There’s no getting around it: Workplaces across the country have been profoundly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Where we work, how we work, and when we work have all been shaken up for many firms, with some companies — including big names like SAP, 3M, Twitter, and Spotify — making permanent changes like going officially remote-first or office-optional.
You can count Lattice among them. Accelerated in part by the shutdown, we’ve spent the past two years transforming Lattice into a values-led, remote-first, hybrid workplace, a process that’s had a significant impact on company growth, hiring, and employee development.
But creating a strong work culture that accommodates both employees in shared office spaces and remote workers and allows the flexibility and fulfillment for both to thrive is no easy feat. Here’s how we’ve been building a thriving hybrid workplace at Lattice — and what comes next.
The groundwork for Lattice’s hybrid workplace was laid during the pandemic, when, like many organizations, we found ourselves shifting almost all of our employees to remote work. In 2021, we intended to start bringing people back to the office throughout the spring and summer, with an all-in return date in October. But by that spring, the company realized that a full return wasn’t going to happen, recounted Maurice Bell, Head of People Operations at Lattice.
With the surging Delta and then Omicron variants hitting in waves, employee pulse surveys revealed widespread safety and logistics concerns among staff. And while Lattice had reset March 2022 as the new return-to-office date, Bell said that by the end of 2021, the company was reevaluating.
“We knew there was no magic switch,” said Bell, that would have eliminated COVID concerns or changed employee thinking by March.
Conversations with different Lattice teams about how they used and would use the office and how important sharing physical space was gave HR more data to work with, and by January of 2022, Bell said it was clear that Lattice had “settled into a rhythm and a flow in how we were already working.” And after adding more than 250 employees (or Latticians, as we call them) in 2021 — many of whom didn’t live anywhere near the central office spaces — it seemed clear that the company had turned a corner.
“People had already talked through who’s there, who’s not, and the hows of working, and we had that moment where we realized, ‘We’re already living a remote-first hybrid experience,’” Bell said.
There is no expectation of being in an office on a fixed day; because we are moving to be remote-first, we will not be setting a company-wide “return date.” For most roles, Latticians will have the option to be either remote or connected to an office, and we’ll support either based on preference…
For us, remote-first hybrid means that most roles will have the flexibility to be remote or office-based and most teams will not have any regular expectation that they must be in the office. It also means that for company or broad department programs and norms, we will optimize for a world in which most people are virtual (whether remote or working from home that day).
Supporting Workers at Home
To make sure employees working at home feel just as valued as workers in offices, Bell said Lattice HR and leadership have been reevaluating certain benefits and perks. For starters, a universal workplace amenity stipend of $200 a month goes directly into employee paychecks for people to use however they please — to buy snacks, get a massage, rent coworking space for a day, or even put toward daycare needs.
Bell said the money is there for employees to recreate some of the elements they valued about the office or even purchase items that help them work in a way the office didn’t, with no strings attached and no parameters on how it needs to be spent. In fact, while Lattice had initially considered making this a reimbursement program, depositing the funds directly means that employees can use it immediately and without restraint for what they need.
Similarly, Lattice had previously been offering a $200 work-from-home stipend that new hires were given to spend on items to improve their home offices. In Lattice’s current hybrid configuration, this has been converted into an annual program that gets refreshed each year, so that it continues to meet the needs of longer-term employees, too, and allows them to keep improving their space. In addition, all employees get a $100 per month phone and Internet stipend to help offset the cost of staying connected.
And there’s more to come. The might of the large-and-growing employee population means Lattice can pursue and sign partnerships that should offer additional perks to employees, Bell said.
Navigating the Hybrid Divides
But the mission to build a truly hybrid workplace goes beyond just trying to recreate office amenities outside of the physical building, Bell said; it’s meant rethinking how Lattice categorizes remote workers and how it integrates them.
To make sure that remote teams and any asynchronous workers get the same focus as office employees did, Lattice made a major structural change, renaming the ‘Office Management’ team the ‘Workplace Experience’ team, effectively “expanding the definition of workplace,” Bell said. Additionally, each office location — San Francisco, London, New York City, and Remote (which covers all workers without a physical office in their vicinity), has its own cross-functional group that can advocate for the needs of its team members.
“The culture of each of these workplace communities is a little different, and having Remote site leadership has been really helpful in advocating for the experiential needs of workers,” Bell said. The Remote team — just like those in specific geographic locales — has its own schedule of team-building and committee events. So far, Bell said, the Remote team has hosted virtual happy hours and celebrated birthdays and milestone celebrations.
On a smaller, but no less impactful note, the Remote team is actively working on ways to include everybody in calls and meetings that take place in a hybrid space.
“Our communication norms needed to be reimagined,” said Bell.
That has meant being mindful of friction points, like trying to participate if you’re the only one not physically in the room for a meeting, and best practices for presentations that need to include people dialing in as well as people sharing a physical location, including a pushing for more asynchronous collaboration - not just assuming everything needs to be a live meeting.
Rethinking Office Space
Bell said that Lattice is still working out what role physical office space will play as the company develops its hybrid work environment, but one thing is clear: While offices aren’t going away, the way the company thinks about them is changing.
While it varies day to day and even month to month, Lattice is seeing office occupancy rates of 20% to 30%, said Bell. But given the firm’s aggressive growth (this year, Lattice expects to expand from its current headcount of 400 to 650 Latticians), using the office space intelligently will be critical.
That means moving away from dedicated areas for each department and thinking more about the experiential needs employees are looking for, Bell said. That could mean quiet spaces for deep focus, spaces designed to encourage movement and conversation for employees who need to collaborate or plan, and places designed for people wanting to be social.
“We’re thinking about making our spaces conducive to what people are actually looking for,” he said.
Maintaining office space is critical to Lattice’s vision of a hybrid workplace for two reasons, explained Bell. The first is to serve as a hub for remote employees to meet: In 2022 and beyond, Lattice is allocating increased resources for employees to travel and meet in person so leaders feel empowered to bring their teams together. Lattice office space is crucial for hosting working sessions, team-building exercises, and meetings, and will need the capacity for the ebbs and flows of these types of gatherings.
“For distributed teams, the office can — and should — act as the kind of differentiated space that in the past would have been found outside the office [as] an ‘off-site’ event that inspired creativity and deeper connections,” said Bell. “Now, teams can come together for ‘on-sites’ that can do the same in a way that also feels like a home base.”
The second reason Lattice must maintain office space is for workers who need to (or even prefer to) work in an office setting. Those employees shouldn’t be left out of the conversation, said Bell.
“As people are fully leaning into remote and hybrid work, it’s worth remembering that not everyone may be able to work remotely effectively — there’s a community who are in the office every day,” he said. As spaces are adjusted to make room for more infrequent or traveling employees, “we need to honor that and make sure they don’t feel marginalized as spaces transform to hybrid,” said Bell.
There’s no set path to building a successful hybrid workplace, but Lattice is committed to the process.
“We’re still on our journey,” said Bell. “It’s too early to declare victory on this here. Not every question will have an answer at this point, and it will take time and effort from everyone to build strong remote-first communication and collaboration norms.”
But the bottom line is that for Lattice, the transition to hybrid is essential — for recruitment and retainment, and for giving employees what they need to thrive, both professionally and personally. And building it will be a joint effort, as the memo from Carhart made clear: “What hybrid looks like in practice — how we communicate, collaborate, and ensure that everyone belongs — is for all of us to create together.”