The pandemic brought remote work to life to a scale never seen before. As it continues, organizations are increasingly asking: What should a return to the office actually look like?
Some have gone fully remote. For others, working from home was only temporary.
But workers are increasingly making their wishes known; Many want to stay remote—at least some of the time—and companies have to figure out how to adapt.
At Hootsuite, we wanted to make sure our office approach was employee-led. So, we asked our workforce what they wanted so we could tailor our strategy accordingly. Some wanted to be fully remote, which we expected, based on wider trends.
What surprised us was this: 89% of our Vancouver-based employees said they’d like to work in the office a few days each week or month.
Our solution? Nests—office space geared towards collaboration. In addition to the usual environments for individual work, there are tons of new collaborative spaces designed to let teams come together.
We fully redesigned our Vancouver office to be our first nest. We started by taking our two separate Vancouver office spaces and downsizing them into one.
Then, we asked ourselves what that space needed in order to be inclusive, accessible, and collaborative.
The result is an office that we’re incredibly proud to call our HQ.
Read on to learn more about why we felt a redesign was important, how we determined what we wanted from our new digs, and some of the details we’re most excited about—along with photos of our beautiful, functional, and inclusive space!
The idea that traditionally, we go to the office because the office is, quite simply, where work is done, has become a story from pre-March 2020.
And that’s not just for our people, either.
In the months and years to come, more than 20% of the workforce could continue to work from home three to five days a week, according to research from McKinsey & Company—meaning that up to 4x as many people could continue working from home as were doing so before the pandemic.
That means if you’re going to have a physical space, you need to be intentional about its function.
Employees are already stressed: 70% had more stress and anxiety at work in 2020 than any other previous year and return-to-office plans are only making that worse, says Harvard Business Review. They did a survey that found that many companies’ return-to-office plans were negatively impacting their employees’ mental health, with the top two reasons being policies around in-person versus remote work (41%) and the lack of work-life balance or flexibility based on the policy (37%).
That’s one of many reasons it was key for us to make the office available for those who wanted it, but not a requirement for those who weren’t interested.
The conversation around mental health and the future of the workplace is complicated and undeniably intertwined. And figuring out how to reimagine the future of work in a rapidly changing global environment can be a grueling exercise.
Although we don’t have a crystal ball view of the next five or 10 years, we’re going to tell you how we got to where we are now. And that “now” is forever changing. To get started, we’ve put our people first and implemented flexible work environments and access to benefits and resources necessary to promote a culture of empathy and belonging—centered around mental health and wellness.
Hootsuite is a Vancouver-born company. Our founder Ryan Holmes rode the early wave of social media management back in 2008, and the rest is history. Today we have offices in 14 cities around the globe, and call over 1,100 people our “owls”.
In early 2020 in Vancouver, we had over 450 people across two offices on four floors, but on most days at least 50% of assigned desks were unoccupied, as many people were already choosing to work from home. When the pandemic hit, we took a hard look at our offices and knew we had an opportunity to pilot a program where the spaces (which had previously consisted of rows of desks) could become a center for creativity, collaboration, and inclusivity.
Recently, we re-opened the doors of our newly downsized headquarters—a 27,000 square foot environment focused on spacious communal areas meant to foster teamwork, creativity, and that sense of connection and inclusion that we thought we’d lost. This is a re-imagined space. Old but new. Suited to meet Hootsuite’s people where they are today.
We have a distributed workforce. Hootsuite employees are empowered to choose where and how they work—either in the office, remotely, or a combination.
No one has to come into the office, it’s there for our people if and when they want it—and it turns out that they do.
Paulina Rickard, Manager of NA and APAC Facilities at Hootsuite, gets what our employees need now and carefully designed a space that would provide just that.
“What became obvious during the pandemic is we all have unique needs and require various things to do our work,” she said. “Sometimes that’s being in our jammies at home, and sometimes that means collaborating and connecting with our peers in a physical office space. Oftentimes it’s both.”
This was a major project, but one that our global facilities team was more than happy to tackle.
“We knew that we had an opportunity to make the office an exciting, collaborative, and inclusive hub that was a space for all of our owls,” said Paulina. “After doing a lot of research on industry best practices and listening to feedback from our people, we envisioned a flexible, accessible space that empowered people to do their best work.”
The space, designed by Mak Interiors in conjunction with the Hootsuite brand team, represents an environment built for innovation, flexibility, and choice around how people work and thrive best. It’s been revamped with features that focus on mental well-being, belonging, flexibility, and accessibility in mind.
Konstantin Prodanovic, Senior Copywriter at Hootsuite, is thrilled to have someplace to work that isn’t his apartment.
“Being back in the office has been creatively refreshing,” he said. “I’m in almost every day. From entire walls made of whiteboards to collaborative spaces where I can share ideas with others, having the space to share and work through ideas has been a boon to my work and mental well-being.”
But it’s not just the environment of the office itself, but also the social opportunities it offers that he enjoys.
“My favorite part of working at Hootsuite has always been the people,” said Konstantin. “And it’s been such a joy to be able to be around others who lift you up professionally and personally on a daily basis. The office has been designed in that spirit and that’s very evident. To say I’m grateful doesn’t even begin to cut it!”
Our new office is a lot more than just pretty. Our facilities team focused on including features that promote wellness, like exercise bike desks, sit-stand desks, and much more.
Hootsuite Vancouver also has a Wellness Room—a single-use, multipurpose, calming room that can be used by nursing mothers and people who need a quiet place to relax. The space can also serve as a meditation and prayer room and is a great place to retreat for those who experience migraines or sensory overloads.
When it comes to environments that breed productivity, we have 260 specific new work points, including desks, personal pods, team pods, and luxurious living areas.
Like Brayden Cohen, Social Marketing and Employee Advocacy Lead for Hootsuite, the owls who’ve gone into the office, so far, have been loving it.
“Our office redesign is a dream come true for me,” he said. “I’m grateful that Hootsuite has adopted a new hybrid working model where I can enjoy the convenience of working from home or choose to work in the office at my leisure. When I’m looking to collaborate with my team face-to-face, need to work on a project with laser-beam focus, or use advanced technologies, the Hootsuite office is the place to be. My visits have left me feeling energized and excited to return.”
Ensuring that our office design is inclusive was of utmost importance to our global facilities team—and an important component of attracting more diverse candidates, and promoting an inclusive culture.
Today, people living with disabilities make up 15% of the global population— and it is imperative that organizations take the time given to them via office closures, or reduced capacities to make spaces more accessible. Our office at 111 East 5th Street in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, has braille signage on all rooms and automatic door openers that make it easier for anyone to enter and navigate.
We also have dimmable lighting in meeting rooms to accommodate for light sensitivity, gender-inclusive washrooms, and our floorplans were reviewed by a DEI consultant and deemed fully accessible and inclusive.
Without commutes and trips to the office kitchen, we’re all sitting still a lot more.
“The average adult now spends six hours a day sitting—four hours longer than before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—and they’re feeling more aches and pains because of it,” found a survey from Pfizer and OnePoll.
That’s why we focused on ergonomics in our new space, which is equipped with new sit-stand desks, adjustable monitor arms, and ergonomic chairs.
It’s a well-known fact that proximity to nature has a positive effect on physical health and mental wellbeing. And believe it or not, biophilic design can produce similar reactions.
Plants significantly improve air quality by absorbing pollutants, and greener spaces naturally help reduce the effects of stress and anxiety.
Hootsuite is all about connecting and making an impact through social media. But “business-as-usual” isn’t enough. We want to build connections and create opportunities where our people can thrive in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment.
We also want to provide the best employee experience—that means making Hootsuite a place where everyone feels safe, welcomed, valued, and empowered to do their best work without compromising who they are.
Our employee-first approach and emphasis on wellness doesn’t stop at our office though.
In 2021 we redesigned our benefits with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in mind. We include things like culturally appropriate counseling, increased coverage for mental health (6x the previous amount), financial support services, fertility treatments, gender affirmation surgeries, 401K/RRSP matching, and more.
Another part of our DEI and wellness efforts has been pay equity. To ensure that everyone feels valued, we also set ourselves a goal of having zero pay inequities. We achieved global pay equity in 2021— not only from a gender perspective but across the entire company (we included elements such as race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, neuro divergence, disabilities, etc., and used a third party to analyze the data).
As the health and safety of our people come first, we’re currently operating at a limited 15% capacity to allow for social distancing. This is something we will continue to monitor as we act in accordance with local guidelines.
In order to keep things running smoothly, we let our owls reserve space at the office in advance using an app: Robin Booking System. This is a platform used by businesses to successfully manage hybrid work. Robin empowers people to choose how and where they work and makes it easy to book anything from meeting rooms to a desk for the day.
The pandemic has provided us with an opportunity for pause—an opportunity to begin again and re-write the script around what the future of work will look like for us.
Through benefits and initiatives that target fast-changing employee needs within a complex world, we can collectively create workplaces that are highly productive but also agile and empathetic.
Interested in joining the Hootsuite team? Browse open jobs on our careers page and learn more about working with us.