Hybrid Work

Employees in the wild!

New working experience in a hybrid environment with post-pandemic cultures is a challenge for managers and employees to stay connected.
As the owner of employee experiences for fast-growing e-commerce shipping platform Shippo, Margaret Aberin had to get super creative to make sure their 200+ employees across multiple time zones stay connected in the most challenging year yet.
Feeling the New Hybrid Vibe

“With the move to the hybrid office environment, trying to understand everyone’s vibe has been one of my top challenges,” says Aberin. “We used to have chess tournaments every day at lunch and boba tea always drew a crowd. When we were all in the office you could really feel what it means to be an employee at Shippo, but now with everyone in remote mode, it’s harder to feel the vibe.”

Now she doesn’t know everyone at the level she used to, but works to find things worth people’s time, particularly when potential burnout is at an all-time high.

There is also the matter of pre-pandemic versus post-pandemic culture. “For those who have been through the pandemic until now, of course our relationships are strong. But for those who joined during the pandemic, the only people they know are the 5 or so people they work with everyday on Zoom. That’s it!”

Meanwhile, the company continues to be in hypergrowth mode with a dozen new employees joining every week, all working in a hybrid environment across 13 metropolitan areas.

Shippos in the Wild! Physical & Digital

Aberin got to work to solve the problem of not having a physical community and built a whole series of creative events, including Shippos in the Wild!

“Our CEO wanted our people to get out there and find ways to connect with their local teammates outside the confines of a computer screen. She wanted to see more photos,” said Aberin. “So we grouped people in 13 cities and empowered them to meet up with each other in their local communities. Rather than designating specific activities, we gave each group a budget and gave them the power to use it in a way that worked best for that local team.”

Just launched 2 weeks ago, “Shippos” (as they call themselves) already self-deployed with 4 organic employee events across different cities.

Employees share “Shippos in the Wild!” photos on Slack and on their central employee experience hub. Aberin also posts the photos on her wildly popular internal newsletter, “The Shipment”, where she chronicles all things culture focused – the week’s recaps, new hires, anniversaries, engagements, cute kid photos, and other genuine moments. Aberin says it’s the internal content piece that gets the highest engagement.

Always Add Something You Can Touch to Virtual

“We’ve found that adding a physical element to what you are watching adds such a valuable level of engagement,” Aberin recommends. “We did a magic show and had magician boxes sent to everyone’s homes.”

The magician was the famous Dan White, so it was a real Vegas production. “He performed a trick on one of our employees virtually, but then a red balloon was hand-delivered to the employee’s apartment. So the virtual experience extended to a thing that could be touched. Our mind was blown.”

While Shippo has had some great remote experiences, Aberin says finding special events that can get everyone on board continues to be a struggle. “There’s no special sauce, I test it all out and find out what sticks.”

“I just want people to look back on a memory that they enjoyed that’s ingrained in their Shippo career journey. Those experiences are a win.”

3 Key Takeaways

Taking a page from the “Shippos in the Wild!” playbook, you can combine digital and physical experiences by incorporating these 3 steps:

  1. Consider launching organic, self-deployed “employees in the wild” events
  2. Add something that you can touch to your virtual employee events
  3. Use a digital gathering spot to augment in real life (“IRL”) events.

In no time, your team will have efficient and effective programs in place to bring the company vibe back to life!

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