In the ever-evolving landscape of work, where remote and hybrid arrangements have become the norm, forging new friendships has become a more arduous task. While workplaces traditionally served as hotbeds for new connections, a global shift to remote, hybrid, and distributed work have presented a challenge in finding meaningful relationships. That challenge came to light at HubSpot when its leadership team surveyed staff about the challenges of hybrid work: A full third wanted to gain stronger connections across the company.
The problem wasn’t unique to their company. When HubSpot surveyed over 5,000 remote, in-office, and flex workers as part of their 2023 Hybrid Work Report, they further found the significance of connection as a driving force in the future of work. When given a choice, 52% of respondents prioritized fostering great relationships with their colleagues over a tempting 10% increase in salary. And a staggering 66% expressed a lack of strong connections with their coworkers.
Building programs to create deeper connections for workers
HubSpot’s data showed that workers with lower levels of connection have a stronger intention to quit and a higher chance of job-seeking. To combat this, Eimear Marrinan, VP of culture and ESG at HubSpot, and her team created “Connect Four”—a program aimed at creating deeper connections for their employees. The four areas of focus: purpose, equity, ease, and sustainability.
To tackle those four pillars, managers would play a big role in creating more opportunities to connect. “We expect leaders to drive this across their own teams, to hold their teams accountable, and build connections themselves,” Marrinan said. So HubSpot implemented a mix of self-paced training, guest speakers, and direct coaching.
HubSpot’s four pillars of employee connection
To ensure their response to the data created opportunities for deeper connections, HubSpot focused on four pillars.
Purpose: How can we be intentional about connecting employees outside of their teams?
Marrinan’s team needed to create the space and time for purposeful connections. To help, they created Connection Days, where once a week HubSpotters intentionally gather to work and socialize together. In the majority of locations, they meet up on Thursdays. “If you want to see people or if you want to host your team together in person, do that on a Thursday,” she said. “And similarly, if you want to host a remote meetup, do it on a Thursday.”
Ease: How can we make connections easier?
To remove the friction in making and managing connections, HubSpot created Mix Hub, a Slack mixer tool that connects workers in a virtual setting, facilitating personalized connections. Instead of the standard questions about what department you work in, the pairings receive fun, quirky prompts to explore together. They’re also investing in remote meetups at scale to allow for bigger groups to gather.
Equity: How can everyone have the opportunity to connect, regardless of where they’re located?
60% of HubSpot’s workers are at-home workers. To support these employees and facilitate connection opportunities, HubSpot created a role dedicated to remote culture. The remote culture champion takes the pressure off of Marrinan’s team and creates local control from the people who know those workers the best. As a bonus, this voluntary role is viewed as a leadership opportunity for those who step into it.
Sustainability: How can we gather intentionally—and guard the earth while we do it?
HubSpot also used location data to select 10 destinations where the company will sponsor remote meetups globally this year. They specifically look for areas with a large proportion of employees who don’t have the option of an office and who are engaged in their work. Employee engagement data helps understand how engaged they are, but HubSpot also picks up on cues like Slack participation to signal they’re ripe for intentional connecting. These established guardrails help maximize connection while minimizing their carbon footprint.
Marrinan credits their data for guiding their next steps. “Actually ask for feedback and then listen, and act on that feedback,” she said. “Let that be your guide around what you’re solving for. And then make sure that what you’re doing is being driven from the top.” To ensure their executives are in tune with the strategy, they also host gatherings when they travel. Recently the CEO hosted in Singapore and the CFO hosted in Seattle.