The opportunity to build stronger teams and cross-department relationships was a major factor in software company Text-Em-All’s decision to begin a hybrid work model experiment this fall.
Starting in November, Text-Em-All began designating two days a week—Monday and Thursday—for employees to work remotely if they choose to do so. The other three days all employees are expected to work in the office, strengthening relationships with coworkers and building company culture.
“We’ve believed that magic happens around the water cooler for years,” Founder and President Brad Herrmann said. “I truly believe that. At the end of the day, push comes to shove, a team that has had those interactions and knows each other better will outperform the others.”
Part of Text-Em-All’s company culture also centers around cross-team relationships and mentorship among junior and senior level employees. The Frisco-based software company, which specializes in delivering text messages and phone calls, employs more than 40 individuals, including software engineers, customer experience specialists and account managers.
“We empower our customer service people to engage with engineers, and we want the engineers to ask the marketing team what’s going on,” Herrmann said. “Our ultimate enemy is siloed teams.”
Herrmann said Text-Em-All wants to reap the full benefit of a hybrid work model, which includes mentorship between senior-level staff and newer junior-level employees or interns.
“If we’re asking a senior engineer to come to the office, that person can almost certainly get more work done at home,” he said. “But coming to the office is the other part of their job. We need senior engineers to work alongside the junior engineers and interns. We’re asking them to make the drive in to magnify their impact.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Text-Em-All was 100% based in the office; remote work was done occasionally, but was not the norm. The pandemic showed leadership that the company could function well remotely, but the team had to get creative to find an avenue to simulate in-person interactions. For example, leading up to the return to the office, company leaders created “TEA Talks,” short for “Text-Em-All Talks,” by grouping employees together to ask non-work questions and help coworkers get to know each other.
“We just noticed those relationships that you can build so easily when you’re with someone else at the office, that we took that for granted,” said Hai Nguyen, Text-Em-All Founder and Head of Product. “We found as the pandemic got longer, it was missing.”
Text-Em-All continues to invest in building the relationships the company values so much. The “TEA Talks” were a hit and continue today, and they started a program that includes going out to lunch on the company’s dime with an employee from a different department.
Since the hybrid work model began in November, longtime employee and Senior Account Manager Thomas Hoffmann said not only has it been nice to have the office camaraderie back, it has also helped with his work-life balance.
“It’s nice for my family to have a schedule to know [my routine],” he said. “Having a routine and something that’s set and not always in flex helps us all be successful, beyond just coworkers but our home life, too.”
Although some companies around the globe are pivoting to full-time remote work indefinitely, Text-Em-All leaders believe their team will have competitive advantage in the future due to investing in a hybrid environment. Plus, it helps result in a level playing field for everyone: No one misses the “meeting after the meeting” and employees don’t have to deal with as many hybrid internal meetings.
“Being private and employee-owned allows us to make long-term decisions,” Herrmann said. “Going full remote has its advantages, but we don’t feel it holds up so well in the long run. So, we’ve come up with a model that does our best to balance the wants and needs of our team members with those of our company.”
At the end of the day, a positive company culture is all about building trust and building relationships, Nguyen said.
“Once we have trust, as a team we’re able to solve the tough problems,” he said.
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