Making the move to a hybrid model with Eventbrite's David Hanrahan

What does the future of the hybrid workforce look like?

New World of Work logo alongside David Hanrahan's headshot

Welcome to New World of Work: a podcast exploring the new frontier of the modern workforce. In each episode, we’ll hear from some of the world’s best and brightest people and culture experts on the cutting-edge topics HR professionals are most interested in today, explored through a global lens.

Episode description

As one of the most well-known event management systems in the world, Eventbrite has been dominating the industry for over a decade. But when the pandemic hit, companies around the world were forced to make some fundamental changes to their business operations, and Eventbrite was no exception—one such change was making the transition to a hybrid working model for its hundreds of employees. In this episode of New World of Work, Eventbrite’s Chief Human Resources Officer, David Hanrahan, shares some of the key insights and learnings he took away from making the shift to a hybrid working model. With over 20 years of experience in the people operations field (including a three-year stint at Twitter), David has a wealth of knowledge and insights to share with us about change management, building company culture and what it takes to make a hybrid working model successful.

Episode transcript

Rhys: Welcome to New World of Work: a podcast exploring the new frontier of the modern workforce. 

I’m Rhys Black, Head of Remote at Oyster, a global people operations platform making it easier than ever to build a brilliant team on an international scale.

On New World of Work, we’ll hear from some of the world’s best and brightest people and culture experts on cutting-edge topics that people operations professionals need to hear today, all through a global lens. 

Join us as we navigate this new world of work together and learn more about each other along the way. 

As one of the most well-known event management systems in the world, Eventbrite has been dominating the industry for over a decade.

But when the pandemic hit, companies around the world were forced to make some fundamental changes to their business operations, and Eventbrite was no exception.

One such change was making the transition to a hybrid working model for its hundreds of employees.

Today on New World of Work, we’ll be hearing from Eventbrite’s Chief Human Resources Officer, David Hanrahan. 

With over 20 years of experience in the people operations field (including a three-year stint at Twitter), David has a wealth of knowledge and insights to share with us about change management, building company culture and what it takes to make a hybrid working model successful. 

To kick things off, David shared more about his career and his current role at Eventbrite.

David: I started my career in H.R. and a very different industry. I started in H.R., in the oil and gas industry, working in a really big refinery. And so that's a very different environment than than what I'm used to now, particularly different in that I've been working from home for quite some time now. But you know, it very different people challenges versus these tech companies I've been in. But so I started my career in H.R. in really big oil and gas manufacturing, and I worked briefly in a movie studio environment. But I really had most of my career spent in leadership roles in tech companies. So yeah, being a really big one. But then, you know, Twitter, Zendesk and then Eventbrite, just to name a few where I'm currently at.

It's been a company I've always been a fan of. Julia Hart is the CEO and co-founder. She's really built a company culture that's been very notable and prominent over the years in terms of just being a, you know, employer of choice. She's one of the very first tech companies to come out with a generous and equal parental leave policy. So our parental leave policy is 18 weeks for all parents. This is something I cared about, you know, years ago and seeing Eventbrite come out with that before a lot of other companies did was it was pretty noteworthy. I'm a new parent and I was attracted to that idea of parental inclusion. And so also the live events is, you know, something I can wrap my head around a tenant to join companies where the product is something I'm either I use on passionate about or I can like, really wrap my hands around it and see, you know, kind of the positive impact it's going to have.

So just about 700 employees today. We're located around the globe, but we have big clusters in San Francisco, in Nashville. I'm based in Austin. We've now got about 50 employees here. But when I first got here, just a couple, we've also got employees in South America, Europe and Australia. So in South America, we have employees in Mendoza, Argentina, then Europe. We have clusters in Madrid, Cork, London and then Melbourne, Australia. Another another big cluster.

In the past, like a lot of startups, we got a bit enamored with shiny objects, so we would have new ideas and new sort of innovations and sort of teams spun up to chase new opportunities. And that resulted in a lot of activity, but not enough focused impact. So this is something that we've we've tried to get better at, particularly in the pandemic, so we emerge stronger from pandemic by becoming more focused. We actually just launched new values in the company, replacing some values that had been, you know, kind of dated pre-pandemic values. And one of those values is about driving impact. So, you know, the idea of there is a lot of opportunities, but you have to hone your focus strategies, not only what you're choosing to do, but what you're not doing. And so being more explicit about that, I think, helps create more clarity. But again, that's at the core of the culture is is one that is compassionate in our bones and building these muscles around those bones of high performance and learning.

Rhys: The pandemic forced most companies to pivot in more ways than one, and Eventbrite was certainly no exception. Despite the changes the company has undergone over the last year and a half, one quality has remained the same throughout: compassion.

As an events company, Eventbrite was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. David walked us through the experience of the pandemic from his perspective at the company, and how they pivoted to accommodate the new world of work without sacrificing the company’s core values.

David: I mean, it was it was brutal, right? I think he'll live events. I joined, I joined before the pandemic and I thought of, you know, the industry from a white man's perspective of going to live events. That's that was kind of what the association was for the defense industry. Suddenly that that's on hibernation, right? Restrictions all around the globe, you know, every municipality you can think of suddenly puts a limits on gathering. And so that that realization early on, it was like March and April 2020. We just realized that the live events industry was going to be, you know, in some sort of hibernation for the foreseeable future. I've never been part of something like that where a cloud that dark had, you know, suddenly emerged over a company never been part of that. Something like that. You know, my career pretty quickly. We reset the company, so we reset the business model. We reset the structure. Very painful, but smart moves early on in the pandemic. So just one example and how we reset the business model. We moved from being a very high touch account management focused company to a more self-serve business model, basically. You know, if we can build technology is so intuitive to use any creator bitter, big or small can use it. Any consumer can have a get through it. If we can do that will emerge stronger. And so that became, you know, a challenge to remake the DNA of the company become, you know, more of a tech focused company, builds really innovative technology features, you know, in the product tech as a population in a company. So engineers and product managers, that was only 30 percent of the company pre-pandemic this year. We're going to end. More than half of the company is in some sort of tech role. So, you know, that's, you know, at the core is about rebuilding the company from the studs. Morale during all of that in the summer of 2020 was like at an absolute low point, and you could see that in our engagement scores. But then slowly but surely, we started to, you know, like hit beats. We started to hit beats on like, Hey, we're going to launch a three year strategy employees and say, I've heard that before, you know, we've changed our strategy so much. Or, you know, proof of the proof is in the pudding. We'll wait and see. We launched our three year strategy at the end of the summer of 2020, then entered the first year of that. We continued talking about it. We hired really great new leaders like our CTO who's based here and also a thing. And then slowly but surely, things started changing. The business started doing well, but then we actually started doing what we said we were going to do. You know, we focused and we actually showed employees, Hey, here's what we're doing as part of this three year strategy, and we're actually executing on it. And so the proof is really interesting. Our engagement score today, the 20 point turnaround versus that dark summer of 2020, and it's even higher now. Our engagement is even higher than right before the pandemic. So there is a big turnaround going on there, which I think is really exciting.

I think the history is really interesting, right? Because Eventbrite was a company that was very much in office culture before the pandemic, only three percent of our workforce work remotely. And so that was, you know, the first move was really going to full remote. That was painful in itself. It was like, I remember, you know, naively wondering back in that sort of late spring 2020, OK, when is when is this going to be? What is this going to be over? We're going to be back in the office, right? And I think then that summer we realized, Okay, this this is we're in we're in a sort of, you know, remote setting now for a while. But let's start thinking about what is this going to be when we come out of it? So it was towards the late summer 2020 when we were going through a lot of conversations internally about specifically, were employees going to be allowed to have a choice after the pandemic after restrictions lift and we can suddenly start to go back to the offices? Is that going to be employees choice or are we going to say, Hey, everyone back, you know, or like some companies do, they say, well, you have to apply to continue working remotely or only certain roles can work remotely. And so, you know, credit, Julia are CEO in these conversations. When we were debating, Hey, you know, the expectation is everyone's back or some some hybrid version of that meaning like some people get to stay, you know, working from home. Some people don't accredit Julia for saying, You know, let's let's make this bold choice now. This is late summer 2020. We're going to let everyone work from home and there's no manager. Can, you know, sort of say no or yes to that? It's a personal choice to work from home, everyone in the company. And so that was late summer 2020, when that was a sort of like first big pin in our future hybrid model was that it was choice. It was going to be choice was going to rain. And you know, there's a lot of lot of anxiety about that, about that decision because that was going to be, you know, basically, you know, putting a pin in for the most part, you know, a big part of our hybrid model of the future.

Rhys: Some have said the hybrid working model is the way of the future, and Eventbrite had the foresight to put the model into place early on. 

But what exactly is a hybrid working model? It looks slightly different for every company, but David explained how Eventbrite adopted this approach over time, and whether they plan to  keep physical office space moving forward.

David: Well, the idea of a hybrid model where we're working in a different way, a much more flexible people are choosing to come in or not more asynchronous. So so that type of hybrid model, as opposed to a traditional model of everyone's in the office. It didn't really, you know, take form until we actually started to experiment with some office reopening. So our Melbourne office was actually the first office to reopen. And that was, you know, probably a couple of quarters ago, Australia at that time had been doing a really good job of having a low, low transmission of COVID in the community. So they were able to to reopen their office because they had such low, low local transmission. And so our Melbourne office was the first experiment of how is this going to go and then what are we going to learn from it? I think a big part of, you know, the our hybrid model is it's really learning, learning from other companies and learning internally what's working and what's not working. So what we found early on in Melbourne, which I think is remain true in our other offices that have reopened like Nashville and L.A., what we've found is that with personal choice, you're going to have just a very, you know, a small fraction of your local community, right? The Melbourne Eventbrite community, you're going to have a fraction of them that are coming in regularly. For us, at least, that's what we found was about 20 or 30 percent. And then you've got another, you know, third of the other local community that is kind of coming and going. Hard to predict. You know, who's going to be there. It's very sort of, you know, kind of just, you know, kind of random luck, you know, who's choosing to come in and who's not? And so, you know, early on that we kind of felt it felt kind of like a bummer, I think for some of the employees who were there and expected, you know, a vibrant, you know, vibe like we were turning to what it used to be because we were in an office culture. And so you had to start reorienting towards is that, you know, the office is not where work happens. Offices as a tool, you know, where work is happening is, you know, in your laptops and on calls with your colleagues. And so and things like adding food or doing things in the office wasn't wasn't changing out. It wasn't changing like the vibe in the office. It wasn't changing, you know, like a more people coming in or anything like that, nor did we really in trying to get people to come in. So this started gave rise to us internally for the collaboration dock from our group right team, which is our L.A. team around hybrid work. And what are we seeing in our current experiment in Melbourne? What are other companies seeing? And we started having conversations with leaders. We had hybrid leadership workshop, hybrid working leadership workshops internally. And then this for us eventually culminated into a hybrid work model. My VP of people, Tanya, created an approach called making hybrid work. Work at the core of it was starting to rethink work and particular hybrid work as a multi-dimensional view. And so instead of it all coming down to where you're working, there's also the why there's the how there's the when and then under each of these, you know, practices, old practices, we used to have a new practices that we're going to iterate on. And amidst all of this is a constant flow of communication dialog with the teams like Melbourne, dialog with leaders who are starting to, you know, be on the ground in these new office reopenings in Nashville and Los Angeles and seeing in the survey data what are practices that are working order practices that are not working?

For the most part, our offices have not fully reopened around the globe. Some of them, some of them open, some of them went back on lockdown. Some of them are opened. But the restrictions in the local community are so tough that people are just choosing not to come in. But we're actually prepping to open a couple, another a couple of more offices. Now we have another wave of offices that are going to reopen. And so what has happened to the offices? I think in general, like you want to map your your your footprint to what the what the employee activity is going to be. So when we ask them, we ask employees, you know, what's your what is your working preference going to be? Are you going to we call it humbling, flexing and remodeling. So are you planning to be in the office, you know, four to five days per week? That will be a humbling. That would be someone who then says, I'm going to, you know, I'm going to need an assigned seat because I'm going to be in there predictably, you know, every day, except when I'm no vacation. And then the flexing is actually a bigger proportion of the workforce, right? So humbling as a small proportion, maybe 20 percent flexing is, you know, maybe maybe upwards of 50 percent. So a majority of any community where we have an office is saying we'll see. They'll come in a couple of days here and there. And but you know, it's it's going to be hard for you to know when I'm going to be in there that that is a big challenge to creating a footprint that works. But it gives you some idea as to what do we need to account for? What can what could be, you know, on on a given day or in a given week? What could be the number of employees that we have there that then says, well, you maybe need more satellite seats than the sciences, you're going to need more conference rooms, more and more and more huddle rooms, rather, given that we're actually now going to be used to all dialing in. And then you have a poor portion of your community saying like, I don't really plan to ever come in, and that's maybe 20 or 30 percent. So so that data has really helped inform for us adjustments to the size. But in general, that looks like, you know, shrinking your office footprint. But what could happen, and I'm not I'm not for certain on this yet, but what could happen as we're seeing employees move and we've had a lot more people move, so move from on, give an example, move from California to Texas, like I do moving to different communities now where, hey, because I'm allowed to work remotely, I can I can go work and live in Montana. I've always dreamed of doing that. So I'm going to go there, I'm going to go to Bozeman and we have one person that's in Bozeman and then maybe two people and then maybe soon we get 15 people. So what could happen that is, instead of these big glass towers that you accumulate, you know, over the years in like a couple of big locations, meaning I have big clusters in just a few locations, you know, have like smaller clusters, but in in more locations, you're more spread out with these clusters.

Rhys: As companies like Eventbrite transition into new ways of working, where does the role of the people operations team fit into the jigsaw puzzle? 

According to David, it’s up to the people team to provide Leadership with insights into what’s working and what’s not, and facilitate an ongoing dialogue to ensure continuous improvement.

David: I think of it as less of author, right? So less of the people team as authoring. Here's how we're going to work and more of a facilitator and you know, the holder of the mirror, right? I'm not going to paint your picture, but I'm going to hold the mirror up and I'm going to show in the data what is working for people, what is not working and facilitate leaders and employees getting together to start iterating on new practices as as one example. You know, we found very quickly early on, you know, if we have, you know, people in the office and they're in a conference room and they're dialing into the conference room and there's one dial into the conference room and there's five people in there. But the majority of the team is on a Zoom call. The five people that are in that room are having inside conversations and there's crosstalk and there's chatter. And it really quickly shows you how exclusive that is. It really quickly shows you how, you know, resuming that sort of activity of the idea of like where one person is going to dial into the conference room TV, it actually doesn't work anymore. So we have to have everyone's dialing in, even if you're all five or in the conference room. Now we're all dialing in to have a more equal experience. So so that like the role of H.R. was facilitate that dialog. So showing the data what early on is is not working, facilitate a dialog around a practice that we then we put in to a collaboration doc, not as an author, but as a collaborator. And I think that sort of spirit of collaboration is one of the things that we try to do to make it a collaborative experience as opposed to, you know, it's kind of coming from a sort of top-down view of how we're going to work.

I think some of the toughest decisions are around physical space and offices, and what are we going to what are we going to return to? And so I do think there's tough decisions for us, a lot of them had to have had to do with the office because we were in office culture. The idea of, you know, shrinking office footprints is like, it's kind of this kind of emotional like, you know, are we admitting defeat, right? Like, we're we're going to shrink our office footprint and not go back to, you know, the big, you know, sort of, you know, kind of like glass tower. We're going to have a cool office. It's going to have to be a different, you know, shape and size and feel. But I think early on that if that felt as though like, you know, we're scaling back certain office, you know, investments that felt to some people that like, Oh, this is this is it's not going to be fun. It's not going to like, this is, you know, if you're choosing to be in the office, it's not going to be good. But at that, I don't think that's that's actually panned out to be true, but that felt like an emotional decision early on. So I think some of the office stuff, you know, not another one is like that. We're sort of sorting through right now is like food, you know? And you know, a lot of tech companies are traditionally have had like, you know, catered meals in the office. And that's part of, you know, for writer for wrong, that is part of the sort of like the value proposition I'm going to come in because there's like great food here, otherwise like we bought it. And I think, you know, the idea of like using using that to, you know, to kind of like entice people to come in is kind of the wrong way of looking at it. And so some of those types of decisions early on felt like they were going to be, you know, hard or they felt like they were going to be things that were going to like, you know, maybe like, you know, sink, the in-office culture hasn't actually been Trudeau made a personal choice model. So in any case, this felt like tough decisions. But in hindsight, you know, as we've gotten further along, they haven't been that tough.

Rhys: Transitioning to a hybrid working model has its benefits and challenges, particularly when it comes to team bonding. But surely an events-based company must have a leg up when it comes to tackling internal events and retreats, right? 

David explained how the company's approach to internal events has changed since the pandemic, and how they've taken a virtual approach to team bonding.

David: Well, pre pre pandemic, we had a production sort of approach to all our all hands, so we would have, you know, dry runs and like, actually produce it like like an experience like like a ticketed experience of purchasing a ticket to go to this all hands it better. Be good, you know, with with, you know, music and DJ and sort of like, you know, everything you can, you can imagine a live experience. Maybe there's drinks, if it's like late in the day, what have you? And that's, you know, we're not really going back to that. So can you still have a production? Can you have a, you know, a high quality production of something that's going to be 100 percent virtual even for people in the office, right? Like when we have all hands in our San Francisco office reopens, it's still going to be virtual. And so but you can still produce that. What we saw in the pandemic was that online events obviously skyrocketed and a lot of them were incredibly well done. So the creative, the creativity from our creators really informed for us how to actually put on really good virtual online events. And so, you know, that involves things like making sure that technology is right, that we have interactivity, that there's there's actually interaction that you can have in the all hands. And we've been doing so many of these. We do hearts to hearts, which is our CEO just spends 30 minutes each week with all employees answering questions, bringing in special guests, doing Q&A as we've been doing so many of them. I think that it's really helped us for the day when it comes when we're actually truly in hybrid, all our offices are open and we're doing all hands again. A lot of that learning has come from from the creators themselves.

There's a twist to that, though. I mean, let me add the twist is that in the pandemic, the Microsoft released a report, I think last spring that showed, you know, we're all we're all in about two and a half times more meetings now on average than before the pandemic. And so you just get this gave rise to Zoom fatigue and top, you know, articles about that. And so we're in we're in more meetings and they're tending to run longer and people are doing more of their digital communication after hours at night and on the weekends, which gives rise to burnout. And so, you know, one thing that is kind of counterintuitive is, well, I don't know if it's counterintuitive, but like, how do we actually now have fun? We should have a Zoom happy hour and we realize people actually don't want to do that. They don't want to have one more Zoom meeting when they've already been on Zoom meetings all day. So I think about having high quality virtual meetings is actually about having less of them. So try and condense your time for like, Hey, we're going to do these all hands hearts to hearts like team meetings, try and condense it and then give more flow time. So actually uninterrupted time for people to do heads down work, go outside. Maybe where the Wi-Fi isn't as good, take a walk. You know, we've actually just looked at our meeting activity data and we did a survey. We ship some best practice meetings, but at the core is about having less of them and then tracking tracking our meeting activity. I think this is going to be a new thing. In fact, Google just released something that everyone on the Google Enterprise can look at their meeting activity week over week. We're going to start to see more of those things. The startups like Clockwise, which allows you to kind of like reclaim your time and sort of schedule your time better with using A.I.. And so that's that's the trick is, you know, how high quality virtual meetings but don't have more of them actually have less of and less of them that are more impactful?

The flexibility for employees is to get together is we leave that to employees if they want to have, you know, a happy hour at a location. You know, we're saying if you're interacting with each other, you got to be vaccinated. We have a whole process in place, you know, to show proof of vaccination. And so coming into an office or interacting with each other, you got to be vaccinated, you know? And but where where it's a little bit more top, as is from a data point of view, like, hey, suddenly we have 15 people in this location that feels like the right time now to have at least a we work. And so that's more facilities driven. Our facilities team sees those data sets and says, Hey, this is this is time. Is there a leader in that location I can work with to to do some tours of office space like I'm here in Austin and like, I'll I'll do some tours and we'll figure out like where all those 15 people live and like, would this actually be useful? Would they come in? So then we ask them, Hey, if we got an office, would you come in? Sometimes you might have a scenario like where we got 15 people and not a single one of them want to want to work in an office. Okay. Well, don't don't purchase any, you know, even temporary office space, if not a single one of them wants to come in. But increasingly, we're seeing people want to do that, particularly as restrictions lift, as safety start to become more prevalent in communities. People that are next to each other. Do you want to find ways to to interact even if they're not even in the same teams? And I think that's a little bit stemming from the social isolation everyone's been grappling with. And I just Layton and we believe it as a as a company bringing the world back to the live experiences working with each other can be a live experience, working and interacting with each other. And that's that's one way that we think about powering that is that live experience is kind of in our DNA.

Rhys: Another question that often comes up in the remote work debate is the extent to which employees should be monitored, if at all, and how data comes into play when a company is managing a remote or hybrid workforce. Here’s what David had to say.

David: I think data data came up in this, you know, meeting activity discussion, some of the startups I've seen actually want to sort of have a dashboard for leaders around where people are spending their time and that can feel like, wow, I'm being, I'm being monitored, you know? And how do you do that? But embed empower the data in a way where it actually like helps employees reclaim their time and their life. Right? So the data is in your hands, not just some, you know, kind of wizard behind the curtain data that I have that, you know, I'm monitoring you, but only I can see it. So the way that the Google Enterprise does that, that you can actually see it yourself is this shows you the data. And I think if I get to see the data, whether it's compensation data or whether it's my meeting activity data, if I get to see it, I'm going to trust a little bit more. And this brings me back to like how was how was my union environment at an oil industry any relevant to like, you know, today? Same concept, you know, employees in a union they cater to here telling me this is going to be, you know, sort of financially burdensome to accept these new agreements. Show me that data. So the idea of showing the data, if you're going to be monitoring something, whether it's engagement data or, you know, and we show we let all our employees see the engagement data from our culture and results, everyone has access to the engagement data. So I think that's probably going to be core to how we navigate the future because I do think that meeting activity is really interesting data. I think we're going to need to start seeing more of that and more real time, more real time pulse and sentiment, you know, instead of just doing things like once or twice a year. And if employees have value in it, then I will do your survey, you know, or I will allow myself to be opted into this thing if it's valuable for me. And so that I think that value has to be mutual to navigate those, you know, kind of, you know, pretty sensitive questions on privacy and Big Brother and all that.

I think you want to start in a high trust environment. You want to start with guidelines, right? And treat people like adults as opposed to you have firm and fast rules. And so I think to counteract the idea of, you know, suddenly, you know, clicks or, you know, like sort of exclusive groups that are meeting sort of wield power and they're actually in the office and like, Hey, now I need to do that because all these leaders are in this office. I think that one one mode out of that for companies that embrace hybrid work is probably, you know, leaning on asynchronous work as opposed to we got to get in a meeting together. That's that's why I've been so nervous about meetings is because I think the more that we like, we have meetings pervade how we work now, the the more that you are going to run afoul of those suddenly, those exclusive groups, you know, sort of like causing, you know, causing damage internally. I think if we can get used to wow, we actually only meet for a couple of hours each day and then the company cultivates those meeting zones and then everything else is up to up to us the majority of my week. If the majority of my week is asynchronous work, then the minority of my week. These meetings won't have as much of an impact than if my M.O. during that week is I'm in Zoom calls, and so asynchronous work also helps. Maybe if you're starting to hire and mute new time zones, you weren't even in before. So hey, suddenly we're opening up an office and you know, it's, you know, in Asia or opening up an office in Russia or something like that, that's a new time zone. You create more stream for those for those groups who have to suddenly say, Hey, we have to figure out how we get everyone on the same call and all hands are going to be, you know, hard to to sort of like have not be exclusive because they always happen on San Francisco Pacific Time and these other groups, they never get to dial into those. So the less, the less that you have meetings and availability for meetings, you know, like really rein over how you operate your company, the less that you do that, hopefully, the less that you have some cultural challenges. So anyway, that's just one thought.

Rhys: Looking ahead, David shared his perspective on the future of the hybrid workplace, and where he believes the workforce is headed. He also shared more about what’s next for Eventbrite, and what they’re focusing on as a company right now. 

David: That's a big question, and my my gut reaction is, you know, this is this is a future for a certain type of company. You know, a retail manufacturing thing, things like like, we actually need to iterate on even height in like manufacturing tech. So there's software tech, but then there's hardware, you know, iterating together as a team on some product that is going to, you know, be in people's hands. I just don't see it as a sort of unilateral. This is the best thing for all companies out there. I think it's going to be a tool for a certain type of company. But even for a certain type of company, it will come with risks. So I don't think it's the future of work, insomuch as some of the conversations around this are are more of the future of work trust, empowerment, employee choice versus top down decision making. Some of the things that are being talked about in the periphery of this are probably more of the future of work, a changing view of how the next generation entering the workforce want to work and how they want their companies to treat them. And, you know, choice as a general concept, more choice in how I get to do my work versus, you know, the nine to five, 40, 40 hours per week, which was a legacy of like the Ford Motor plant, like a 1920 or something like that. I think, you know, the 40 hour workweek will probably change or we probably won't be spending majority of our our, you know, adult lives, you know, doing a nine to five Monday through Friday type of thing. I think that's going to change again, in part because of some of these conversations that aren't happening in the pandemic around how do you how is the best way for me to work? How is the best way for cultures to work things like trust, empowerment, choice, you know, giving rise to hybrid as one model for a certain type of company? But I don't think Shell Oil refinery is going to adopt hybrid working anytime soon would be my prediction. So, you know, and for tech companies that do adopt it, there's always this looming specter of companies in the past and tech that adopted it. And then then when Dan did away with it, Yahoo famously had a pretty flexible working from home approach. You know, whatever it was a decade ago. And then they said, this is this is causing problems for the culture. We're doing away with that. And they were not the only one. There was other, you know, high tech knowledge, knowledge worker, you know, companies that had a similar approach in a similar end result. They did away with their, you know, we'll call it hybrid working or flexible working because of problems that they proceeded to have. So I think even companies that do adopt it, there's still a risk of how, like, how you make this work and you can't just sort of set it and forget it. You can't just say, OK, this is now we're going to just, you know, do this and we'll be fine. You're going to have to spend time on it iterating it like like going to the gym, like you're going to have to be exercising muscles to make it work for you. So it will not be without its own risks.

We just launched new values, and I think there's a sort of a virtue of our culture that we're working on now that we've got high engagement. I mentioned that at the top of the hour, how do we move from a company that has always had compassion in its core to now becoming high performance? How do you become a both compassionate and high performance company? Those two things might feel like, well, you got to choose one or the other because high performing companies are probably brutal. They're probably tough. They're probably sort of like, you know, sort of like, you got a, you know, sort of meet a bar or else you're out. That's a that's a, you know, maybe one meme of a high performing company and then compassionate companies maybe have a meme of like, well, compassionate companies. Those are great, but they don't they don't produce results. They don't they never have tough conversations because they're compassionate at their core. So I think for us, a really interesting challenge we're trying to embrace is be compassionate at our core and become high-performing. How do you do that in a very human way, but also like shows in the results like, wow, we're actually executing and and doing well because we're doing well in service of our creators or consumers. So I think that's next for us in reshaping everything from how we hire it to how we have feedback conversations, how we train our leaders. So that's what's next. You know, amidst the backdrop of white offices reopening and hybrid working, you know, sort of really, truly unfolding, you know, in parallel.

Rhys: David shared some great insights into the future of the hybrid workforce and how to continue building a strong company culture virtually.

Here are a few key takeaways that really stood out to me from the information David shared:

  • The role of people ops professionals during a major transition like the shift to a hybrid workforce is holding the mirror up to the organization, and facilitating the conversations that inform change. In other words, it’s about uncovering the data and insights that lead the way towards improvement, while leaving the final decisions up to leadership. 
  • Experimentation is key. Eventbrite didn’t go to sleep one night and wake up the next day as a fully functioning hybrid workforce. David explained that plenty of experimentation, communication and trial and error was involved in the process, and maintaining an open dialogue throughout was crucial to improving the model consistently.
  • Never compromise on core values. A common thread throughout our discussion was Eventbrite’s strong identification as a compassionate company. No matter what’s going on externally or however many major transitions the company is enduring, maintaining strong core values like compassion, kindness and innovation is essential.

Rhys: Thank you for listening to New World of Work, the podcast exploring the new frontier of the modern workforce through an international lens. We hope this episode served to expand your horizons and open your mind to a new perspective.

Be sure to subscribe, rate and review the podcast so we can reach more listeners.

I’m your host, Rhys Black. See you next time.

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About Oyster

Oyster is a distributed HR platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches or the expense.

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