I’m always on the look out for fresh ideas in the world of work—ideas that help a company operationalize their culture or strengthen their operations (which creates better work for their employees, by the way). Enter the unique way that Hotjar encourages their remote employees to gather together. If your company can afford to pull this off, I see it benefitting morale, improving effectiveness and collaboration, and spurring creativity. Read on for Quartz at Work’s conversation with Hotjar COO Ken Weary.
As a global company that is remote first, you have a unique way to gather employees through “Work Together” trips. How does it work?
When Hotjar was founded in 2014, we were a remote-first company, and our founders worked from their kitchen tables. They lived close enough to occasionally meet, hang out, socialize, and even do a little in-person work.
By 2018 we had grown to 50 people in more than a dozen countries, and our meet-ups weren’t so easy.
We wanted to provide our team with the ability to connect, in person, without requiring cumbersome approvals and for them to do it in a way that works for them. Initially, we were unsure how best to do this and what might be a good or bad idea, so we created a temporary perk. We originally called it our “Working Together Travel Budget.” We told our team we were trialing it for 2018 and only 2018.
We gave everyone in the company a budget of 2,000 EUR to use how they saw fit to travel and work with other Hotjarians. To keep things as inclusive as possible, we also introduced some initial processes and guidelines to ensure everyone in the company would be optionally invited to each meet-up.
At the end of 2018, the senior executive team examined the trial results. As a result, we decided to make it a permanent budget beginning in 2019 with an annual limit of 2,000 EUR per Hotjarian.
It’s an amazing benefit to provide. What positive impacts have you seen?
We’re now a company of roughly 400 people spread across 46 countries. We’re a rapidly growing team, and these meet-ups have become increasingly important in creating a sense of collaboration to strengthen our success when we continue to work together online. It’s all about building community and relationships with the people we work with daily, which benefits our overall job satisfaction and productivity. So much of our work is fully digital and in an asynchronous platform and environment. Taking a week to work together helps break through the different time zones and work cycles with colleagues across the globe you otherwise wouldn’t interact with. Often, taking the Work Together opportunity means people are meeting in person for the first time.!
It’s also just fun—and work should include fun activities. Work Together enables our employees to attach memorable moments to their daily work experiences, giving everyone something exciting to look forward to.
Also, having the freedom for everyone to spend the money in their budget as they see fit has proven to be empowering. Those who don’t like to travel can host a Work Together in their home city. Those that love to travel can use their budget in the most cost-effective way and attend a number of Work Togethers throughout the year. It’s also fully optional. If your idea of a good time is simply sticking with your routine, you can choose not to use your budget.
How does Working Together differ from leveraging coworking spaces?
The Working Together budget can be and is often used to rent a coworking space for use during a Working Together event, but it is not designed to be used for regular or independent use of a coworking space. However, Hotjar does provide a different budget that can be used for that if a Team Member would prefer to do that. That budget is called the Working Space Budget. Each team member is provided an annual budget of 2,400 EUR (200/month) that they can use to pay for their physical working space (with limitations, i.e., they can’t use it to pay for their mortgage).
It’s a flexible budget that can be used in various ways to mimic the ideal office setup for individuals. For instance, I frequently work from my home office outside of Lisbon, and I love to enjoy good coffee while working. I regularly use the Working Space Budget for a coffee delivery service. However, I spent last month working and living in a ski village in Bulgaria, where I worked from a coworking space paid for by my Working Space Budget (where I drank their coffee). People use this budget in all kinds of ways, from a backup internet connection to a music service to drown out background noise.
How has the Work Together program evolved?
The Work Together perk is available to every Hotjar Team Member, all ~400 of them/us. And when a Work Together session is planned, the opportunity to attend is open to the entire company. Information about sessions is shared internally on Discourse and Slack to ensure everyone has visibility and that it isn’t always a small group of the same people taking part. Anyone interested is automatically invited to attend. Team members can opt out of a Work Together opportunity or even their annual budget altogether. They can’t give the money to their colleagues or receive it as direct compensation. It is their budget to use (or not).
What are some memorable host cities?
Our distributed team lives in 46 countries around the world. Work Together has allowed the team to travel to many different countries to experience how remote life is for their colleagues. Hotjarians have hosted meet-ups near their homes in Spain, Portugal, Canada, Costa Rica, Brazil, UK, South Africa, Mexico, Germany, and many more locations.
How do you see remote, hybrid, or in-person work evolving?
The future of work will be defined by matching a company’s structure and business model with people who are interested in working that way. I don’t think there is one right way to run a business, but some companies or industries lend themselves to more optimally working either in an office or remotely.
- In-office: Some cultures feed off of in-person interactions. They thrive off of them, and as a result, they build their processes, benefits, and even floor plans around this concept. I don’t think this is going away. It’s also proven to be more of the norm for those working with physical materials or servicing customers in person (yes, there are remote workarounds for every scenario, but they are not up to the task yet)
- Remote work: Many companies have realized that they do not need to be in an office to get work done. Some embraced this long-term, while others are moving back into the office. That said, smaller and frequently younger companies adapted and adopted working from home much easier. More and more startups are also starting off in a remote-first way. There are fewer in-person norms to break or processes to rewrite. It’s a lot easier to start with a blank slate.
- Hybrid work: Now that so many people received an initial taste of remote work, more of the workforce wants to do it, but not all of the time. Also, not all employers are convinced it’s right, so hybrid work was invented to serve both needs.