- Brandie Hopwood
WIX: Interview with Kayla Crooks
We’ve learned a lot in the past weeks from our conversations with Global Real Estate Expert, Tom Suro , Assal Yavari of Okta, and Darianne Kagioglu of Headspace.
Today, we’re speaking with another leading global software platform, Wix. With millions of registered users in 190 countries, new offices continuing to pop up in the United States, and a recent hiring and onboarding push – Kayla Crooks, Director of US Operations, offers us an inside look into how their teams are coming together amidst change.
coDesign has historically been a company that excels in workplace moves, renovations, upgrades, downgrades, etc. We do the design, the architecture, the general contracting as well as the furniture implementation. One team handles everything from start to finish.
Right now, we have a flood of clients coming back to us saying, you know, we’re going to be moving next year. What the heck do we do? What’s changed? What do we need to be thinking about throughout that design process?
We want to get a well-rounded idea of what companies need and what they excel at. For us, this is both information gathering and information sharing.
So, Kayla, do you believe that your organization still needs a physical workplace?
Kayla: “Yeah, I think we do. Wix is an organization that is very big on having a physical office for our culture... we’re very familial organization. The majority of our offices in the Unites States are call centers and we feel it’s really important for us to keep camaraderie amongst those teams. I know there are a lot of call centers that work remotely but I really think there is something to a physical workplace that you can’t replicate with remote work.
Granted, during these times, we’ve been work from home and we will continue to be work from home until the end of the year at least, depending on how things are. We definitely have a goal to return back to the office and we’ll most likely have a phased approach.”
Okay, so to get to the root of what’s really going on her if I may... Is it a fair assumption to say the need for the physical workplace has become more about culture than production?
Kayla: “Yes. Definitely.”
Would you also agree to say that it’s hard to replicate that cultural aspect remotely?
Kayla: “We’re trying. But, yeah, it is. It’s much more difficult with Zoom fatigue. People don’t want to go to a Zoom Happy Hour at the end of the day because they want to get away from their strain. They want to have physical interactions with people instead. I have been doing a bunch of interviews recently and Zoom fatigue is real. I’m an introvert... meetings in general drain me at the end of the day.
I like the physical aspects of work and the grind of the work. Yeah, I think it’s difficult to replicate events and team building activities. There are definitely some good substitutions, however, I do feel that there is an aspect of ‘combating the drain’ so to speak.”
Do you feel like the workplace of the future looks different than it does now?
Kayla: “Yeah, I do. There’s been quite an evolution in workplace style and design. Going from all offices in cubicles to an open plan, which everyone thought was a great idea at first, then decided it may not be that great of an idea. I think, because just about everyone has a laptop now, we’re moving into having more flexible working areas. Small conference rooms, phone booths, offices, but also larger communal spaces with power sources and robust WiFi everywhere you go.
One thing I think might change are remote meetings. For example, if there is one person at our headquarters in Tel Aviv dialing in remote, then everyone should be remote versus having five people in a conference room with one person remote. This helps with engagement and allows the remote person to jump in and contribute as much as the others.”
That’s a really good point and one we’ve heard in a few previous interviews we’ve conducted with companies who’s headquarters are based outside the United States...
Our next question is, how do you make a financial case for or against having a workplace?
Kayla: “I’ve read several scholarly articles that make the argument in having a workplace. From employee engagement in their day-to-day work to their mental well-being, it’s good to get away from your house sometimes. Some may disagree, but I think it’s really important to have a separation between your work life and your personal life to maintain balance.
Work-life balance is such a huge thing. I think the case is happy employees equal happy customers equal money. I think is the most straightforward way I could put it.”
Has Wix suffered a loss of production since going to remote work?
Kayla: “I wouldn’t say less productive. I would say just as productive, if not more. In fact, we’re one of a few organizations right now who are actually growing. We’ve opened up three offices since the pandemic, which has been a huge learning curve as well. Just onboarding remote and it’s you know…
Tell us a bit more about the onboarding process...
Kayla: “So, we knew we were going to open up another location. For reference, at the beginning of the year, in the United States, we had San Francisco, Miami, LA, and New York. We then decided to open in Denver. Then, we had the opportunity to hire a bunch of people in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Austin, Texas. Just last week we reached a milestone and onboarded about 150 employees... we’ve never done that before. A lot of work went into that and we’re proud of what we’ve done.
How was that onboarding process rolled out? How does somebody familiarize themselves with the culture of the company when there is no physical workspace to report to?
Kayla: “You really have to make sure that everyone gets the attention they need while onboarding. They need to get to know their manager, the operations team, the IT team, HR, etc.
We structured it by separating it out into a couple different zoom calls. We onboarded them in smaller groups. We gave them basic presentations about finance, benefits, operations, and culture since they’re are all large parts of our organization. Really just letting them get to know the feel of Wix and how we operate. Everything down to the design of the deck we present to them has that Wix feel and fun environment to portray us.
That’s interesting! We like to hear that firsthand experience...
Kayla: “It’s quite a task. My teammate and I packed up a bunch of swag bags (laughs) there’s pictures of us surrounded by poly-mailers. It was fun!”
Awesome! Our next question is: how do you put a dollar value next to that water cooler moment?
Kayla: “Well, that’s the tricky thing with operations and workplace experience because most of our data is qualitative, not quantitative. As I’m sure you know, that’s a very hard thing to measure, get data from, analyze it, and figure out how can we make it better.
It boils down to a lot of one-on-one talks with people, which again, ARE water cooler moments... but we’re scheduling those water cooler moments and focus groups. We do a survey every year which, generally, we don’t like to do. We like having conversations, but it gives a lot of really good data on how the past year went, how events went, benefits, wellness offerings etc.”
Has Wix thought of a way to monetize that and put a value to those qualitative interactions?
Kayla: “I don’t think we have an exact dollar amount. I will say Wix, as an organization, is really aware of the value. Office culture is incredibly important to us and, when we realized we had to go work from home, we always thought it’s temporary, regardless of the performance.”
Do you believe remote work has a negative impact on innovation?
Kayla: “I would say, yes! Because, if we think about it, there is something to being around each other and the ability to say, 'oh, hey, what you’re working on? I have something that could probably help that!’ You might not encounter those moments when you’re at home working remote.
We see all these massive innovators… there is a reason why Apple will never work remote forever, right? At the base, we need socialization and we need to be around people. We can only go so far with Zoom calls and conference calls.”
I think the assumption here is that there is some measurable impact or decrease in innovation.
In some of the interviews we’ve conducted, we’re hearing companies say that productivity has been around the same and they haven’t noticed a change in innovation… But it’s only been 7 months.
Kayla: “I’d say it’s still very early to make any final assessment on that. Everyone thought working home was great at first... ‘I get to hang out with my dog! I don’t have to wear real pants!’ That’s all well and good but, the fatigue of it gets to you. For example, I live in San Francisco and I have a roommate. I have to work out of the living room because I am going to sit in my bed and work all day. That would not be good for my mental health. Granted, I do go into the office probably about once a week because I’m operations and have to make sure the mail gets picked up and the place hasn’t burnt down. I think, in the future, we will see more flex workstyle where you’re working from home two or three days a week and in the office two or three days a week.
I think innovation might still be on track right now, but I think we lose the potential for innovation. Because these people know each other already. They are having meetings with each other and they are still interacting. However, it’s the people that you don’t normally interact with, they are the important ones when it comes to innovation, I think.”
That unplanned encounter in the elevator...
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