Hybrid work talk is everywhere. Driven by people’s desire to have more choice over their working patterns, many big-name brands like Deloitte and PwC have introduced hybrid working models, while others face backlash for telling their staff to get back to the office once vaccinated.

Wherever you fall on the office-hybrid-remote debate, conventional wisdom would tell you to not commit to momentous decisions like these during a global crisis—the long tail of which is still far from over. Hybrid work is often touted as ‘the right solution’ for the moment, but what is the actual problem you’re trying to solve?

At Juro, we faced this situation, just like most other companies. To tackle it, instead of looking at what others around us were doing, we approached it like we do anything in the People Team—by working as a Product Team. We will dig into what that means first, then look at how we applied it to flexible working at Juro.

Flexibility is priority #1

We conduct employee engagement surveys every three months and came to realize that:

  • Employees wanted to maintain the work-life balance they gained from working at home.
  • Retaining that choice of flexibility for people would increase talent retention, as well as employee engagement and performance—crucial factors at a scaleup.
  • Respecting that decision would also help us with the geographical diversity of candidates, ensuring we weren’t limited by location.

With all this in mind, I collaborated with my team to create a working model that addressed these factors. We decided to approach it like the Product team at Juro approaches any task related to building our contract automation platform.

Thinking like the product team

Our brilliant product team is constantly iterating on Juro’s features, as well as adding new ones—it’s a continuous process to make agreeing and managing contracts easier for our customers. But they don’t pick features from a hat. They start by asking (1) what’s the problem, (2) how do we go about solving it, and (3) what might a potential solution look like.

In other words, they follow a scientific method of testing and iterating—and people and talent teams should adopt a similar strategy. Ask yourself these five questions and you’ll be able to tackle almost any problem.

1. What are we seeing?

Find the real pain before you do anything else. This is usually achieved via market research and customer interviews. Finding the pain points across a range of data is important. For example, if several teams had identified pain in the contract negotiation stage, the product team can zoom in on the problem and ensure it’s their focus in the later stages of feature development.

For people teams, this means gathering the data available to you:

  • Employee feedback via surveys
  • Hard data like employee use of time off and benefits

2. Why are we seeing it?

Identify the trends behind the data before you attempt to find a solution. Product teams usually spend time generating hypotheses and truly understanding the scope of the pain before diving into step three. This is an important part of the process but is often overlooked by people and talent teams, who research a problem and then immediately move to launch a solution without diving deeper into the issue.

Distill your pains into trends and generate hypotheses based on them. For example, if 80% of your staff say they want to work remotely two or three days a week, why are they saying that? Is it because many live with family and want to spend more time around them? Or because they feel less distracted away from the office? 

3. How can we solve it?

Product focuses on creating a range of possible solutions, looking at the pros and cons of each, before deciding on a path that aligns with the research principles. This is essential in ensuring that the team has considered all options before moving ahead. 

Again, often overlooked in people and talent. The first solution usually ends up being the one that’s implemented, with minimal consideration for alternatives that could possibly achieve the same results with greater efficiency, or at a reduced cost, and so on. 

Instead, people and talent teams should map out alternative ways to test assumptions. The path you choose should be decided by your research principles, such as:

  • Feasibility (do you need a tool to monitor your solution? Will it take long to implement?)
  • Cost considerations (Do you have the budget for that tool? Are there costs or savings associated with letting people work remotely that weren’t there before?)
  • Your core values as an organization

4. What will we do?

This stage is where you map out and execute your plan. You often hear about product teams working in sprints (or iterations), which are digestible chunks of time in which to complete a project. This enables them to achieve excellent results in a short period of time, ensuring larger projects are broken into smaller chunks that are relentlessly delivered.

This is important within lean teams like legal or people and talent, which don’t grow in proportion to the rest of the business. Make sure you:

  • Create a plan and document it with clear deliverables, deadlines, and who’s accountable.
  • Execute your plan.
  • Communicate where you are in the plan every step of the way. Depending on your principles as a company, this can be to leaders only or to the whole company.

5. How do we know it worked?

This is a really important question, and one people and talent teams often ignore or forget. If your hypotheses are good, they imply success criteria—match them against your hypotheses and measure them. Gold practice is measuring before and several times after your sprint, asking questions like:

  • Did engagement scores increase?
  • Does performance increase as measured by quarterly revenue targets?

Measuring success is key. Projects in a small business don’t sit within a vacuum. Taking the time to evaluate the end result will help teams iterate and incorporate learnings. 

The end result? A hybrid working model

Thinking like the product team helped us create a solution that addressed the needs of the wider business. We used the five key questions to:

  • Conduct research via employee engagement surveys and 1:1 calls with colleagues (question one: what are we seeing?)
  • Understand the complex and evolving nature of the working landscape by looking at lockdown restrictions locally, employee wellbeing, working environments at home, and so on, to address question two: why are we seeing these trends?
  • Research all our options and deep-dive into the hybrid working model. I found this podcast by Peakon on problems with the model extremely useful. This helped us with question three: how can we solve the problem?
  • Work in short sprints to create a model that we felt would resolve the problems and answer any questions around the future of work at Juro, which helped us in addressing question four: what will we do?
  • Set up metrics and KPIs to measure success, in the form of feedback surveys, to understand how we can improve our current model. This addresses question five: how do we know it worked?,and will be put into action once lockdown restrictions ease and the model is in use. This isn’t a “one and done” project, but in fact, needs regular attention to ensure it delivers to the standard we’re expecting.

The end result at Juro is a choice-first model of flexible working, which gives employees the ability to select how and where they want to work. It consisted of three options: ‘office first,’ where employees come into the office three days or more every week; ‘flexible first,’ where employees hot-desk one or two days a week; and ‘remote first,’ where employees are mainly remote but welcome to work at the office whenever they want.

Once restrictions in the UK ease and our London team is free to safely commute, this model will be implemented.

Rinse and repeat 

Hybrid work is still an experiment. We’re not the first ones on this journey—plenty of (mostly remote-first) companies have gone through a phase of hybrid work before.

This doesn’t mean we should jump to foregone conclusions. Instead, what we’ve done is come up with a first iteration of what we believe works best for us. We’ll continue to build on this iteration as we gather more data and our team grows. 

This is an ongoing cycle of trial and error. You have to test, measure, make new hypotheses, test again, measure again. At Juro, we’ll do quarterly check-ins on the numbers to see if they go in the direction we want and if not, we will not panic and try to change immediately.

Remember: everyone is figuring this out as much as you are, and there’s no “one size fits all” solution to hybrid working. Finding a solution takes time and plenty of trial and error, but just like product development, the satisfaction of seeing version 1.0 come to life, and knowing that this working model will positively change how your business operates, is definitely worth it.

Thomas Forstner

From Thomas Forstner

Thomas is Head of People & Talent at Juro – a 40-people contract automation platform on a mission to make contracts more human – where he is building a human-centric, scalable People & Talent function from the ground up.