- Adam Cheshier
Samsara: Interview with Danielle Ryan, Sr. Manager of Workplace Programs
Samsara is a leader in Industrial IoT. The company has 5 offices globally, serves over 20,000 customers, and has grown during the pandemic.
We spoke with Danielle Ryan, Sr. Manager of Workplace Programs, who exuded a passion for workplace planning. Danielle explained how Samsara smoothly transitioned to at-home working at the start of the pandemic and detailed her vision for the company’s post-COVID workplace.
Note: In the interest of your time, we’ve selected the best/most informative moments from our interview. These are shared below.
1. Can you share your workplace team’s greatest challenge?
“One of the things that our workplace team is really focusing on is, how do we make the experience consistent? How do we make sure that your work from home experience is just as productive, just as pleasant, as your days in the office? If we are hiring employees that are completely remote, how do we make sure that they have a continuity of experience? Not just…feeling that they are part of the team [when] on Zoom calls, but that their office is comfortable, that they have good lighting,…good internet connection…”
2. What is Samsara’s workplace philosophy?
“Our philosophy as the Workplace Team is [that] we are not just about the building. Any place [where] Samsara employees do work, we should be thinking about that experience - whether it's at an airport, on the way to meet a client, or in their apartment, or in their house in the suburbs…[Employees] should never feel like being in the office is the only way that they can take advantage of the workplace.”
3. Will Samsara adopt a hybrid work model post-COVID?
“Obviously, no one is going to be required to be in the office, but [our leadership] places a great value on the in-person interactions that have made the company successful so far. So obviously, while we are going to be very flexible towards remote work, I do think that there is going to remain a large desire for people to return to the office as it suits them. Again, a lot of the work that we do is hands-on, so it works better in the office. And, not to toot our own horn, but the workplace team has built some really beautiful, really fun offices…That's one of our goals too, is to really make [the office] a place where people want to work. Make it a place where work works.”
“So, I think my vision for hybrid work is two-fold. One, that the remote workers feel just as integrated with the office as the in-house folks, and [two], that the in-office folks feel like their work is supported in a myriad of ways…”
4. Will Samsara hot-desk?
“You know, if you keep one desk per person and you let 800 people work from home on any given day, you may sometimes be looking at hundreds of empty desks sitting in a row. And I can tell you, there is nothing less sexy in an office space than rows of empty desks. So, I think as leaders are understanding the reality of that, they are becoming a lot more open to flexible seating. I don’t think Samsara will ever be a fully hot-desk model. Our business teams are too diverse. For example, a salesperson might not be able sit at an engineering desk and get things done the way they’re used to, and vice versa. But I think [Samsara will] slowly move toward a more flexible desk-per-person ratio as we explore return to work strategies... and the way you do that, is that you make the new amenities better than they were before.”
“One of the things that managers who are afraid of the word ‘hot-desk’ don’t always realize, is that sometimes if you give up just a couple of desks, you get back the ability to create something really cool within that space that really works for your team. If I asked every manager at Samsara, ‘Do you want to hot-desk?’ they would all say ‘no,’ but if I said to the engineering manager, ‘Would you give up 10 of your 50 desks in order to have a custom engineering workspace where those 10 desks were?’ they would all say ‘yes.’”
“Since we have had people working from home for a year, now is the time to introduce them to these new and flexible seating models, and you do that by…selling it properly, by making it a wonderful amenity instead of a space-saver and…by giving them data on why we have done this. That's one of the wildest things to me…I’ve worked with engineers for a long time, who don't like to be moved and don't like their seats to change. But, the minute you give them the data on why they are moving somewhere, they’re like, ‘Oh, that's cool. Okay, done.’ So, I think it's a combination of messaging, amenities, and then…the fact that we have been out of [the workplace] for a year, and we have an opportunity to really reinvent the workplace we’re all used to.”
Eager 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.