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Return-to-Work Series: A conversation with Sift

Last week we sat down with Gina Belleci, Director of Workplace Experience at Sift, a high-growth tech company, specializing in digital trust and safety. Gina, with the help of Mackenzie Madsen and Matt Cobette, oversees the company’s offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Scottsdale, Salt Lake City, and Dublin, Ireland.

Our conversation was excellent, as Gina exudes a passion for the work that she does. She likened herself to Mr. Belvedere from the 1980’s sitcom, and her job to “constantly balancing 20 spinning plates on fire. ”What did she mean by all this? That her role requires her to respond to unexpected challenges and wear many hats.

The primary takeaway from our conversation with Gina was the following: That Sift is taking a people-centered approach to its return-to-office. To learn more about what exactly this means, please read on!

Employees deserve choice.

Sift preaches “flexibility first” and plans to adopt a hybrid work model, post-COVID. At present, no Sift employees (with the exception of IT and Workplace) are working from any of the company’s offices, which will reopen in a series of phases. Sift will observe its success at each phase, request and respond to employee feedback, and adjust its reopening plan, as needed.

Sift believes that giving employees choice is important for both employee happiness and company success.

“We are encouraging our Sifties to listen to their own, internal compass, and whether they choose to return to the physical office, continue to work remotely, or something in between, we’re here to support them... Ultimately, our goal is not to force, trick, or lure any employees back into the office, if [the office] is not where they want to be or if [it’s] not where they do their best work.” –Gina Belleci

While Sift is genuine in its commitment to employee choice, it’s hard to imagine that employees won’t want to experience all that the office has to offer. Sift moved during the pandemic, and the company’s new HQ provides amazing amenities and a variety of space types that support various ways of working (small conference rooms, standup meeting tables, a prayer room, a mothers’ room, a quiet library, and a gaming area).

Self Care is crucial.

Promoting self-care has been, and will continue to be, a priority for Sift.

“Sift has been so smart in how they’ve approached support around this time. They’ve adopted the belief that this is a hard time and that we’re all kind of dealing with some fear and challenges.” –Gina Belleci

Sift has implemented COVID Mental Health Days, or one day off per month, for every month that lacks a holiday. Additionally, the company has adopted Deep Work Wednesdays, where every Wednesday, from 1-5pm, there are no meetings and employees use the time to dive into heads-down work.

Over the past year, the company has also built a culture of checking in with teammates and taking the time to ask the question, “how are you?” Yes, it’s simple practice, but also an effective one, and one we imagine Sifties will carry with them far into the future.

Build culture online and in-person.

As Sift transitions to a hybrid work model, the Workplace Team will make a conscious effort to feed both its in-person and virtual cultures. To do this, it will draw upon the culture building activities that it first implemented when the company was forced to go fully remote. Gina spoke about the creative activities that the workplace team has hosted over the past year, including the weekly “Super Special Weekly Workplace Thingies” or SSWWTs.

“It’s been really great to see what games, contests, or interviews became featured [as SSWWTs] and which got quite popular. One time we were doing Jeopardy... and one of our workplace folks got Ken Jennings to do a video question and that was really fun. People got really stoked about that.” –Gina Belleci

Curating company culture takes effort, intentionality, and passion, something that Sift’s workplace team certainly possesses.

“Virtual or in-person, my team is responsible for curating the moments that matter in employees’ lives and we take that very seriously.” –Gina Belleci

Final Thoughts

If you loved learning about Sift’s return-to-office plans and are curious to know what other companies are doing, please check out the following:

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