"Empowering teams starts with flexibility"

"Empowering teams starts with flexibility"

Why Mixbook, a company founded in the San Francisco Bay Area, is reaping the benefits of having access to IWG’s global network of locations.

If there is one thing businesses have learned over the past two years, it is the importance of creating the right culture.

The pandemic caused millions of employees to reassess the role that work plays in their lives. Some took early retirement, others took time out, or they looked for another job at an employer who could satisfy their desire for a better work-life balance.

An IWG survey from last year revealed that 72% of respondents said they would prefer the long-term option of hybrid working – a mix of working from home, a local coworking space or an office HQ – over going back to the office five days a week, even if it came with a 10% pay rise.

The importance of organisational health

For US company Mixbook, providing the flexibility that allows people to work in different locations has become a key part of its culture.

Founded in 2006, Mixbook’s award-winning design tool allows consumers to create, print, and share beautiful, one-of-a-kind photo books, cards, calendars, and wall art. By 2013, Mixbook was ranked as the second hottest company in Silicon Valley by Business Journal.

The focus in those earlier years was often on company growth. More recently Mixbook has placed a greater emphasis on organisational health. The inspiration came from The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni – a best-selling book that argues that organisational health, in which you create a culture that allows a company to be adaptable, is more important than anything else.

“Right now, nothing is ‘normal’. Things are constantly changing,” says Mixbook’s People Director, Kim Colucci. “So we’re constantly adopting new ways to stay ahead.

“Before the pandemic, folk were allowed to work from home when needed, but actually we were making a push for more people to be in the office. But, come March 2020, that focus on organisational health came to the fore. One of our core values is ‘care’, so we quickly developed a ‘Care Into Covid’ strategy, which included promoting and maintaining flexibility, because we didn’t know what would happen next. Also, we’ve got a lot of parents on our team and there was a lot of homeschooling at that time.”

For many office-based businesses, what the pandemic and lockdowns also brought to light is that people can be just as productive - if not more so - when working from home given that nowadays they will have all necessary tech at their disposal.

What people want from a workspace

The company employs around 65 full-time people (40 in the US) and had an office HQ in Redwood City, midway between San Francisco and San Jose. Whereas many companies are choosing to downsize their HQ, for Mixbook the shift to hybrid working meant that space was no longer necessary.

“We don’t need a big office with our name on the door,” says Colucci. “What we need are places where people have reliable internet, that are easily accessible, safe and clean, where they can get together in whatever capacity they need, whether it’s a conference room or an open coworking space that drives creativity and innovation.”

Results from another IWG study showed that 77% of employees say a place to work closer to home is a must-have for their next job move.

For Mixbook, a hybrid solution would become the logical way forward.

Colucci adds, “By March 2021, we committed to becoming a ‘remote first’ organisation. Then we had to think, ‘Well, how do we promote flexibility and accommodate people who don’t always want to work from home?’ That’s how the partnership with IWG came about.”

Several options were explored, but IWG stood out, not least because offering the US employees an IWG membership meant those people suddenly had access to over a thousand flexspaces across America. Not only does IWG have multiple centres in cities but it also has most centres in the heart of residential areas.

As Colucci explains, “One of my team members is in New York City. Throughout the winter, she was getting pummelled by snow and bad weather. She wanted to go to Miami to get away from the cold, and she worked at IWG’s Brickell location on Miami Beach.

“The People Department get together at least once per quarter in person. We meet in different IWG locations. Our people in San Francisco love the Menlo Park office in Silicon Valley. Having things like the ping-pong table is so much fun, right?

“Sometimes we’ll go up to the Sausalito Bay, which is really beautiful and helps to drive creativity. And we have a couple of teams that go to the Santana Row location down in San Jose.”

The benefits of being flexible

“The benefits of flexibility are clear to see,” Colucci adds. “Especially when you think about the time people would otherwise spend commuting, the extra time they can spend with their families, or even the health and safety aspects of Covid.

“Also, we’re in a difficult labour market. Finding and keeping the right people is tougher than ever. So, if we can be flexible through hybrid working, we can hire from anywhere in the United States rather than just the Bay Area. Flexibility drives so many other things, such as productivity, happiness, engagement, retention.”

As with a number of other tech-based SMEs, Mixbook’s developers live in Eastern Europe and have a fixed office space. “When we have those quarterly meetups, we’ll have people from Moldova coming out here to the US,” says Colucci. “It’s so easy for us to provide an office for them and in so many locations.”

So what advice does Colucci have for other similar-sized companies still weighing up whether flexibility and hybrid working is the way forward?

“My recommendation for any leader or team is to take the time to understand your people, understand what their needs are. We did evaluations and people surveys,” she says. “From there, you can deliver whatever the best and most flexible solution is for you. Our job is to ensure that our people are empowered to make an impact and have the ability to thrive, and how better to do that than in a way that directly meets the needs of your team?

“Whatever you do, don’t make that decision in a silo. Because it’s not just a decision for you. It’s a decision for the entire team.”

Looking for a hybrid work solution for your business? Find out how IWG can support you today.