What should companies consider when thinking about returning to in-office, staying remote, or developing a hybrid approach?

Be very, very thoughtful about what you need to be able to execute well, based on the nature of your business. If you've got a large set of engineers that are fundamentally being able to collaborate and do what they need to do in the way they do it, and you don't want to disrupt it, and it's working well, that's great. But if your product requires you to have a much more collaborative way of operating and executing which will be more effective in person, then I think you need to think about that as well. Overarching all of this is honestly just guidance and what makes sense based on all of the procedures that go into it. I think it's going to be quite some time until people are like, "That's just how we're going to basically operate," in terms of going to an office, because there are so many other unknowns that go into it, in terms of how you regulate an office and what the legal obligations are and all of the facilities obligated. There is a lot more that goes into that now than before.

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Be very, very thoughtful about what you need to be able to execute well, based on the nature of your business. If you've got a large set of engineers that are fundamentally being able to collaborate and do what they need to do in the way they do it, and you don't want to disrupt it, and it's working well, that's great. But if your product requires you to have a much more collaborative way of operating and executing which will be more effective in person, then I think you need to think about that as well. Overarching all of this is honestly just guidance and what makes sense based on all of the procedures that go into it. I think it's going to be quite some time until people are like, "That's just how we're going to basically operate," in terms of going to an office, because there are so many other unknowns that go into it, in terms of how you regulate an office and what the legal obligations are and all of the facilities obligated. There is a lot more that goes into that now than before.
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Anonymous Author
There are a couple difficulties with remote work that I see my companies going through, and they're all different, depending on the stage of the company and also dependent on the product and the collaborative nature of some of the product development. One key part, I think, that was obvious to us is that building a culture versus maintaining a culture remotely is very different. If you have a culture, switching to remote was obviously difficult, but you had an existing culture that you tried to maintain remotely. I think about companies, like we invested in a company right in the middle of the pandemic with two founders. They are now 14. Everyone was recruited remotely. Everything was remote. That was extremely hard. I didn't think of that challenge. We saw it, and we are living it now. Even the companies that were remote before the pandemic always had their annual offsites to bring people together, right? To be able to have that in-person interaction. "Let's go out drinking as a team," and that kind of stuff. Even though you were 80%-90% remote, you were getting together. That has disappeared now. I think that was the number one realization for us: this building versus maintaining the culture. We need to cherish all the moments when we were back in the office. That was very valuable. The second part. Some companies managed go-to-market really well because it's self-serve, it's very bottom-up, content driven, slide the card, buy it, so there's less interaction with the customer. You don't need to build up that in-person awareness around your product, service, or solution. But for other companies, it's very difficult. They have a more consultative sales approach, which is, "I need to sit down with the customer, build up the champion," and kind of like socialize it within those settings. And that disappeared. That made some companies question their model. I think, going forward, there's a lot more scalable go-to-market approaches, more remote, meaning product-led growth strategy. If there's a lot of elements built into the product to do that sales, you don't need to have one of you showing up at the customer. Customer success became very important. Because now you're remote, you need to make sure your customers are fairly well treated and enjoying the product, so that becomes of growing importance as you go forward. Going back next year or late this year, the hybrid model is going to be there. People are going to work remotely. I think there's going to be a residual impact of switching to 100% and now coming back to maybe 50%? 75%? 40%? I don't know. But I think that whole halo effect around remote work, I think it's disappeared. I used to, 5-10 years ago, when I talked to some of the seed investors, I didn't invest anything around my zip code. Because seed is so critical. It's the foundational times of the company. Everyone needs to be together. I need to be able to visit the company. Now, that has changed. I mean that's not even possible. So I think that the whole thing about teams and companies being remote is going to stay. But we will cherish the times when we are together. I think that's going to be... Going back to the office, whatever that percent is going to be, is going to be way more valuable. Maybe that will wear out, but I think, at least at the beginning, there's going to be a lot of importance in being together.
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I think yes, it'll be hybrid. I think, yes, that we demystified the concept of people being able to be very productive while they're remote. I think there's a lot of wins out of the terrible things that we've been going through over the last few months. But I think that we will see, based on culture and geography, certain companies work to get back to more of an in-office... I've heard it from CEOs, like the CEO of Mastercard that's stepping down, and I've heard it from, certainly, our team in Israel at ForeScout. The minute they can get back in the office, they want to be back in the office. And it's not because they love commuting or they don't understand that there's risk, but it's because they do not have a work-from-home experience that works for them. They are struggling. And it's not just because their kids are at home. It's because they have very small homes and/or apartments. And so I do think we're forgetting about a population that... It's not necessarily that they don't enjoy flexibility or that they love being in the office, but that they really have to be honest about their remote-working environment. So I do think certain companies are going to swing different ways. I've been in tech for a long time, and I've seen every pendulum, and they're going to move. Nothing is forever in tech.  As companies think about this hybrid approach, they really need to think about how to engage employees, because right now we're all on Zoom, and so everyone's on a level playing field. The minute we start to have these hybrid environments, some people are in the office, some people are remote, we have to be really careful about making sure that everybody still feels that they're on an even playing field. All remote works really well. Hybrid is a challenge in terms of people feeling included and how the engagement dynamics work. These are all important things for folks to be thinking about as well. I know a couple of companies that were distributed by design... One of their strategies was, "We are a remote-distributed organization." No headquarters. No hub. None of these things. And that was a little bit of their differentiation in their approach. And if you talk to the people leaders in those organizations and the managers, they will tell you that they hire to a different personality type. You look for different things in somebody you hire for a fully distributed, only get together once or twice a year model, so I think that's another piece of this. We've all been fighting through this, but a lot of people's nature is not to be confined. They also build their whole total rewards around a distributed, not-office-based construction. So there's all these other things. You can't just say, "Oh, now I'm remote," and not rethink a lot of other things.
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Anonymous Author
I would also recommend folks take a look at GitLab's recommendation for remote work. They have a list.. It's pretty cool, actually.It says the DNA is built up from the day one to have a remote culture. As an investor sometimes, you kind of ignore that human element, but it's so important as you build a team.
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Anonymous Author
They're fantastic. Yeah. They are a great case study. And they're also super open to sharing what they've learned.
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Anonymous Author
The pandemic will push the boundaries of personal liberties in the US. Specifically, the ability of an organization to intrude into the medical health of an individual in order to protect the safety of the larger organizational population. The biggest intrusion into personal medical liberty will likely be any requirements to obtain a COVID vaccination. There are a few organizations already starting to adopt the approach that if an employee choses to not obtain a COVID vaccination, then that employee will not be permitted to return to the office. Expect a large debate around the ability of an organization to require an employee to be vaccinated for COVID as a requirement to return to the office.
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