people are supposed to share personal things.

[00:20:13] Scott: Interesting. It sounds like the answer to my next question is going to be all virtual. But for hybrid companies that have some people on site, some people at home. Whether it's some days a week, all the time. Is there an optimal format for these hybrid companies?

Meaning should you have concurrent events? So you have people in the kitchen having their own, let's say like cooking or wine tasting, for example. You have one type of event that's happening in the office and you have a totally separate one that's happening for remote teams and a virtual one. Or is it you have probably different ones.

So maybe in the office it's something. A wine tasting. But for the virtual one, it's a totally different environment. It's not so much fun to cook or to drink wine by yourself. Or maybe regardless if you have people in the office, out of the office, wherever it is, everything's virtual. So everyone's on the same playing field. Everyone gets the same experience. What are you seeing and what do you believe is the optimal format, especially for hybrid?

[00:21:08] Jing: Yeah. So we're New York based and we can do in person in New York or everyone can do virtual. Most of our clients are still asking for virtual. Meetup for example, for their internal media team, is all about in-person meetups. So they wanted to do an in-person experience. So we did something really cool on the west side, near Chelsea piers. On the water. There were these Willow trees and there are these seats. Like larger rocks inside the Willow trees.

And so we did a suminagashi. It's Japanese ink marbling. Where you marble with with black ink for pectin, and then you can print it on a silk scarf. And combine it with haiku and telling a personal story through the form of haiku. I was in for the participants that was really magical. I would think that it's better for the participants to be there all in person or all virtual so that what they feel and experience is equal.

There has been cases where the participants, the clients are in person, but then but the instructor or the facilitator is actually on a screen. Okay. So hybrid in that sense that the instructor is on electronic and versus everyone is experiencing in person. But yeah, we have not done hybrid events where some people are in person and some people are on the computer.

I think that's that wouldn't be equal. And I think. From what I've seen. Slack's future forum has some great articles. What I've seen is even for meetings, like even if five people are in the office and if five people are virtual, the best practice is for the five people in the office to actually sit separately and all the on Zoom individually.

So that everyone's space is the same size and everyone can speak up . , as opposed to, I think pre pandemic, we've had lots of cases where it's everyone in the office is in the same conference room and they dial in on the big screen. But then everyone looks and everyone on the who's dialing in or who is conferencing in. They're not privy to the conversation that happens before or after.

[00:23:20] Scott: Yeah, that's probably my biggest rant against hybrid. When the whole hybrid idea came out about year and a half ago when they spoke about it across a couple of podcasts episodes last year, how is it possible for a company to engage a team, when some people in an office, some people are not. Like, is it even possible?

Slack in the future forum is talking about in meetings or things like that got to be virtual. That's something that I've been saying. Since, the beginning of the conversation of hybrid. Every bit of engagement has to be done completely virtual. So everyone has the same exact experience. For companies who are maybe not there yet. Or who are maybe again doing these hybrid happy hours where you have 20, 30 people in the kitchen drinking. And yet people sitting alone in their apartments. That was always my case of you sitting there in your dark apartment, watching 20, 30 people, smiling and laughing and having fun.

And you're sitting there all alone and be like, this sucks. Like, why am I even here? Is it even possible. Really to engage a hybrid organization in a hybrid way? In theory again, every hybrid organization has to run completely as a remote first organization. Has to do all their engagement remote only.

[00:24:31] Jing: I think back to that Amazon article, I think it just depends on the industry and the business. Wall Street right now is going through this. I would have thought, like they would require everyone back in the office. Just because of certain technology limitations, like security limitations. That everyone would have to be using the work computers that are like in the office and not on a laptop. And I think even Wall Street is just going through this birthing process of figuring out okay, like one by one like individuals can challenge. Well, I believe I can do my job from home and come into the office only once or twice a week. And I think it really goes back to that. It just depends on the role, and the manager, and the industry. I think right now every company is, still except for the tech companies that easily went bye office! Like we're happy to be remote and lots of companies were remote to begin with pre-pandemic.

I think the devil's in the details, right? If you say back in the office once or twice a week, we'll do you dictate which days? Does the manager dictate the days? Do you let it happen organically? Like everyone just agrees in this team we're going to meet on Mondays or Fridays in the office, but maybe a different team agrees on Tuesdays and Thursday.

So I think people are sorting out. I think that it seems like everyone agrees it's best. Work from home, but then once a week or so if you have an office may as well, use it once a week to gather. And as much as I like to believe that Zoom is just as good as in-person and I do pretty much all my meetings via Zoom. When you see someone and they're 3d, your brain is still receiving that differently.

[00:26:23] Scott: Interesting. When you have a mix of extroverts and introverts, when you're doing your projects how are you working around that? People who are like me, who are jumping through the screen and throwing ingredients or throwing designs or taking pictures of anything and putting it up. Here's my kid. Here's my cat. Then maybe introverts were not like that.

What are you seeing? What are you doing? How can you help? Or what should teams be thinking about when they're trying to do these engagements for that mix of introverts versus.

[00:26:51] Jing: Yeah, wait before we moved to introverts, extroverts I just want to say on the hybrid. Within the future of work community on Upstream, where we have hundreds of founders. There are really interesting companies tackling it different ways. So for example, Cafe Is a software where you can figure out where do you want to work for a particular day. Particular hours. And then you can find your teammates easily. They are like remotion in the community. It's a virtual office where you feel like you're working together.

You have all your colleagues on a desktop. Kettlespace was previously in New York City working with restaurants and hotels as working spaces. They've built a hybrid platform. For example, like all NYU students and teachers, they can now use Kettle to figure out where is their empty space to use as as a temporary a co-working space for that day.

And also build that serendipity of running into people when everyone is hybrid. And I like Think Confluence in the community, they help managers understand how the hybrid team is feeling. Like just within five minutes every week, we poll people and you feel how people are.

Yeah, so I think there are just different ways to tackle hybrid. And this is just the beginning. There's going to be more and more tools to make hybrid work better. Okay. Back to your introvert extrovert. I think it's typical, like within a in-person meeting, right. There are always people that dominate and speak. More than others.

They're always people who are more quiet and they never speak up. We try within our 60, 90 minute experience it's facilitated and we train the facilitators to build a safe space for everyone to speak up more or less equal. There might be certain prompts where we, have everyone go around and I call on people.

People just know that they're expected to speak up and to keep it short. I think there are just ways to facilitate the room. First of all, we always have everyone turn the camera on. I think if certain people don't have the camera on, they're not planning on speaking. Though, just starting with everyone joining and having the camera on and paying attention. To one thing that we've realized is in the very beginning in the opening to have everyone go around the room and speak up. I think for people who are introverted and shy, the longer you stay silent in a meeting, it's really awkward to speak up at the end.

I had that as an analyst when I was super young. In the room, you want to speak, but you're afraid to speak. And then you want to raise your hand, but you don't. And then the longer you wait, they were like, "Oh whatever, nobody even knows I'm here." So I think when we facilitate, we really try to give everyone equal opportunity to speak at least twice in one hour, if not three times.

It's all about asking the question so that it's very clear. And we're looking for a short, concise answer, even giving people prompts how did you feel about this? You can start with What was interesting was got a dot what I found to be the most meaningful data dot and have people just complete the sentence, fill in the blank.

And when you go around the room and you do that quickly, it really builds that sense of being heard and seen and, also the empathy and, having a sneak peek into someone's mind of how they experienced something differently than

[00:30:31] Scott: Interesting. When companies moving forward are going to be doing these events completely virtual how do they still build that team bonding? If you're doing a cooking class you can throw if you're making pasta or something, you throw flour at each other and have fun. Or you're doing those ropes courses you have. You're hanging on each other and you holding each other up and things like that.

But now when you're separate. You're on the screen. You're each doing something in line with everyone else. How do you still build that team bonding? When all these now events for team fund and engagement are virtual and that in-person interaction isn't there.

[00:31:08] Jing: Back to that formula that I spoke about. Breaking down what is the source of that connection?

So to me, it's C equals a peak experience and meaningful moments plus empathetic exchange, like just talking it out with empathy. So I think the same formula applies virtually. Doing something together, whether it's a cooking class or wanting, tasting something, meaningful together, that's memorable, right?

The bigger the wow factored and more memorable it is, then just talking about. Talking about the experience of that's. Why in a wine tasting, I think how you experienced the wine, what you smell, what you taste and, when you hear what other people have to say. Wait a second, we're doing the same thing, but how has this other person experienced it differently? No, we have something called visual music where we'll listen to the same piece of music and you're illustrating what you hear. And then when you hold that up and you're showing you share why you illustrated the music this way or that way, you're like, "Oh my gosh, like we were listening to the same thing, but we heard something completely different."

Or we were looking at the same thing and we saw a totally differently. And that's what builds that I think connection and empathy of having a glimpse into someone else's mind. So for us, it may be different art forms. Maybe a sound bath or visualizing music or pinhole photography or suminagashi or storytelling.

The art form is different. The art form is meant to give you like a rounded, diverse experience if you were to do it monthly. But the formula is doing something together and, debriefing with empathy.

[00:32:48] Scott: Yeah. How, when companies are now thinking of doing these team fun and bonding, what should they be thinking about for number one, how often they do these and, what type of format? Do you do a bigger thing once every quarter? Or do you do small little type things every week? Is there a right formula? Yes, with every company they'll have their own formula, but any kind of general ideas of right type of timings for right types for the certain types of a team funds?

[00:33:19] Jing: Yeah, that's a great question. I think teams like cities is like, it's a complex system. And, I think part of the struggle of startups is like, when you're two founders, when you first have your team of five it's so different when you have 10, you have 20. Like each time you grow, the team dynamic is completely different. And so I think it totally there's no right answer.

I totally depends on the team. I would say. No more frequently than not. Like having something every month. It doesn't have to be a big deal. It could be something small. It could be something that's free. That's team organized but I think doing something once a month and as organization grows doing it in different sizes. If you had a hundred people and you do everything together, it's impossible for a hundred people to really talk on any kind of virtual experience. So I think like it's always great to do some small teams. Of each individual team do it with their frequency. And then have maybe certain events where different teams are getting together or maybe people at the same level. Like all the managers are, all the VPs are all the new hires to come do it in a small group.

And then the whole company can do it maybe once a quarter or even twice a year or something is something that's more conducive like a a sound bath experience. And I always say also depends on the vulnerability that the company is ready for. Like some of our experiences mass vulnerability is like a personal storytelling led by the casting director. But that I think is appropriate in only a small setting and only once in a while, right? Like not every time needs to be highlighting vulnerability. Other times you might want to switch between having that and then something that's like really fun and lighthearted and full of laughter. Where people don't feel like they have to be on the spot. So I think just a good cadence. But also just mixing it up and have a diversity of events and understanding your team and whether they're ready for it., If they're not ready for any kind of vulnerability, then just do events where people don't need to tell a story.

[00:35:44] Scott: Cool. So pulling out of that, I think the last question I have before we get into the rapid fire questions. It's maybe for a smaller startup, smaller teams or those individual teams within the big organization who may not have the budget to be able to do these grander events all the time. Maybe three ideas or three team fun events that people can do for free.

[00:36:10] Jing: I think some of these things that we do if there was a assistant or a team leader, a culture leader who wants to be the facilitator they can do some of these on their own. You talked a lot about cooking, right? You could pay Airbnb for a cooking class, which is only 20 bucks a person. Which is very reasonable. Where you know, you can always just find a recipe and then have everyone do it together. Sometimes when you have to figure things out and you're not told what to do, but figuring things out together is actually a part of the team experience. There are lots of games that I think that can be facilitated. Like someone needs to organize and be the facilitator and MC. I've heard of teams doing like everyone, bring a childhood photo and show the photo and kind of talk about positive personal memories. There are a lot of free games out there. And for like yoga or sound meditation I've heard a lot of people say, "Oh, so-and-so on my team is really passionate about it." And so they lead it for free for my team. So there might be out of the team, one person with a certain like hidden talent or a certain passion that is not known to the team, but that person could totally lead some something or have people take turns leading. I think that could increase engagement. Also you just get to know each person. If someone who maybe one person is a musician and then they they want to online find a free sound meditation, but then guide people through that. Someone else might be into yoga and maybe they can lead a yoga experience or they can just pull up a 30 minute thing on YouTube and do it all together. And then afterwards come back and talk about.

[00:38:03] Scott: I very much liked the idea of putting it into the individual's hands within the team. Someone that's passionate about something. Empowering them. Giving them the ownership to do these events. Not being centralized and not being one person dictating, this is what we're going to do. But putting in the hand of their team saying, "Okay, if you're a yoga instructor, do a yoga session. If you're a musician, do some kind of something with music." I like that idea. It's certainly something that's fun to do for free, but it also gives each individual that ownership and that engagement. That, "Hey, I get to share something that I'm passionate about." And certainly for the rest of the team, they get the opportunity to learn this person likes music or they do a wine tasting. I love wine. Now we can have this whole conversation. We now have this deeper level of a relationship now that I know this about you, that we can have no many more conversations about.

[00:38:47] Jing: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. My friends and I from banking, actually, wine tasting can be expensive, right? So we, actually organized different tastings ourselves where we took turns like one person we'll pick three wines and send it to everyone. There might be a theme like celebrity wines and you taste the wine and guess who the celebrity is. And then the other person might be into scotch and he'll pick three scotch bottles and everyone will buy the same thing.

You know how that person talk about teach a little scotch lesson. That's something that it was really fun because we didn't pay for someone else to come and teach us. We got to get from the mouth of an old friends. And I think that was actually even better. And saved money.

[00:39:29] Scott: Yeah. I love it.

I think that's the most important part. It's really that opportunity of getting to know somebody on a deeper level and more conversations that you can now have. I love that. So for the second part of the new things that we're doing here in the show, I'm going to ask you five rapid fire questions.

Again, answer off the top of your head, whatever it is. You ready? All right. So question number one is who's one remote leader that you look up to and why.

[00:40:00] Jing: One remote leader? I would say so I recently just made Danielle Farage and admin for our future work community. She's 20 some years old, but she's a thought leader and a workplace futurist with like really amazing insights on LinkedIn. She's a Head of Marketing for a Cafe. I think she's just been amazing at articulating a lot of the needs and best practices. And also shouting out like other leaders on LinkedIn who have been amazing future work a futurist. So I just made her an admin for our future work community and just the first person that pops in my mind.

[00:40:44] Scott: I'm recording an episode with her tomorrow. I think most of the other companies that you mentioned earlier, they're all inline some point for the season. Question number two, what's your go-to source for tips, tricks, ideas, and things of how to do remote?

[00:41:01] Jing: We organized our future of work community with a weekly event, every single week on different topics. So for example, later today is future of hiring. Next week is how to build culture with my friend, Jean, who's leading future work at Gap, Inc. So I think there's a lot to unpack. I mentioned the Slack future forum earlier. I think they have some great articles, but otherwise we try to pick a different topic and have a founder or sometimes an investor just like peel back the layers, yeah. I think there are a lot of big buzzwords, but really like the devil's in the details and you really have to like peel back and really dig deep.

[00:41:40] Scott: Awesome question number three, if a company wanted to go all in on remote and asks you what the change should be to embrace remote work and do it the right way. What would that be?

[00:41:52] Jing: I would say, think of all the questions that you don't know the answers to, and maybe create a poll and survey your employees. Ask people what it is that they want. How their life has been the last 18 months. How they imagine structuring their life going forward and how has been working within the team? What are the team needs? What can change? So I think just understanding what the employees want.

[00:42:21] Scott: Excellent. Question number four. What's one thing that many people get wrong about?

[00:42:26] Jing: I would say I'm not sure. I think there are different flavors and I think it's okay to get things wrong. Maybe there is no right and wrong. I think there's just so many flavors of it and it's just whatever works best for your company. Going back to what works best for the employees .Just understand that and then maybe there's no right or wrong.

[00:42:51] Scott: Yeah. So probably somewhat answers the last question. Number five is, is the age of having to go back into an office really over?

[00:43:00] Jing: I don't think it's over maybe because I come from finance and I went into the tech. And New York will always have amazing real estate and there will always be amazing offices. Building asset owners should turn 30% of their space into some form of co-working or flex space. So like Kettle Space and Croissant. Like people still want to go somewhere. Like you don't want to be stuck in your home 24/7 either. Restaurants like lounges, like there will be more and more I think like blurring of the lines of what, is a workspace? I think people will always want to go back to. Like the coffee shop is an entrepreneur's office. So yeah, no, I think it's not completely over, but I just I think more flexible and more adaptable.

[00:43:50] Scott: Yeah. People who want to get in touch with you. Want to learn more about 28Muses. What's the best way?

[00:43:57] Jing: Yeah. So I will love to talk to anyone who's interested in building connection and culture for their remote team. We can also do it in person, New York City, like I said. So just go to We actually offer a free demo. Like a 30 minute short experience for any small team that wants to try. And you can contact me at I'd be happy to chat.

[00:44:21] Scott: Awesome. So I'll put all the contact information in the show notes as well is the link for the Upstream future of work group. Jing, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing the amazing insights on how teams can build engagement and team fun within their remote and hybrid environments.

[00:44:40] Jing: Thank you. Thank you for having me. And tell me about if we have a minute talking about Spontaneousli.

[00:44:45] Scott: Ah, sure. So Spontaneousli came from a pain point that I've had being an extrovert and missing the only part of the office that I actually missed because I hated every other part of it, was the twice a day run to Starbucks. Every hour of getting up to have a schmooze with somebody. And those little micro interactions that happen throughout the day. I very much missed that. They were very much part of my happiness and success in the workplace.

And without a physical workspace, those are opportunities really weren't there. So about a year and half or two years ago now I decided at InVision, how do I try to solve this issue. At least for myself? So I started DM-ing random people in the company on slack every day and Saying, "Hey, I'm Scott, I'm in Israel, you want to jump on a five minute zoom call? And people actually loved it. The opportunity to see a face a voice. To have that engagement more than just text in the box in Slack. And after one or two times doing that, people would start messaging me. "Hey, when are we doing our five minute face time?" And I think this was the biggest thing that I've heard through the pandemic was as we started the conversation missing this interaction piece. We're missing those little micro-interactions. The serendipitous moments in the hallway or the coffee machine. And I said, "Okay, I've got to solve this." So built a Slack plugin that really brings back that serendipity that allows you on an everyday basis.

Team building things like that, doesn't happen once every two weeks. Doesn't happen when the company says, "Okay, this is the time to do it." It's on the individual basis. So you decide, okay, when's a good time to have a coffee and meet somebody new. So you select four time slots when you onboard. We send you a message saying, Jing is now a good time? If it's not, do whatever you're doing. If it is you literally click on one button. We automatically start a video call that it lasts exactly 8 minutes. Because you're not telling your life story. We automatically hang up the call for you. So there's no calendar invites and finding right time and Zoom links and knocking on doors.

We get rid of all that. And it's also very much based on you the individual. So it's not pre-coordinated. If you know what, now I feel like a coffee. Yes, I'm putting out my hand. Or now not maybe later. So then that's about Spontaneousli. The hope is really to recreate the coffee habit that everyone had in the office and now do it virtually. And really give that opportunity for teams to build deeper relationships and connect with people outside of their core team and meet somebody just for a coffee break.

Even at home, I can almost guarantee you're getting up at least once a day, going to your coffee machine, making a coffee, sitting back down your desk. Like, why not take those few minutes while you're sitting and drinking coffee at your desk, just to meet somebody new and have a short conversation with somebody?

[00:47:09] Jing: That's really neat. And I think it's it's really simple, right? You do. I think that's really great. You do one thing. It's very simple. It's easier to understand than you picking the times. And people are just picking if two people pick the same time and they're both available, then you do that match.

[00:47:26] Scott: So it's really, once people have put their hand up, so I may have no 10 o'clock, two o'clock, four o'clock, whatever. And today 10 o'clock works and tomorrow to collect works and the next day four o'clock works. So it's not anything that's pre coordinated. It's when I say yes and you say yes, only at that time, do we pair the two of us together? So again, it's not that organizing things ahead of time. Now we feel like, oh, what happens at the time is no longer good? Our hands are tied. We've already agreed to dedicate our time to each other and now it's not. So how does that work out? So really trying to avoid that situation as well. Just being, Hey, two people are ready now somewhere in the world, wherever they are. Go for it.

[00:48:02] Jing: Yeah. But do you prompt people would have they just forget about it? Is there a prompt or pop-up?

[00:48:07] Scott: Yeah. So we send the message in a fun way saying is now a good time? And if it's not, there's nothing they need to do. And if it's a good time, they literally just hit one button and everything happens then for them. The video call opens, pair with somebody new. We give you two get to know you questions. Give you a countdown to get you ready. And then after eight minutes, we give you a countdown. The call stops. So you don't have to be worried. Oh this is like a 15 minute block or 30 minute block. What happens if the conversation go as well. It doesn't go well? Quick in and out. Just like a conversation at the coffee machine would be very quick in and out, then go on with the rest of your day.

[00:48:39] Jing: And how did you pick eight minutes first?

[00:48:41] Scott: So the research out there says the optimal time for the quick chit-chats, these little micro interactions, is between 7 and 10 minutes. And most meetings now are 60 minute blocks or 30 minute blocks, or maybe even like a 15 minute block. And for me, that's too much time. When I would think of when I was in the office and I went to the coffee machine, or I went to sit at somebody's desk, I wasn't there for 15 minutes. I wasn't there for 30 minutes.

Hi Jing. How are you doing? What's new? Did you see the Game of Thrones? How about the game? The quick brief conversation in and out. Then move on the rest of your day. If you make a great connection and you'd love talking to that person, then jump on Zoom, jump on Google Meet after that and talk until the end of the day. That's really wonderful, but it's those little interactions. Make those connections and do it serendipitously. So you have absolutely no idea who you're going to meet. It's just some random person within the company. Each one of the times it's somebody new. Just like it is when you bump into somebody in the hallway. You have no idea what you're gonna bump into in the hallway, at the coffee machine. So hopefully recreating that experience virtually.

[00:49:37] Jing: Amazing. Wish you the best. Yeah, we'll definitely talk more about it for a future work community. I'll be happy to help you spread the word.

[00:49:44] Scott: Excellent. I appreciate it. Jing, thank you so much for joining and until the next episode, have a wonderful day everybody.

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