Why Your Distributed Team Should Consider Microhubs
Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Pipe a new way for companies with recurring revenues to finance growth with no debt or dilution. Twitter: @harryhurst
When we launched our company, Pipe, in September of 2019, we had no idea how different the world would be just months later. As most companies do, we got an office to house our growing team. But only a few weeks after our beta launch in February, the world went into lockdown and our office space went unused.
Everyone worked from wherever in the world they happened to be — across the U.S., in Europe, etc. Initially, it was a necessity forced on us by Covid-19, but our full public launch on June 24 made me love the idea of being distributed.
Watching how quickly and efficiently our team worked while entirely remote was incredible. Without being in one room, there wasn’t the distraction of dozens of us running around in an open-plan office. Collaboration and communication weren’t incidental but intentional and focused. Everything was well-documented because it had to be. We decided that even when it was safe to return to the office, we wanted to stay distributed.
However, I still believe in in-person collaboration. There’s power in sitting in one room together, brainstorming and having impromptu conversations that a fully distributed setup can never replicate. But it’s still possible while being distributed — and microhubs are the answer.
What are microhubs?
One of the biggest benefits of a distributed workforce is that you can hire from anywhere in the world, taking advantage of a national and even international talent pool. But if you hire enough people, you’ll naturally end up with groupings in certain areas, especially major cities such as New York City. Team members also tend to refer others who live in close proximity. When those groupings get large enough, it makes sense to invest in physical space for them to collaborate in-person.
These are microhubs.
Microhubs offer the flexibility of working from home with the ability to still interact with your team in an office. For smaller groups, meeting in public places like coffee shops might work; but with larger groups, and especially during a pandemic, investing in an office space that can be kept clean and socially distanced may be well worth it. Even if your team invests in physical space for a microhub, that space will be smaller and less expensive than a full-sized office. Unlike a traditional office, this space can be optimized for collaboration with plenty of conference spaces.
By empowering your team to build local communities in their microhubs, you’re keeping them invested in the work and giving them an opportunity to collaborate in new ways. Because microhubs are based on physical location and not department, the barriers between your team are broken down. Different departments might get the chance to learn about what the others do and come up with new ideas that would never happen in a traditional office environment where departments tend to be compartmentalized into different parts of the space.
For new team members, microhubs help them to better integrate into the team, offering them insights into the company’s culture, product and vision. They’ll feel more invested from the very beginning when they have in-person time to connect with their colleagues.
And as the company evolves, the team stays connected. People get the opportunity to celebrate accomplishments and support one another through challenging times, bringing them closer even once they return to working from home. For a distributed workforce, microhubs are a powerful method for connectivity and collaboration.
How to create microhubs
Even if your team members know that there are others in their area, they may not connect without some encouragement. Keep in mind that microhubs should be an organic process, so while you can encourage people to meet, it should never be forced.
We launched our first microhub in Miami, with New York City and a European city soon to follow. As we continue to expand, we expect to keep building microhubs where our team members are. Here are a few tips we learned along the way:
During all-hands meetings, talk about what different microhubs have been up to and share your experiences. Encourage the team to interact with each other and make it easy for them to make plans with those in their area.
Also, make it clear that microhubs don’t need to have strictly work-based meetups. At Pipe, if microhubs want to get dinner or meet up for fun outside of business hours, we don’t just encourage them to do so but also allow them to use the company card (within reason, of course). The goal is to keep the team connected however works best for them but without compulsion. If someone prefers not to meet or doesn’t feel comfortable with meeting up during a pandemic, that should be fine, too.
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