Collaboration Made Easy: Hybrid Work Model with Matthew Schmidt

August 8th, 2023
/
10 mins to read
Collaboration Made Easy: Hybrid Work Model with Matthew Schmidt

A conversation with Founder and CEO of Peoplelogic, Matthew Schmidt, on his founding of his company and how their hybrid work set-up makes collaboration easy.

Matthew Schmidt is an experienced entrepreneur and operator with a history of building and launching products and growing businesses. Formerly the co-founder of DZone Media and AnswerHub and now Founder and CEO of people intelligence platform, Peoplelogic, Matthew looks to make sure that companies are equipped with the tools they need to build a healthier and more effective organization.

As part of our interview series: “The Challenges of Managing a Hybrid Workforce,” Litespace had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew to discover the behind-the-scenes of Peoplelogic’s hybrid work model, and how it improves collaboration and diversity in the workplace.

Interview Questions

What kind of work model has Peoplelogic adopted? What does the setup look like?

At Peoplelogic, our model most closely resembles a fully remote setup.  While we have a small office as our HQ in Durham, NC, the majority of our team is spread across 4 different time zones and 2-3 countries.  Each person works at the time that is most productive for them, which tends to provide us with plenty of overlap during the day, making collaboration easier.

With things going back to normal, specifically looking at post-COVID, do you see the company implementing a return-to-office policy?

Even though the news talks a lot about companies coming back to the office, we’re actually not looking to change models right now.  One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid or remote company such as ours is that we can find the best talent anywhere on the planet.  We don’t need to pay a premium for local talent (even though there is plenty!) when there are amazing people all over the world who fit our culture and align with our mission.  

This has the added benefit of baking diversity in from the beginning – giving us a much broader range of experience to draw on as we make decisions.

Can you describe the biggest challenges that you and your team experience with a fully-remote/hybrid work model?

While there have been a lot of “thought leaders” in the startup space talking about how in-person companies are just more “intense” – that isn’t one of the challenges that we’re facing.  At Peoplelogic, the two biggest challenges are: 

  1. Make sure that everyone respects the local time for the different teams – it’s easy for someone on the East Coast of the US to hit someone from Portugal at 10 pm and hit someone on the West Coast at 7 am. You have to be intentional about your timing.  
  1. Being accepting of the fact that collaboration will very often be asynchronous.  That means it’s usually slower initially – but then you start to learn the things that aren’t urgent. Urgent requests are just a Slack call or Zoom meeting away and everything else happens in the flow of work.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between a remote office setting and team cohesion and communication? 

This (working remotely) is when you have to be really intentional, as you’re building the culture of your company.  When you’re predominately asynchronous, you need to learn to communicate clearly – not just as the CEO, but everyone in the company.

“You need to create a shared language, otherwise misunderstandings are easy to come by.”

We work to mitigate these challenges by having regular all-hands, such as a Show and Tell where someone shows us what they’ve been working on or having more frequent stand-ups with direct reports.  On the process side, we try to make heavy use of tools like Asana and Confluence to be clear about when things are needed and who’s accountable for them. 

What are some ways to maintain and ensure productivity, especially when the team is not physically together?

We employ a variety of different methods to keep productivity high – but the most important method is to hire great people who have the skills to do the job you need and then set measurable goals for them.  

We’re very focused on results, so giving the team the tools they need to do their best work is important.  We also leverage our own platform to help make sure that we aren’t unexpectedly creating process bottlenecks or overcomplicating communication channels that make it harder to be productive.

One of the main concerns for companies going remote is the mishaps of unequal opportunities for remote v.s. in-person employees. How do you overcome that?

Proximity bias is absolutely a thing – and when your company is hybrid vs fully remote, it can be the fastest way to sow discontent amongst the team.  This is another place where transparent communication and being intentional about your choices for distributing opportunities become critical to success.  While being hybrid can make it easier to remove many of the other biases that are present, it’s important to check yourself periodically to make sure you aren’t introducing new ones.  

Going fully asynchronous is often not the answer, but forcing everyone to be online at the same time isn’t either.  You have to find what works for your team and the people they interact with. It’s important to acknowledge that to help balance structure and flexibility.

How do you build trust and maintain open communication with team members? 

This is probably the most important aspect of maintaining a hybrid culture and it starts from the top. Each week I try to make a point of being transparent about how the business is doing – that transparency builds trust.  Our team leverages Slack and Zoom to stay in touch and we try to bias towards communicating in channels rather than direct messages.  

We also hold regular all-team meetings so that different people have an opportunity to share their work and build their communication skills.  Finally, we try to have empathy towards each other when we’re communicating – having patience for a reply or acknowledging that there’s a human on the other side is a big part of that.

“Trust has to be earned and clear communication helps make that easier.”

How do you address potential issues related to work-life balance and burnout in a hybrid work environment?

This is a place where our own platform paired with having regular 1:1s helps a ton.  Peoplelogic’s platform surfaces early warning signs when work-life balance is out of whack (among other things!) and helps the managers take corrective action to bring it back to a baseline.  When we notice those early warning signs, we look for the root cause – usually it's a process bottleneck, or someone pushing too hard for too long outside of their comfort zone.   With some simple changes – or a bit of extended time off – we have been very successful at bringing people back to a healthy normal.  

We’ve talked a lot about overcoming the challenges of remote and hybrid work. In your opinion, what has been the best part about hybrid work?

Hybrid work enables your team to maximize their focus time and be able to optimize their in-person time for collaboration. It also gives employees a great deal of flexibility to balance work and life in a way that works for them – something that most employees would see as a massive benefit.  There’s no mistaking that going (or staying) hybrid or remote requires a new set of skills from managers – but as younger generations grow into our future leaders and managers, they will see this way of working and communicating as the norm rather than the outlier.

Do you think hybrid work is here to stay? If so, what can managers expect or do to prepare for the future of work? 

I don’t believe that there’s any chance of putting the genie back in the bottle on the benefits of hybrid and remote work.  People want flexibility in how they work and the opportunity to be treated like adults when they work – measured by their results and their goals rather than their activity.  

For managers – it’s time for a new set of skills:

  1. Data-Driven – understanding that work happens at different times and places and with a wider array of team members than it did before.
  2. Emotional Intelligence – Work and life aren’t two totally different experiences for a lot of people – each one impacts the other.
  3. Practice Clear Communication – Focus on your words and get to the heart of what you’re trying to communicate. 

Follow these steps and you’ll improve how your team performs dramatically!

Litespace had the pleasure of interviewing Evan Waters who has provided valuable insights and perspectives on best practices for implementing a hybrid work model. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Erica Lim
Erica Lim

Erica is a Marketing Content Analyst at Litespace with a passion to help companies foster stronger corporate culture and better employee engagement in the hybrid work environment. Specializing in marketing and communications, Erica is eager to share her knowledge and research on hybrid work. 

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