Remote Tools Will Solve the #1 Question of Hybrid Work. Who to ☕ with w/ Franco Castaldini @HiFive

We don't go into an office to work. We go to meet people. So how will tools used to build remote connections do the same for going to an 🏢



3/13/202337 min read

Here's the recap...In today's episode, I sat down with Franco Castaldini the GM of HiFive. A product incubated within Siemens (yes the global conglomerate) to solve their own issues around employee engagement and what the future of the office looks like. They built a product to help teams not only know who will be in the office and when to better organize office visits. But to automatically foster connections and coffee meetings between those who are in the office that day. We chatted about what office utilization has looked like, why people do or don't want to come into an office, what companies need to think about regarding redesigning their office space, and much more.

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Hybrid as a fallback for employee engagement

We've all seen the news about quiet quitting, quiet firing, and everything in between. I and many remote leaders believe hybrid is not intentional. It's a retreat to something closer to what companies are used to. Since after 3 years they've yet to redesign their operations for the future of work. In a previous episode of the show, we dove into multiple reasons behind the idea of quiet quitting. One of those is employees being less engaged and feeling more isolated. So some company leaders feel by either forcing or enticing their team to RTO the time spent in the office will solve this. Those lunches, coffee breaks, and random watercooler moments will just happen. They won't, especially if your best friends/colleagues aren't in the office on the same days you are. Thus the need for tools like HiFive to help coordinate the right time to come into the office and intentionally create those coffee break moments with you. Especially with people you may not know already.

The future of work requires face-to-face interactions

People crave the opportunity to spend time together face to face. For extroverts like me, it's every day and all day long. For introverts, probably not the same but it's still vital. So companies will need to invest in multiple ways their team can get together. Next week, we'll kick off a series of a few episodes on IRLs. Company retreats, the team get together, and enabling individual employees to get together should be at the heart of every company culture. But workspaces can play a vital role when done correctly. Central HQs mean you can get a larger number of people together but it requires a 60-minute commute. So the interest in a commute like that will likely be minimal with many of the team who live away from the city. So companies will really need to plan crafted and intentional opportunities to come in once or twice a month. Micro-spaces like what Standard Chartered in the UK has adopted mean fewer employees in the same space. But because they are much more local it very likely increases the number of times a smaller team can be together.

Company leaders need to wake up

As we've seen for 18+ months there's a major discrepancy between what executives and employees want. Again, building a successful business is anchored on one point. Happy employees make happy customers. The other way around is also true. As of the day I'm writing this, the power has returned to the company. Because of their mistakes in raising so much capital and then using it to hire people they didn't need, most companies are letting people go. So company leaders are thinking short term. If you want to keep your job RTO. But that's plain stupid. Because once the economy recovers and hiring restarts most of the employees forced back into the office will abandon ship. Jumping to companies that are remote-first and that will always support flexibility.

Scott - [03:35 - 03:41]

Hey Franco, thanks for joining today. How's everything with you Doing really well.

Franco - [03:41 - 03:48]

Thanks for having me today. really enjoy the opportunity to get to know you and, to talk about hybrid work.

Scott - [03:48 - 04:10]

Yeah. Excited. it's a topic that we've covered, quite a bit across, the, I guess season two and, probably mostly season two, but I think a little bit this season as well. And something obviously we're gonna cover in the future because it is probably the biggest standard of work these days, more so than obviously no fully remote. And we'll kind of dive into that, as we go forth. where are you calling in from, Tim? From today?

Franco - [04:10 - 04:18]

I am calling in from Santa Clara, California, where we're having a, a rare, rainy day.

Scott - [04:18 - 04:21]

Oh, all right. That's, that's definitely good.

Franco - [04:21 - 04:23]

Yeah. Awesome. We need the rain.

Scott - [04:23 - 04:33]

Absolutely. It's, is, is there a certain time of year, like assuming outside of summer, that tends to be like the fire season? Cuz you always, unfortunately, hear about, know the fires in northern, California.

Franco - [04:33 - 05:01]

Yeah, thankfully this past year, we didn't have much of a fire season with the exception of, our summer. but compared to the previous two or three years, this year was thankfully, not as bad. so, and we're getting some early rain, which is great. I have to drive into the office today. in the rain, talk about hybrid work, and, driving into the office when it's rainy in California can be, a bit of a challenge.

Scott - [05:01 - 05:38]

I remember a few times when I was more in San Diego and, when it once in a time rain down there, just like the chaos, like people have no idea how to drive in the rain. So assuming it's, you know, probably somewhat similar and yeah, I guess we'll probably dive into the i the idea of flexibility, right? This is a great use case, right? It's raining, you don't really wanna go outside and to drive the rain, like how that flexibility kind of comes into play when people are choosing or they don't choose. but we'll get there. We'll get there. So usually the way that we start each one of the episodes. tell us a little bit about yourself and tell us a little bit about the origin story and the backstory of High five.

Franco - [05:38 - 07:54]

Yeah, so, I've, had a 20 plus year career in, in enterprise software, spanning everything from, how you leverage data to be able to improve outcomes for your, your customers to creating applications that provide end user value. And, more recently in the last, six years, I've been focused on the workplace. and this was even prior to the, pandemic, building applications that helped corporations, create greater connection between their employees and the space that they provide. Then the, pandemic, hit us all, and that unfortunate experience had this interesting and positive benefit to changing the way that people work forever. and when I think, you know, when I think back at, the beginnings of the pandemic to where we are right now, the transformations that have occurred just in that time period, as well as the uncertainty ahead of us create such an interesting problem space for us to try to figure out how do we deliver value that ultimately goes back to, helping people make in real life connections with each other. Now that space and time is more fluid and how do you also, create those connections in space that corporations are paying for? and that space could be their hq but it also can be satellite spaces. And we're also looking at even more flexible definitions of, of what we mean by space, when ultimately it's more important that we help facilitate people coming together. So that was the impetus of the, the, the idea behind High Five. We wanted to, create an application that ultimately made it easier for people to make in real life connections when their preferences on an individual basis were so different when, with, when they would like to come into the office for what reasons, what do they wanna accomplish while they're there?

Franco - [07:54 - 08:29]

and we, we started to look at how we could build a tool that would ultimately make it effortless for people to make those in real life connections while at the same time providing a personalized experience for them. and, and that's been what we've been focused on building and learning from our users and iterating and, and we're really excited about how an application like High Five can really contribute to, helping bring people together in real life, given that, everyone's schedule is different these days.

Scott - [08:29 - 10:07]

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that opens a few questions that I have. I think the first maybe we wanna start is we spoke offline, and I know we've spoken about before that the product of High Five was actually, I guess an idea incubated through Siemens. So you I guess, properly work for Siemens, the company, right? The large, I would always have, always thought Siemens is an electronic company, medical equipment company, but the fact I think like they're also in the employee engagement experience type space is quite, interesting. Even maybe just building it internally, but would love to even maybe hear some of the backstory of like how that idea came about, maybe through the pandemic saying, Hey, we really need something here again. Like maybe kind of I'll open up my, I guess my first question's probably related, you know, we've seen a lot of companies trying to push this return to office, different types of models, three, two full-time know Elon Musks, probably the, the most famous one recently. but learning pretty quickly that their employees aren't exactly so keen about the idea of returning to office or being forced to have to return to an office a certain amount of times. And there's obviously lots of data saying that almost 90% of employees expect flexibility and where, when they work and how that kind of fits into play. So maybe mm-hmm. as we kind of maybe bridge this question I had before, maybe with this of, you know, what was Siemens return to PO return to office policy and I guess during the pandemic or post pandemic ish, and has it changed since implementing, or has it changed since getting feedback through the company and also the, through using this, product in internally for rolling it out?

Franco - [10:07 - 12:24]

Yeah. So Siemens acquired a company, back in 2018 called Comfy. I was actually originally hired by Comfy, which is a fully owned business unit of Siemens. And Comfy was in the business of providing a workplace experience application. It started off as a temperature control application that made it possible for people inside of a building to control their environment and evolved, over the years, to provide other use cases like desk and room booking as probably being the most common use case that we come across these days. But what we realized with Comfy, was that, the need to reserve a desk ahead of coming into the office wasn't necessarily solving the complete picture of, the issues that we're preventing, upstream of making a desk reservation. Those, those issues were, upstream and preventing people from ultimately deciding to come into the office. And since Siemens, is, you know, a large portion of its business is to serve office buildings, the need to understand how we can motivate people to utilize office space more regularly by making the value of coming into the office. So apparent that yet, while at the same time on the flip side of that equation, making the effort to figure that out really easy, was really important to Siemens. and its core business of serving its corporate real estate customers, because the last thing that Siemens or anybody in the, any business in the corporate real estate market wants is underutilized space. But that's what we have today. And, you know, I think, Siemens, just like any other corporation adopted policies, early on for Siemens, in their case, guidances, if you will, on, on, how often, people should be expected to come into the office, and it was a high level guidance.

Franco - [12:24 - 14:41]

The CEO of Siemens, Roland Bush said that, employees should aim to come in three days a week. And that policy was actually, I wouldn't even call it a policy, it was more of a guideline was shared with, its employees, you know, midway through the pandemic, call it, 2021. And that po that guideline still exists. the, the guideline is still three days a week. However, what, Siemens did as many other companies have done, has have empowered their people, managers, their team leaders to figure out what's best for their team, with the guideline or maybe the aspiration of trying to come into the office, three days a week. and that hasn't necessarily resulted in the utilization of space that, a company like Siemens wanted by setting this guideline for, for their employees. And that's because the effort to decide whether to come into the office, the reasons why you would come into the office that would be different than just staying at home or working from anywhere else, was, was too high. It was too difficult to figure out for many people to, you know, what day should I come in for what reason, who else is gonna be there? and, you know, ultimately create an experience where they're not sitting in front of their computer in the office when they could be doing that somewhere else and have avoided the, the time and effort to come into the office. So the effort has been too high. and the facilitation of making the value of coming into the office and creating a good experience for people for when they are in the office was also, challenging for many team managers to coordinate. It was just, too much effort for those team managers to, to figure out, well, how do I make it so apparent that, for everyone on my team that when they come into the office, they know what kind of experience they're gonna have that's going to provide a value added benefit on a regular basis week after week, week after week, when time and space is so fluid.

Franco - [14:41 - 16:52]

and, and that's where we've centered High five around, is to really focus on, making those matches. while at the same time making it very easy, to do that. And we've been testing it internally and been getting a great, feedback and response. what we ultimately do is collect people's individual preferences, everything from, what days of the week they like to come in, who do they like to meet with, who are their favorite colleagues, followers, or maybe if they're open to other connections outside of their immediate group, how do we infer those connections to, to create more in real life connections between colleagues that they might not otherwise, experience because, you know, we tend to work in silos, and, and we collect these preferences and then we are able to, create very relevant recommendations for, each employee that's personalized. and that method of facilitating, in real life connections really starts to address the upstream problems that we're preventing people from venturing outside of their homes or outside of their normal comfort areas of work. And, and, and that's, starting to, to show that we can start to understand people's behaviors and understanding in, you know, employee preferences, behaviors, reasons for coming in, the people who they connect with on a regular basis. The space that they use for the purposes that they're coming into the office for is extremely valuable data, when it's combined with, actual space utilization data, which is a big part of our business, understanding how space is being used through sensor technology, and other systems that we, provide as a business. And so that's really the, the, the motivation for Siemens to continue to invest in workplace experiences, to have this opportunity of bridging, the understanding of a, of, people's behaviors in connection with space.

Scott - [16:52 - 18:39]

There's a lot to unpack, from what you said. Yeah, it seemed in a very common answer of we've seen space utilization 20, 30 something percent. So I'm, I'm making an assumption, if you can confirm, you please do that. Probably space visualization, Siemens in a different office is, is probably similar. And the idea, again, of giving guidelines or, or rules and trying to kind of nudge people back in, it's having to change the, the mindset and as what the product is doing and what it seems like Siemens and certainly High five, understand that why are people coming in, right? I know Simon sek know famous book, start with why, like, that's the biggest question. Now why should there be a space, you know, we've clearly understood, hey, we can work fantastically and be extremely productive working from home or a coffee shop or where, wherever that wants to be. What's the reason for coming to the office, right? It's certainly not doing work, right? Those days were over when the cloud came around, we didn't need computers the size of a room. We didn't need physical keyboards or typewriters, right? We could work with a device and an internet connection. So the purpose of the office is no longer for doing work. And it's great to hear that a obviously a significantly large conglomerate really understand this and is incubating this product of how do we shift that? And I'm fascinated to kind of know, watch the journey to see what data's found and what changes to the, to the office space are made. I'm, I'm a big believer that, you know, especially with maybe 30% utilization, right? Take the 70% that's not being utilized and convert it into fun areas or like a real kind of crazy idea.

Scott - [18:39 - 19:41]

It's make it to like residential area. Again, there's probably legal, legal things and codes and things that would have to be changed, but I mean, the whole idea is return to the office. So you're living away from the office and we want you to return to the office. And the number one benefit of remote work year after year, doesn't matter what survey you look at, is always no commute. So maybe taking that idea of, hey, if we have our hands tied to the space, maybe bringing the actual people to live in that space and at least utilize the space, that, that we're in. but that's maybe we'll, we'll dive into a little bit later, but we'll love to know. Guess maybe if you can share more insight into what the data looks like so far and the lessons learned to date from, I think within Siemens and maybe any other companies who may be using High Five. What lessons you've learned, kind of what, what you're finding, what the preferences are, are people preferring to come in set days? Is it very much on, I'm not coming in unless I know there's people coming in. What have you learned so far?

Franco - [19:41 - 21:56]

Well, knowing who's coming into the offices, one of the critical inputs for anyone making a decision on whether they should join and, giving the opportunity for, people to essentially follow each other, in the context of the office. Think about it as, you know, I've got my favorite coworkers who I like to meet with, and that tends to be the biggest motivation for why somebody would want to also come to the office, is knowing when their favorite coworkers are coming in. So that's been validated. we've got great input on knowing that, that's a big motivation for people to come in. the other motivation is more cultural, in that it's important regardless of, how people can work productively today. yes, we can be productive from home. We can be productive from anywhere in the world to get our work done. When I say our, I'm talking to each individual, but as a team, as a company, as an organization, what's been lost, over the course of the pandemic and into this time that we're in right now are, are the cultural connections, the bonds that you can make with other people. And there is a desire from most, not everyone, but for most people to feel a connection to others. and I think that, is giving opportunity for us to not only think about how we create those connections inside an office space, but also how do we create those connections for people who are permanently remote and it's not realistic for them to come into the office regularly. So we're starting to think about this more inclusively, in, in really trying to foster, connections between people that al that ultimately lead to higher retention, being able to attract, employees because you're working for a company that provides flexibility, but at the same time you don't feel isolated.

Franco - [21:56 - 24:06]

You don't feel alone. and I think that's a really important point is, we've become maybe a little bit lonely through the pandemic, working from home more regularly. And I think there's a desire for people to connect in person. the other thing, thing that we've learned is that, most human beings like routines. and if you can establish, a routine that, ultimately creates an experience that delivers value to that individual. So I like to come into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that's, you know, how I've kind of coordinated things with my home life. there, there's an understanding then with my kids and when they come home from school, is dad gonna be home? My wife knows that, I try to come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And then that also creates, an understanding and an expectation with, with others in the workplace of when Bronco comes into the office. And so establishing routines, but then giving them the flexibility to manage that on a week by week basis, while at the same time servicing recommendations with connections, meeting thing types, you know, the kind of the, the week to week management of your week where, where it's not something where it's thought of as hybrid, but it begins to flow together where my, my personal life and my professional life become one. And the coordination of that as well as being able to create connections between others becomes seamless. And that is something else that we've, validated is that this fluidity, while at the same time providing an effortless approach to creating routine and communicating intentions, across each individual and surfacing that up to the team manager to understand how their employees are, are working, is, is really, that's the, the crux of what we're trying to achieve here, is to create flow, on a week by week basis for every person.

Franco - [24:06 - 24:18]

And to align that with each individual, to create the cultural connections that ultimately create an environment that people enjoy, you know, have a high satisfaction with.

Scott - [24:18 - 25:50]

Absolutely the biggest issue from every one of the status of remote reports, not including the, the pandemic, cuz I don't think any of that data is, is relevant, has always been loneliness of people missing that connection. And I think there's a lot of different types of loneliness. I remember when I started 11 years ago, building one of the first, all remote companies. I felt like three different unique types of loneliness. So what exactly loneliness means, but an argument I always make when people try to talk about the office is the office doesn't make culture. And the fact that yes, people need in real life interactions, and you talk to anyone who's been doing this long enough, we are always very supportive of the idea of getting the team or individuals together is often is, is humanly possible, but that doesn't necessarily need to be at the central headquarters. But the kind of the the messages that I picked up from, from what you're saying then what I'd really love to hear is the idea of the flexibility, like giving, everyone has the flexibility, right? Whether you want routine is always good. Cause that definitely helps people and setting those expectations. I mean, I've started to go back into Tel Aviv, started yesterday was my first day every other week. And planning to go in was something that I used to do before the pandemic, like every other week was going to, to meet with startups and, and meet with people. And it would, like, the big decision maker was like, Hey, did I have enough meetings that day? Like if I only had one meeting or maybe two meetings, like it really wasn't worth the hour, the hour bus where I did to get there, knowing that I had enough people to meet.

Scott - [25:50 - 27:17]

Like, that was the big, big motivating factor. And I think that's a beautiful idea of the product. It's to give you that sense of, okay, maybe I have an idea of coming in three days a week or two days a week, and these are kind of the days, but okay, in this week nobody's gonna be in there, so maybe I'll switch a day or maybe only work one day this week or two days. So I think that's a, a beautiful idea that, again, it's very much focused around the idea of flexibility. mm-hmm. From what you're seeing in the space of obviously hybrid, remote, and you've kind of been living this through, through, your time, there are companies looking to keep employees working from essential headquarters, or again, I know we, we've started off with this, or are they starting to think more on the idea of a local option? I'm very much the believer in the idea of the essential headquarters instead, mm-hmm. Cause I don't care what you offer. You can amenities and massages and chefs and all those things. If I got commute an hour, 60 minutes to 60 minutes to 60 minutes, I don't want a 60 minute commute regardless of what you're giving me. And Standard Charter, in the UK made a deal with Regis, i w g something, to replace their central headquarters with Microspace, whatever the most local spaces to each individual they can choose to work there. but from what you're seeing it through, obviously Siemens and companies who are testing out and using High Five, what are you seeing so far? What are you hearing? Is there still that fixed idea, we gotta get everyone back to one central location kind of regardless of two days, three days flexibility?

Scott - [27:17 - 27:29]

Or are people starting to think more in the terms of, hey, this whole commute thing that's that's the problem, or that's a big problem, so how do we try to solve that? But maybe getting close to the individual employees?

Franco - [27:29 - 29:47]

I think where we stand today, most corporations, so heads of hr, heads of real estate are thinking about trying to bring people back into their hq. I agree with you. I don't think it's sustainable. I think that, I'll give you an example. One of our customers recently implemented, a policy forcing employees to come in on twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. And that policy was implemented, a month ago. And, the feedback from employees, after implementing that policy was, well, what they found was that, employee satisfaction, employee morale was, at its lowest point ever. And also there was also a, a high, an uptick in employees considering leaving the company. And there was direct attribution back to the policy change of forcing people to come in twice a week to their hq. And their HQ is beautiful. It's one of the most beautiful campuses I've ever seen. It's, it's, got every amenity you can imagine plus more, you wouldn't wanna ever leave if you know, if you were perhaps living next door, to the HQ and not having to commute in or, or not come, you know, coming in and not being on a Zoom call for eight hours of the day and, and really didn't accomplish any of those serendipitous moments or water cooler moments that, that you might have experienced in the past because your agenda is packed with connecting with people through your computer. And so, but that, example I just shared is fairly common, not only in tech, but also across a number of different industries. And there's a lot of friction that exists at the moment between, executives of companies wanting their employees to be together for the reasons we talked about and for, the investment that they make into their real estate to provide value to their employees.

Franco - [29:47 - 31:41]

You know, it's a sunk cost, it's an ongoing operational cost that's really high. They wanna make sure they get value. Now, that's where we are today. and I think we're, we're seeing this play out almost predictably, that, you know, just like the example I shared, employees are not satisfied with that type of, mandate, if you will, to, to try to come into their, the hq. And, you know, a lot of people too also moved, away from their headquarters and are living in other areas now that, make it difficult for them to even come in in the first place. and that's creating all sorts of interesting HR challenges in terms of how do you start to categorize, employees based on decisions that they've made around where they wanna live. Mm-hmm. So, all that being said, we're seeing this play out. It's predictable that there's, there's friction, there's pushback. Another one of our customers was forcing their employees, to come in five days a week, right? Never changed their policy. You know, it's expected you come in very much like, you, you, if you're an employee of this company, if you don't show up, you're basically resigning. And just, two weeks ago, that company has backed off that policy and is going to be implementing flexible working arrangements, delegating the decision on when they, people should be coming into the office with their team managers, right? So while you've got some companies kind of just as recently a month ago, forcing people to come back, another company who was experimenting or living through five days a week is now come through the realization that their employees aren't happy. These are all kind of sequencing and, and playing out very predictably.

Franco - [31:41 - 33:38]

And what I think is the trend is very much in alignment with what you believe, will happen is that, corporations will downsize their hq. I think HQs might not necessarily go away in the near future, but they will be definitely downsized in the near future. And with the savings that, real estate teams, achieve through downsizing their, their HQ footprint, some companies are in a better position to do that than others. They'll start to think about how do we leverage micro satellite spaces, especially in metropolitan areas like where I live here in the San Francisco Bay area, where we can push space closer to where people live, to give them an option to meet in person that's, equipped with all of the security, and it, requirements that, the corporation has. and that I believe is going to be the trend, especially in metropolitan areas. and that's what all that lines up really well with what employees want too, is I don't wanna sit in the car like I did this morning for over an hour, to come into the office. and my intention of, of coming into the office should be more about making those in person connections and building those bonds and creating the, the, the, the cultural, wellbeing of, of the company. And that that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to force everybody into one location. so companies are gonna get smart about this. It's gonna take some time for that transition to happen. It's not imminent because we're still seeing, these, you know, forcing people coming back, learning that employees are unhappy, maybe losing some employees, oh, we better course correct. And let's think about of a more flexible approach.

Franco - [33:38 - 34:05]

Let you know this is too hard to manage at a a top down level. Let's delegate to team managers. Team managers then become responsible for making those decisions with, you know, guidance from HR on trying to facilitate, in person meetups. And then real estate is going to basically follow suit and start to think about how they support that angle with more satellite spaces and especially in metropolitan areas.

Scott - [34:05 - 35:31]

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I'm, I know Amazon was the first company, at least a publicly state, maybe a year something ago, that they were going to put the responsibility on individual managers to decide. And I remember whatever the episode was that I record around that time, I was up in arms. Like, that's just the absolute worst decision that culturally as a company coming from the idea, I mean, of not even the issue of second class citizens between people who are onsite versus offsite, but you may have one manager who hit the ground well, was able to transition, was able to be intentional, how they run a team and is able to lead a team remotely. Great. And they're like, Hey, work remote, do whatever you want. And you have another team where the person didn't have the training, didn't have the up skills, still having trouble kind of figuring it out, pushing more to be back in the office. And you have two different kind of cultures, two different expectations. And I, I could imagine if I were on the team that was supposed to come back to the office, I'd be like, I don't want to work on this team. I'm gonna go work for this person. So now you have potentially competing cultures and competing experiences within each individual team because the company leadership should be the one making the decision going, saying Here's what we're doing across the board. Yeah. Make it fair and obviously equitable to everybody versus putting an individual, individual managers who may have had a great experience of remote, maybe hadn't had a great experience remote. And yeah. So I'm not much of a fan of that, but one of the, another points moved to a little bit different direction.

Scott - [35:31 - 36:14]

So the idea of, of tool like high five is to give the individual employees the opportunity, hey, to build relationships to kind of build engagement amongst, amongst ourselves. But how does a tool like High Five give the company itself the opportunity? Cause right, the, the effort and the work of building engagement, at least for now, no, with the future, we'll see. Mm-hmm. should be more on the company itself versus the individual employees. So seeing, okay, in the specific space, we have, I don't know, 40 people coming in next Thursday, like how can a company that sees the 40 people coming into the office next Thursday, like what can they do with it? What should they be doing with that data and that knowledge that they get using the product like High five?

Franco - [36:14 - 38:36]

That's an interesting question. And I don't think, we have, the answers to that yet because we're just starting to collect this data and, starting to surface it to the people who are responsible then for their, you know, the hr, their people, or work workplace teams, the space. they haven't, they haven't, actually been able to, aside from knowing when people are coming into the office, they haven't been able to know other aspects of why they're coming in, who, who they're meeting with, you know, what type of, meetings are they having while they're here, what space did they end up using? Oh, the triangulation of, of, understanding the holistic picture is not something yet that we've stitched together. And nobody in the market really has stitched together that holistic picture for, for HR and real estate teams. So, but you know, we've got, we've of course spoken with, those buyers of, of, you know, real estate teams and HR teams, and we know that understanding employee behavior and the motivations and intentions of why they use space, can help prepare them and at a high level with supporting the environments, the types of activities that are happening, from kind of a top down perspective, right? It, it gives them an opportunity to react to something based on the intelligence that they've collected. That ends up being more event based though, right? It's, it's more, you know, corporate teams are better at the, planning of an event or the planning of, of a change of space or things like, you know, that are a reaction to what they've learned. What we believe is critical, and this is the role of High five, is that, facilitating in real life connections is happening organically.

Franco - [38:36 - 40:37]

It needs to happen organically. It needs to be something that is, again, back to the desire to create, a continuous flow of somebody's day, regardless of their personal and professional commitments, is ultimately what we're wanting to help achieve for, people. So that they have those connections, they have those serendipitous moments, they have those, the, the experiences that create a connection with each other and to, and, and in a space that is conducive to their meetings. And it's that fluid, organic, changing dynamic that happens on a week to week basis, which is the real hard part. If you solve that problem, the data will inform, corporate and hr, real estate teams and HR teams with how to better align the resources and the things that they can do in terms of changing space, in terms of creating, measurements or understandings of, of, using the data to understand whether somebody is, is at risk or lonely, using the data to, you know, facilitate proactive measures to reach out to, to people, creating, social events that, are in alignment with, you know, the people who are coming in and what their preferences are. those end up being kind of top down responses to this, the data that you're collecting, which is needs to happen, or, you know, the, the connections and the, fluidity of your week needs to happen organically. so we're not, you know, with high five, we're not, prioritizing that at the moment, right? We wanna solve the problems that are preventing people from getting together, we solve that problem, then the data that we collect is undoubtedly going to be of value to those teams and what they do with that data.

Franco - [40:37 - 41:10]

You know, I think simply put, we're not quite sure yet, aside from these high level ideas that I just shared, but we know that it's going to be extremely valuable to them, more so than what they're able to collect today from just understanding how their space is being used or doing surveys with their employees a one time, you know, response to a set of questions and that those end up being very limited and this is going to really give them a clear picture of, of, what improvements they can make.

Scott - [41:10 - 42:35]

Yeah, absolutely. I, I, I've spoken to a couple other companies. We had also on the podcast building similar tools and thinking that was also one of my points that like the whole space utilization like that, that's not so much as value. I think when you had mentioned the point of events, right? If we understand that people are coming in for social opportunities in relationship building, if you saw, hey, 40 people are coming to your office, that should be maybe a trigger of, Hey, let's do a pizza party. Let's do some kind of event funding the office. Or we saw maybe many of them, or most of them were parents. Maybe let's do a bring your kid to sc, bring your kid to Workday and get, you know, a clown or some kind of no fun things for kids. Like the unlock that this data gives to a team of, again, we know the reason why people are coming in is not to do work. They're coming in to be social relationship building. So we understand that and we understand who's there. Then we, the company can then take advantage of, okay, how do we give more ways to those people who are coming in the opportunity to connect, relationship build and have fun? Because that's, that's certainly the point that they're coming into. And I think for a product like this, we're similar. Like that's, that's going to be the big unlock for the company. It's, Hey, we have this data. We know who's coming in, when they're coming in theory, maybe why they're coming in, or, or what about the people? And let's, let's do something bad. It let's, let's make it a rewarding experience. So they had a good time, they enjoyed themselves. Scott - [42:35 - 42:41]

Okay, maybe they'll wanna come in next time versus, okay, I'm not, I'm not coming back, coming back again.

Franco - [42:41 - 43:24]

Yes. anything that you create that tighter connection, right, is going to be critical, longer term, for companies to continue to evolve their workplace, their policies, how they're measuring employee engagement. and all of that's changing. And, and the only way that you can make informed decisions is by understanding people's preferences, their behaviors and surfacing that in connection with, other metrics that they're measuring. And when we get to that point, there are going to be some interesting ideas that probably we haven't even thought of yet, and how companies can create environments, and culture that, ultimately serves their people better.

Scott - [43:24 - 44:19]

Yeah. So my next question is, we, we alluded to, and we spoke about it briefly before, this idea of, again, understanding that the office is not the place where work done gets done in the future. The companies that are using the product, and maybe Siemens alike, is, is there work already being done to actually physically redesign the office? You know, I know, I think Salesforce and Atlassian are probably the two most famous companies that have kind of completely redesigned their headquarters. Again, moving away those desks and kind of small spaces and focusing much more on place on opportunities for people to kind of sit together and have fun together and build relationships together. From the companies again that you're working with and maybe even Siemens, are you seeing, are you hearing like this come up or people thinking about this? Are they already starting to make changes or starting to plan changes yet?

Franco - [44:19 - 46:35]

Yes, for sure. And I would say that, you know, you mentioned Salesforce, Atlassian, there are other companies in the tax space that probably are, are, would be in the category of, of innovators, in that area. And therefore they're making investments to adjust change space. You know, one of the use cases that came up during the pandemic was neighborhoods. so how do we start to divide up space, to support team collaboration? And let's think about a neighborhood as being a different, space configuration that, would support, more collaboration type scenarios, right? Where you're, you know, you've got bigger space, more whiteboards, cameras, so there's, the best tech to make employees who are remote feel connected to the people who are in the room. you know, fewer, fewer desks. and you know, even bringing other amenities like cafeterias, you know, mini kitchens, close to those, neighborhoods. We've seen things like that. but among, not only in tech, there have been some companies outside of tech financial services that are experimenting with this. and, and I think we're gonna see more of it. we're gonna definitely see, you know, just in our office right now, I'm sitting in a room that used to be an office that used to have a desk. It used to, be used by one person and now it's a set of chairs, sofa and a little table, like a coffee table in the meeting in the middle of the, of the, the space. So very low cost way of, creating a space here that is more meeting oriented. I have a whiteboard, on the other side of my computer here. And behind me, of course, you see a monitor that was a cheap way of changing the space to, align with how people are thinking about using the space now that, there's no need for somebody to be in this office eight hours a day.

Franco - [46:35 - 48:03]

Low cost split thing that we did much more, expensive, investments that some other companies have made, to change spaces. I, I saw one of 'em recently, you know, reconfiguring walls and, and creating more, standups, you know, tables that you can scribble on and, you know, modern tech that I was mentioning around how to, then facilitate remote employees to connect with their people in the office. Those are, few and far between at the moment, but I know a lot of real estate professionals are considering those. It's just that, you know, when do you pull the trigger on that? Because if you build it, will they come? I think what we're starting to see is that if you build it, they might not necessarily come because you're not really solving those upstream problems, right? This ends up being yet another amenity that doesn't, it's proven to not move the needle. So things, while we have those innovators doing some really interesting cool things, the mainstream market of, of real estate teams, they're not gonna make those investments until they start to see people coming back into the office more regularly. And that's not gonna happen until you start to solve those upstream problems to make the value of coming into the office really apparent to them. And at the same time, making it easy for them to make those decisions.

Scott - [48:03 - 49:24]

Yeah, makes a lot of sense. and company leaders trying to understand that, redesigning a space still with a focus on work, that that's certainly not, not the answer. again, because that's obviously why, why people aren't, or that's not, not for the purpose of, of the offices. And I think even like the idea of the tech, I know this was a, a popular discussion during, certainly during the pandemic of, you know, multiple people and let's say in a conference room and individual people on a zoom call, where I'm much of a believer, even if you are physically in a space, everyone should have the same real estate, right? Everyone should be on the same zoom box or whatever tool you have. So everyone has the same inclusion, has the same access. If you have a bunch of people in a, in the space that are white boarding, doing things like that. Now, how did the remote feel? I mean, I would feel like second class citizen handle those people there that are listening to each other, not really listening to me. Maybe, maybe if I'm the leader on the manager, they kind of have, have, have to listen to me, but if not, right, am I really going, doesn't engaged. Yeah. so last question I have, for you for today, is maybe if you can share for the hybrid leaders who are listening to this podcast, today, when it comes out, what are the top three things that they should be thinking about around ensuring that they're able to keep their employees happy and engaged within a hybrid environment?

Franco - [49:24 - 51:54]

I think, first and foremost, don't assume that you have all the answers at, at an executive level. and instead empower your team managers to do what's right for their employees. You have to give them some guidance on expectations, but you also have to empower them to facilitate that. Now, the empowerment at the moment is challenging, and so therefore, you know, tools like High Five that can help, team managers facilitate this more easily, will become imperative, for hybrid teams to hybrid companies to make hybrid works successful when you're delegating, responsibility of that guidance to your team leaders. So I think that's really an important point. You know, we, we talked about it earlier, joked about it as well too, that, you know, Amazon was one of the first to kind of, delegate this down to team managers. I fundamentally believe that that's the right approach, because it's not something that could be managed at a corporate level. and so how do you support that is, is going to be an important question for him. So, but that's the, the top, thing that I would, I would do. I would also, think about, not only your location specific needs, but your human centric, right? So shift the, the mindset from location to what's best for the person. and what's best for the person is listening to their individual preferences and intentions, and trying to accommodate that in a as empathetic way as you can to, make sure that, you know, they're not feeling forced or feeling, that they're having to make a significant amount of sacrifices for the benefit of meeting others when, you know, if you're forcing people there, they might, it might backfire, right?

Franco - [51:54 - 54:09]

It might. So you gotta listen to your employees and that means understanding their individual preferences. So I think that's, you know, location centric versus human centric. Get away from this location centric mindset. Focus more on your employees and what they want. Make it easy for them to, cuz there is a desire to meet in per in person and, and, but it doesn't need to be at a specific location. It can be more fluid than that. And I think that's over time, as we talked about, that's where you're gonna start to see this pendulum shift from large HQs to micro satellite spaces. the, the third, recommendation that I would give, is more centered around, employee satisfaction and, and culture. and rethinking how you measure that. with the backdrop of some employees being permanently remote, some people being co-located to a space, some employees preferring to come in regularly. how do you start to, rather than making broad strokes of what our employee satisfaction morale is, their, their connection to the workplace, their engagement, I think all of those more HR centric metrics need to be, reconsidered or, or redefined is a better word, in the context of hybrid work, so that, you're avoiding any, preferential treatment based on location. You're creating a more inclusive environment and, you're avoiding employees feeling lonely or disconnected and ultimately leaving. and I think that's, we've witnessed a little bit of that over the pa over the course of the pandemic, you know, the, great resignation, you know, that, I think when we look back at that and we look, analyze the data, my belief is most of that came from people just not feeling connected to, their employees, their, their company and just, you know, taking the next best, best offer.

Franco - [54:09 - 55:04]

and then also we're starting to see it now with this new trend that the media's calling quiet quitting. where, you know, because of that lack of engagement and that loneliness, it, it ends up, you know, causing people to, to not feel engaged. And so HR teams are wrapping their arms around this, and I think they're gonna have to think about their KPIs, their ways of measuring that differently going forward, and using data like what we talked about, intention, preference data, actual behavioral data, to, better respond to their employee needs with measurements that are, are more in line with, with hybrid work use cases. So those would be the three things that I would recommend to anyone, who is considering implementing a hybrid policy or is in the middle of it as well too. And, and just challenge with, you know, some of the, do's and don'ts.

Scott - [55:04 - 55:18]

I'd love it. for everybody listening who may want to get a hold and in touch with you, learn more, a little bit more about High Five, maybe test out the app. What's the best way to get ahold of you to get a hold of High Five and to, to test the app?

Franco - [55:18 - 56:06]

Yeah, they should go to, and us and it's, it's, play on words there. It's not just based in the us it's high fives and there they'll find, the application, they'll be able to sign up, start using it, jump right into it. and we're excited to have as many users, on our application to provide us with feedback. of course, if you want to in reach out to me individually and not just, start using the application, you can find me on LinkedIn. the only other Franco Castaldini, on LinkedIn is a real estate agent. So I'm the other guy, and would love to connect with you, on these types of topics. so feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn as well.

Scott - [56:06 - 56:15]

Awesome. No, I guess somewhat you're involved in, in real estate as well, but, look for the Franco who's more involved in High five Franco, right?

Scott - [56:16 - 57:47]

Thanks so much for joining, and sharing your knowledge and experience and really helping define, cuz I mean this, at least for me, is going to be the big unlock for hybrid, again, giving an essence and a reason why people should go in and really giving that sense of who, who's going to be there. Because that's, again, that's the motivating factor. People are going in to meet other people and to do coffees and lunches and whatever maybe at the company, hopefully is, is organizing. So giving an easy tool where people can kind of organize and really understand when's it good for me to go in and when's not good, good for me to go in. And something I guess maybe we didn't ask, and maybe I'll kind of throw it in there. And I'm a big believer, especially as we move forward with, with remote and, and certainly hybrid, that the connections will really need to be based, especially when everyone maybe isn't necessarily coming in the same day. And most connections we have today tend to be people on your core team that you work with on a regular basis, but how do we bridge those? How do we build relationships on outside teams that you don't interact with? And I think that for me, that's going to be the big unlock and really going to be connected to interests, like shared mutual interests and, I don't know, hiking or rafting or crocheting or what have you. And that having maybe potentially that ability where you can again, maybe create groups, right? Maybe do a hike group, you know, if you were having an office, maybe in the mountain somewhere, I don't know the terrain there so well, but maybe there was like, Hey, let's do a hiking day or maybe two days a week, let's these people come in to the office that day because hey, they do a hike at lunch or something like that makes this a really, really exciting, exciting area.

Franco - [57:49 - 58:26]

Oh yeah, you're spot on. And we, that's one of the things that we wanna see happen with our application, is make it really easy for people to start to ex make connections outside of their media contacts. and that that's really when the, the magic happens. And, you start to see the benefits of employee engagement, morale starting to go up because you know what, we're human beings. We love to be around other human beings, most of us. And I think that that, is healthy for all of us, improve mental health, improve productivity, improve connections, engagement, all of that, are good things.

Scott - [58:26 - 58:37]

Absolutely. So good. Franco, again, thank you so much for joining today. Appreciate the conversation and for everyone who's listening, thank you. Until next time. Yeah, have a wonderful day, everybody.