Flexibility has always been a priority for remote-first startup Sendle, which has employees across four countries and even more time zones.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, gathering at the company’s dedicated WeWork office spaces in Sydney and Seattle (where it is headquartered) was no longer an option for many team members.
Sendle found a solution that gave its employees the freedom to work from home and connect with colleagues in person when needed.
The challenge: bringing flexibility and connection to a globally distributed team
Founded in 2014, Sendle is the first 100 per cent carbon-neutral delivery service in Australia and the United States. Even before the pandemic, Sendle was remote-first and wanted to give staff the option to do more than just work from home. Doing so would motivate its employees to do their best work and keep them happy.
‘We tend to be highly productive (working remotely), so it’s just about how we enhance that with the in-person experience,’ explains Nicole Olver, Sendle’s chief people officer.
Flexibility was extremely important for the company as it considered where to provide office space for its teams. ‘As we were looking for (workspace) options, the biggest thing we wanted was an area that would give us the flexibility to grow,’ says Eva Ross, Sendle’s chief marketing and customer officer. ‘Like any startup, often you don’t know how big you’re going to be.’
A traditional headquarters solution didn’t make sense because Sendle’s employees are spread across the US, Australia, the Philippines and New Zealand. The company needed a solution that could provide a place for its globally distributed team to connect that was away from home, and that could scale up or down with Sendle’s changing needs.
The solution: a hybrid workplace
Sendle partnered with WeWork to create the foundation for a flexible hybrid workplace model that combined dedicated office space with WeWork All Access, which allows employees to choose from hundreds of WeWork locations around the world to go to.
In 2019, Sendle established Australian offices at WeWork 100 Harris Street in Sydney and a US homebase at WeWork 1201 3rd Avenue in Seattle.
‘It’s almost impossible for a single small company initially to set up a space that can cater to all of the diverse tastes and environments (that employees need). But coming into WeWork, you’ve got both cosy lounge spaces and bright, open desk spaces,’ Ross says. ‘On their first day, we see a lot of people initially sitting at their desks and then gradually moving around, interacting with the space differently. It’s about being really, really comfortable when you’re at work.’
It’s been such a shift for the office to cater to people rather than the other way around, and WeWork certainly provides that in spades.Eva Ross, chief marketing and customer officer, Sendle
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, lockdown restrictions limited the time employees spent in the office. With many team members moving away from where they usually work, Sendle wanted an even more flexible way to give employees a place to work away from home. So, in early 2021, the delivery company gave its employees WeWork All Access memberships so they could work at nearly any WeWork space around the world.
‘Having WeWork All Access allowed (our people) to head over to the WeWork nearest to them and still have that consistent experience that they’d always expected of WeWork, but in an area that was closer to their home,’ says Ross.
The results: increased connection and intention
The pandemic has made the company really intentional about space, Olver says. ‘It used to be the default that you have an office and everyone gets a desk, and voilà – we have community! Now we have to think a lot more deeply about (how we use our office spaces),’ she says.
The office has become a place to collaborate with purpose, rather than just the default place to work.
‘It’s been such a shift for the office to cater to people rather than the other way around, and WeWork certainly provides that in spades,’ Ross says. ‘(At Sendle) we’ve created a licence of – when you’re going into the office – this is the time to connect, to spend time with your colleagues, to learn by osmosis, to immerse yourself with the team.’
In Australia, where lockdown policies restrict travel across states, WeWork All Access has made it possible for team members to get together outside of the Sydney office.
‘(We’ve) created mini gatherings in Perth and in Brisbane for those teams that we otherwise wouldn’t have used the WeWork spaces for,’ says Ross. But with WeWork All Access, Sendle has been able to ‘bring those people together when otherwise they would’ve been quite isolated.’
Sendle’s hybrid strategy is currently ‘quite fluid’, says Olver, in order to keep up with constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions in the countries where employees live. The leadership team is ‘looking to create moments of consistency without being prescriptive’ about when employees would like to come into the office, she says.
When the time is right, Olver says, Sendle will establish a ‘more structured rhythm to give people more consistency’ in their work lives.
‘We’ll start to see more defined moments when we do meet, but they’ll probably be more centred around the work we do and ritual moments instead of, say, everyone coming in on Mondays,’ she says. ‘For example, every Wednesday (before the pandemic) we had a midweek meal. Most people will gravitate towards that and then build schedules around connection and collaboration points around that ritual.’
Right now, many Sendle employees are already benefiting from engaging with the broader WeWork community.
‘We always see our people joining virtual events (that WeWork organises), whether it’s a quick meditation session or a trivia day,’ Olver says. ‘It takes the pressure off us always having to organise things. We can streamline into something that’s already happening – and it gives us the opportunity to network with other companies.’
- Hybrid workplace model that includes dedicated office space in Sydney and Seattle, and WeWork All Access for employees in other cities
- Ability to easily scale office needs up or down as needed
- More intention behind time spent in the office
- Redefining the office as a place mainly for connection
- Consistent office experience for employees
- Ability to participate in WeWork-organised events
- Opportunities to network with other WeWork members
As the CEO of BLOOM Digital Marketing, Ana Cvetkovic uses her journalism background to help companies tell stories that resonate with their customers. She is a former food blogger.
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