These Austin workplaces are facing and embracing the challenges and success of a hybrid model.
Written by Robert Schaulis
September 26, 2022 – Updated: December 5, 2022
In the pre-pandemic world of 2019, “normal” was often a synonym for “mediocre” or “unexceptional.” It was B- schoolwork; sandwiches for lunch, again; and lukewarm tap-water for dessert. In 2022, though, normal — particularly a “return to normal” — has taken on a renewed significance. Normal is spending time with loved ones, going to concerts and taking vacations. It’s the joyous moments that emerge from the quotidian.
At the information technology company M‑Files, a return to normalcy has meant just this kind of refreshed outlook. It means adopting a new norm that celebrates the best parts of what “had been” while embracing change. The company now boasts a nearly fully remote workplace in which team members are empowered to work from wherever they work best — be that a cafe, a home office or a desk in the company’s Austin branch.
One of the secrets to managing this decentralized workforce, according to Meredith Mitchell Zimmerman, people and culture generalist for M-Files, is continuing to value in-person collaboration. By making face-to-face interactions a focus of its company culture, M-Files is able to offer optimal flexibility while still relishing opportunities to bring teams together.
“The chemistry and dynamic nature of interactions between teammates just isn’t the same without that in-person energy,” Zimmerman said. “Finding optional days each week where we know M-Filers will be open to coming into the office and hosting events throughout the year to connect and celebrate everyone’s hard work is essential.”
Meredith Mitchell Zimmerman
People & Culture Generalist, M-Files
Like many in the tech space, the M-Files team first began working fully remotely during the pandemic. The company soon realized that remote work was more than a temporary exigency. “We feel it’s important that our culture and ways of working are representative of the clients and customers we support,” Zimmerman said. “If we are supporting companies in the work-from-anywhere age, we need to lead by example. This isn’t just how we work; this is who we are.”
“Embracing a hybrid model allowed us to prioritize team members’ mental health and an active work-life balance.”
M-Filers enjoy a great degree of flexibility within the contours of the company’s work from anywhere model. The model has also allowed M-Files to recruit top talent regardless of where a candidate may reside — and bring that candidate up to speed with processes and tools that allow for an efficient and collaborative approach.
“One of our core values is ‘helping others,’” Zimmerman said. “The physical location of our team members has not affected this value. Instead, the focus on its importance has only grown. We’ve learned that great talent can do their best work and make an incredible impact from anywhere. If the work you are doing does not require you to be in a physical location, then the purpose of coming together as a group must be meaningful. Embracing a hybrid model allowed us to prioritize team members’ mental health and an active work-life balance with more time for hobbies and family.”
Chief Executive Officer, ePayPolicy
At ePayPolicy, a digital solution company that allows insurance agencies, brokers, MGAs, and premium finance companies to collect digital payments, team members work three days each week at the company’s office. The rest of the week represents flex days that can be used to work from home. For Mark Engels, CEO of ePayPolicy, adopting this hybrid work model has been about managing team members’ need for flexibility with their business’ need for in-person interaction. “It provides our employees with the flexibility to determine which days they need to work from home in a given week, while also providing the company the benefit of in-person collaboration and team building,” Engels said. “We felt like this arrangement was great for both our employees and the business.”
“The pandemic highlighted the fact that there is no such thing as work-life balance.”
In negotiating the challenges of the pandemic, Engels and ePayPolicy team found that their approach to remote work and work-life balance would ultimately be to dispense with that dichotomy. Instead, ePayPolicy tried to give each employee the latitude and flexibility to attend to personal and professional priorities on their own schedules — without hard and fast delineations. “The pandemic highlighted the fact that there is no such thing as work-life balance, there is just life. It is up to each of us as individuals to allocate our time to attend to our personal and professional priorities each day,” Engels said. “Remote work provides people with greater flexibility to balance these priorities.” The company’s leadership ultimately opted for a hybrid approach in order to maximize both flexibility and collaboration. “There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with your peers and leaders in terms of generating a sense of mission and world-class culture,” Engels said. “Our hybrid approach captures the best of both worlds by providing flexibility to our employees with the chance to connect face to face and feel part of something larger.”
Vice President, People, Instapage
“The pandemic gave us a unique opportunity to reevaluate our company culture and evolve into a remote-friendly work environment,” Samantha Word, VP, People at digital advertising firm Instapage, said. “After tapping into employee feedback, we discovered that while employees enjoy a collaborative work environment, nobody was eager to go back to a rigid 9-to-5 office setting. Armed with this knowledge, we made the decision to not renew our office lease in San Francisco and instead explore other options for our team.”
Instead the Instapage team opted to move forward with Gable — an online portal that allows employees to search for and book flexible local workspaces.
“The flexibility of Gable allows employees in our hubs to connect and see each other, while enjoying the perks of remote work,” Word said. “Since our global teams are used to collaborating via conferencing tools and remote-work strategies, the transition to remote-first was easy and effective. We recognized the value that working from home brings to our team. Ultimately, we decided that optional coworking spaces are the best arrangement.”
their business’ need for in-person interaction. “It provides our employees with the flexibility to determine which days they need to work from home in a given week, while also providing the company the benefit of in-person collaboration and team building,” Engels said. “We felt like this arrangement was great for both our employees and the business.”
“After the isolation of the pandemic, our team members were excited to connect and rebuild relationships.”
Instapage’s decision, Word explained, was one predicated on mutual trust between the company and its employees. It was also a setup that allowed employees latitude while balancing the desire to collaborate and build relationships. “We trust our team to be productive and collaborative members of Instapage, regardless of where they work,” Word said.
“We also saw that people still crave human interaction. After the isolation of the pandemic, our team members were excited to connect and rebuild relationships. By combining these lessons, we’ve created a flexible and unique hybrid work environment that allows our team to get out of their homes, meet their team and have a hybrid work schedule that works best for their personal and professional lives.”
Responses edited for length and clarity. Images provided by companies included and Shutterstock.