- Adam Cheshier
Getaround: Interview with Joshua Beld, Workplace and Real Estate Manager.
Getaround is on a mission to create the world’s best car-sharing marketplace, and for over a decade, it’s connected safe, convenient and affordable cars with people who need them to live and work. The company promotes car sharing over individual ownership, and claims that it’s better for your wallet, your neighborhood, and the planet.
But, how has the company fared during COVID, and what are its future workplace plans?
We sat down with Joshua Beld, the company’s Workplace and Real Estate Manager, to get answers. Below, we share the most interesting and informative moments from our conversation.
People will come for the people
Joshua Beld: “In my opinion, the workplace will still have a place in the future. I really do believe that. One of the things that keeps people at Getaround is the people, and that's something that you actually hear from a lot of different companies. People come to work because they really enjoy their co-workers. They enjoy the energy that's created, and when an office design is really successful, people want to go into work.”
Design for the post, post-COVID rush
Joshua Beld: “Once COVID is completely done, everyone will rush back to the office because they are tired of being at home all the time. Eventually, it will settle back somewhere in the middle. Some people will want to be in the office five days a week, other people will want to be at home five days a week, and everyone else will be in the middle somewhere. It’s our job as workplace designers to figure out how to best support that model. I think we should be using the data that workplace managers have been gathering through COVID, showing that the virtual workplace does actually work. We can then design offices the appropriate way. Like, ‘hey, you thought you needed x amount of square footage for your employees and to cover your growth, but you really don't. What you actually need is about half of that and you can use your space smarter.’”
Getaround has gone remote first
Joshua Beld: “Our return-to-work strategy is still being edited at the moment. We have officially announced to all of our employees that we will be remote first indefinitely. Unless you have a business-critical reason for being in the office for something, you are not coming into the office until further notice. That being said, once it is safe to open up our spaces again, we will have some formal office space for people to come into.
I don't personally like to micromanage people in this way. However, knowing that we're going to have to keep people safe, we will cap our office at a certain point. Depending on when we open back up, it will probably look something like, ‘these departments have preference on these days to come in,’ but, if they are not reserving the desks, then they are open for anyone.”
Workplace employees know best!
Joshua Beld: “The workplace hasn’t changed. I don't think it's evolved for the people that are actually designing your workplaces. If we had our choices of designing workplaces last year, we would have designed them to fit what will be post-COVID.
For years, I have been telling CEOs and different companies that I've worked with, ‘You don't need that many conference rooms. You just need to make sure that conference rooms are used in the right way. Make sure that your employees are used to having meetings out in the open at collaboration stations, rather than reserving a conference room for an entire day. If you do that, you don't need much real estate.’ However, it was the trend for people to say, ‘I need more and more and more and more and more’. That's why we see the San Francisco real estate market the way it is right now. There's so much sublease on the market because people wanted more and more and more and more.”
Hot take: At some point we’ll all be back in the office 5-days/week
Joshua Beld: “In another few years, people will say, ‘I'm tired of some people being in the office and some people working virtually.’ I don't think it's very productive…So, everyone will end up in the office 5-days a week. It will all return to pre-COVID after a while.”
Promoting culture during COVID
Joshua Beld: “A lot of workplace managers have been really innovative with the type of virtual events that they are throwing together. At Getaround, we actually did a bunch of cocktail classes right away…We also did a virtual Chopped competition like the Food Network TV channel. Little things like that.
We noticed that our happy hours were not the most successful - they were fine, just not the most successful. But, if you do little things like a Slack competition where it's like ‘hey, everyone at this time, no matter your time zone, walk outside for 5 minutes and send us a photo in this thread of the most interesting thing that you see.’ It's the little things that get people involved and engaged, that recreate the work culture that you're used to seeing in the office. It's the equivalent of, you know, water cooler chatter…”
No return-to-work date…yet
Joshua Beld: “So actually, I'm being so conservative that I am saying we don't have a return-to-work date yet. And it’s because I don't know how to keep you safe if the variables outside of the office are still... variable.”
Want to learn more? Don’t miss our previous conversations with:
Tom Suro MCRw, a global real estate expert specializing in workplace strategy, facilities management, design and construction.
Assal Yavari, LEED AP Senior Director of Global Workplace Management at Okta, Inc.