Embracing Company Culture in the Hybrid Workforce with Marissa Cardon

July 29th, 2023
10 mins to read
Embracing Company Culture in the Hybrid Workforce with Marissa Cardon

Dive into Marissa Cardon's insights on nurturing company culture within a hybrid workforce. Learn strategies for a cohesive workplace environment.

Since the beginning of 2020, Marissa Cardon has spearheaded innovative flex work policies and created work-from-home plans that supported her team through the pandemic. In this blog, Marissa discusses the importance of embracing company culture in a hybrid workforce and the various strategies she implements to foster team cohesion and collaboration. 

Marissa Cardon is the VP of People Programs and Operations at NextRoll, a marketing technology company delivering products ambitious marketers use and rely on to grow their businesses. Marissa has a comprehensive background in HR roles spanning nearly two decades and currently leads NextRoll’s Hybrid Work Model planning initiatives. As NextRoll continues to expand its footprint globally, adding new remote employees in new areas, Marissa ensures NextRoll has the policies in place to support its growth.

Headquartered in San Francisco, NextRoll has adopted a global presence throughout the years and their employees work from all over the world. As part of Litespace’s interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Marissa, who has shared excellent insights on the many challenges of managing a hybrid workforce and what her most essential “ingredient” is to success and culture in NextRoll.

“At NextRoll, we are committed to building a culture where people can do their best work.”

Interview Question

With NextRoll’s global expansion, what kind of work model has the company adopted, and how has it been working out for the team?

NextRoll operates in a hybrid model where Rollers (our employees) can work remotely or from a WeWork space in the geographies where we have an in-person presence: San Francisco, New York, Dublin, and Sydney.

We recently moved from static NextRoll-operated offices to dynamic WeWork spaces, introducing a new phase of hybrid work at NextRoll that offers greater flexibility and choice.  Our hybrid model provides flexibility to Rollers that empowers Rollers to thrive, whether working remotely or now in a range of WeWork locations. Because of this, we also have a competitive advantage, especially as other technology companies are forcing employees back to the office. 

What is the biggest challenge when it comes to managing a team where some employees work in the office and others remotely?

Communication and collaboration. Gone are the days when you could casually bump into a co-worker in the kitchen at the water cooler, which previously spurred a quick catch-up on a project or a brainstorming session. It’s also easy to forget to respond to one of the many Slack messages waiting for a response. Employees can “hide” a bit more when working remotely, which can decrease productivity. Tech companies are known for their fun, casual, connected cultures and big offices where arcade games, catered lunches, and hack-a-thons were common amenities. We’ve found that it’s harder to maintain that type of casual culture from behind a computer screen. 

Were you able to overcome these challenges? If so, how?

In a hybrid model, it’s important to be proactive in fostering team cohesion and communication by utilizing different technology and apps that work best for the company and the different teams. 

1. Slack

We’ve found Slack to be a vital tool to keep people communicating with stakeholders and distribute company-wide messages and kudos to team members. We also use Slack as a way to keep people connected to our quirky culture - with channels like #dadjokesroll, people get to continue to laugh and connect with one another, as they would in an office – if not more. We use "Coffee Roulette," which randomly pairs participating Rollers together for casual chats – not work-related – every two weeks. This tool connects coworkers who may not have met or worked together or colleagues who haven't seen each other in a while.

2. Reflective

We leverage Reflective for performance management to help managers with tracking goals and reports. It also provides a way to gather feedback and reviews, so we all can continue to learn and grow in our roles. Additionally, managers hold weekly 1x1s with their direct reports to communicate expectations and check in on goals and progress, as well as team meetings to align their teams on goals, expectations, and resources. 

For most companies, the hybrid work model has presented challenges related to equal opportunity and treatment among employees. How do you ensure opportunities are fairly distributed within the team and employees feel they belong?

It’s very important to ensure our rollers feel they belong and that we’re fostering an inclusive work environment. We have many programs and initiatives to engage our Rollers. 

“Our Rollers are the most essential “ingredient” to our success and culture.”

Operating Principles

Earlier this year, we launched our NextRoll Operating Principles to have a shared language across Rollers to operate as “One NextRoll.” 

  • Be Customer Obsessed – We put customers front and center
  • Go Far Together - We create connections and collaborate
  • Act as Owner – We take ownership and initiative
  • Speed, Agility, Impact – We learn and adapt quickly to drive impact

We are putting a deliberate focus on an entrepreneurial mindset to empower Rollers to deliver business outcomes and our mission in an ever-changing environment. The Operating Principles capture elements of the entrepreneurial mindset in our company culture and pull them to the forefront. They provide clarity on how we show up and do the work to reach our goals. 

Global Culture Club

We have a Global Culture Club that focuses on hosting contests and events. These activities allow people to connect on projects that are fun and not work-related. The Club recently held a virtual Aromatherapy Class to learn how to use oils best to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being and also a Virtual Filament Lamp Class to create a piece of functional art.

We also have monthly Global Town Halls to keep Rollers informed on what’s going on across the business, but it also includes Q&A sessions for our executive leaders to answer Roller-submitted questions.

We have implemented checkpoints to assess, review, and improve opportunities for groups who are typically systemically underrepresented and excluded. We implemented many of the measures prior to moving to a hybrid model. Here are a few examples:

  • Calibration Process: Our People Business Partners ensure we train managers on how to mitigate bias during performance reviews. They also act as an objective voice to ask questions during calibrations to ensure reviews and promotions steer clear of bias.
  • Setting Clear Goals: We set goals around diversity representation (including in leadership roles) and equity (for promotions when it goes to gender and race) to hold ourselves accountable for equitable outcomes. The data helps us understand where there might be issues. During our monthly dashboard meetings, we review and have follow-up focused meetings as necessary to plan for improvement.
  • DEI Contribution Decks: These have been implemented to ensure employees (who tend to be women, people of color, LGBTQ+, etc.) who lead our DEI programs receive visibility and recognition from their managers.
  • DEI Report: We published our second DEI report this year, which details our goals, progress, and programs and helps us stay accountable to external stakeholders, prospective employees, and industry professionals. 
  • Closed Captioning: Last year, we worked with our IT department to enable closed captioning for all our virtual meetings.
  • Virtual/remote training programs for women and underrepresented groups to develop leadership skills no matter where they’re located.
  • Eight Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) meet virtually and host events aimed at inclusion and engaging Rollers from all backgrounds to learn and understand all cultures and people at NextRoll

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

The best way to understand our Rollers’ needs and concerns is to ask them via a survey, understand the results, and then take action. Over the past few years, our sentiment surveys have included questions related to workload, work-life balance, meeting effectiveness, and well-being. From our surveys, we have identified issues and taken action. For example, last year, we took action to make meetings more effective to help reduce burnout and scheduled eight half-day Fridays over the summer. This year we scheduled ten fully paid half-days starting in March. It’s a reduced work week in hours, but the pay is for a regular full-time work week. We acknowledge that we ask and expect a lot of our teams and want to make sure we set the right tone to keep pace and stay well for the remainder of the year.

Most Rollers also have free access to the Calm app and Modern Health app – both of which have resources to help destress and relax. Through Modern Health, Rollers also receive six free coaching sessions throughout the year. We also host Virtual Roll Well events throughout the year targeted at reducing stress and prioritizing mental and physical health. 

“Rollers are encouraged to work with their managers to find a schedule that accommodates their lives inside and outside of work to find the best balance.”

We embrace a flexible work culture at NextRoll. We understand that people’s live outside of work aren't always on the same schedule as work. Rollers can also take advantage of our Roll Where You Thrive mentality and generally have the flexibility to work remotely from different locations for brief periods of time. Rollers have used this opportunity in the past to work and travel at the same time

What do you think the future of hybrid work will look like? What should managers expect and do to prepare? 

Right now, hybrid and remote-first work is still a new concept, but I think more companies will embrace hybrid work to remain competitive in attracting talent and having a diverse workforce. This will make the idea more commonplace and even expected by talent. However, I think more employees will want to go back to the office or to a hub from time to time to create and fuel connections with their manager and team. 

Having options will be key to creating a work environment that is flexible and collaborative enough to engage and retain the best workforce. Managers should be thoughtful in terms of planning events to bring teams together on a cadence that works for the team and business. Bringing your teams together, whether virtual and/or in-person, to collaborate on business plans can build team camaraderie. 

Litespace had the pleasure of interviewing Marissa Cardon to talk about the challenges of managing a hybrid workforce and shares insightful strategies and examples on how to overcome them. 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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