Extremely personal and incredibly close: how Wieni redefines how, where and when we work

Work is an activity, not a place. We can merge our new remote habits with the vibrant office energy we knew before. Discover how Wieni experiments and rethinks how, where and when we work.

Picture taken at one of our Wieni Retreats at Daft Music Studios, Malmédy

The HYBRID WORK paradox

People want to keep the benefits from working at home, but at the same time they want to go back to the office for in-person collaboration. Satya Nadella calls this the hybrid work paradox

Microsoft, Google and Amazon announced they would bring people back to the office in April ‘22. This decision wasn’t welcomed by everyone working there. People even said they would leave their companies if they had to go back to the office for three days. 

In Belgium a recent study from SD Worx shows that - when their job allows it - people prefer to go to the office between two and three days a week. Companies that adopt a “hybrid” way of working are the new normal. 

This hybrid way of working however also has downsides. It can be messy and exhausting.

“Workers are putting on pants to return to the office only to be on Zoom all day”. 

So it is complicated.

Start with empathy

Wieni felt an increase in productivity during the forced lockdowns. We gave up our office, and started co-housing with one of our partners (Rikolto). We also started with asynchronous communication for better collaboration. The only way to reduce the amount of meetings. We are still learning and growing. But asynchronous is there to stay.

We asked Wienis to come one day per week to the office at some stage, as soon as the situation allowed it. But to be honest, that felt quite arbitrary. And not really grounded. So we did our own research and asked Wienis why they like to come to work, but also what they like to do from home.

Wienis choose to come to the office for obvious reasons: to see their colleagues in real life and to talk to them. To have social interactions. For shared lunches and after work drinks. To play sports together. In their words:

“It’s all about people and interactions. Meeting colleagues and spontaneous moments.”

When it comes to work, they prefer their home office. To give an example: 

“When it requires my full attention and focus, I prefer to sit at home. Less distraction. Less interruption.” 

No surprises either. Jason Fried has a great TED talk from 2010 about Why work doesn’t happen at work. Productivity is only possible during long stretches of time without interruptions, the same way we sleep in REM-cycles. 

Our policy: no rules

So what did we take away after our internal research?

Big fat disclaimer: this is what works for us and not necessarily for other organisations. 

First and foremost, it is very individual. A junior living close to the office that is only just starting, has other needs than someone senior living across the country. But it also depends on your role. Are you on a maker or a manager schedule? Introvert or extravert? Or do you have a craving for afterwork drinks? Any reason is a good reason. Not “one-size-fits-all”.

As for now, we decided to have no rules. And to encourage independent decision-making by employees. We chose not to implement granular policies on where and when to work as such policies are likely to be suboptimal or flat out rejected by the majority of workers.

Instead we introduced some strategic interventions as experiments, based on flexibility by way of autonomy. We investigate original ways to establish deep human connections, whether as a team, in smaller groups or 1-on-1. Our goal is to create a human texture that outperforms the default 9-to-5 office culture where everyone just stares at a screen the whole day. We want to create a set of practices for more conscious collaboration and connection.

Experiments

1_ Wieni Assembly

A full day at the office every month, packed with social connection. Featuring our State of Wieni, a realtime all hands meeting with important updates and company announcements. We link it to internal workshops and we eat together. The same day our party committee organises a Team event. We send out the invites months in advance, so everyone can anticipate and make it work.

Wienis say these Assemblies are “a day to look forward to.” They generate a lot of energy and as soon as they end, people anticipate for the next edition.

2_ Wieni Retreats

We already have a 3-day event every year. We added an extra 2-day event. A mix of workshops, knowledge sharing and social activities. 

It is not always easy for those with kids to make arrangements, but as soon as we are on the road, it gels the team together like nothing else.

Previous editions of Retreats were in London, Marrakesh, Paris, De Efteling,...

3_ Wieni Partnertrips

We visit our partners as a team and take the time to sit down and talk to them. At the same time it is a fun social activity with the team. Not new, but more intentional and more frequent.

Partnertrips only have advantages: the relationship with our clients is strengthened, we see real people interact with our software, we gather deep understanding of actual needs, and we go back home with heaps of inspiration for new product features or innovations.

4_ Wieni Playdates

Also behaviour that spontaneously grew the past year. Wienis invite other Wienis to work together at one of their homes, at a co-working place or at a coffee bar. 

Not obvious for everyone. You can’t travel around the country with a large external display. But for some activities such as brainstorming or deep knowledge exchange it can fuel the conversation with the necessary oxygen. 

All of these practices already existed in one form or another. We just intensified them or made them more explicit.

Wiemote?

So are we a remote company or are we “hybrid”? We don’t know (and maybe we don’t care). Based on the type of activity we decide what is appropriate. In other words, wiemote. A unique combination of 2 ingredients: 

  1. Extremely personal: everyone has the autonomy to choose what works best for them.
  2. Incredibly close: intentional moments to come together and collaborate.

Interested to be part of the team? Check out our open positions.

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