Rob Sadow: Flexible, Policy, Match, Benchmark | Work 20XX Ep18

Jeff Frick
August 5, 2023
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Often referenced Future Forum Research found that flexibility ranked second only to compensation in determining job satisfaction Rob Sadow, Co-Founder and CEO of Scoop was curious to explore how self-reported importance translated to feet on the street, as measured by headcount growth in companies, by Flexible/Hybrid work policy.

Rob & team combined the Flex Index, a database representing 6,500 companies’ flexible/hybrid work policies, with partner People Data Labs Labs data on headcount growth by company to find out.

Welcome back for another episode of Work 20XX with our guest Rob Sadow, where we dive into the Flex Report, the July findings, and much more. We dive into he and his brother’s less-than-smooth, rebirth from the Covid ashes, Covid taketh, Covid givith hybrid work, and re-birthed entrepreneurial journey. And I had to extract a few nuggets from his Show Flex Perspectives, featuring many of the industry’s favorite guests including Nick Bloom, Phil Kirschner, Shujaat Ahmad and Brian Elliott.

Thanks again, Rob.

The Flex Report - Job Growth Edition - 2023-July-18

Winning the war for talent in the post-pandemic world, Future Forum Pulse Survey, Future Forum Team, Future Forum, 2021-June-15

Flex Perspectives Podcast

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Episode Transcript

(Cold Open) 

Get your water, right?

Good to go.

Sweet, that's what I like to see.

All right, great.

So I’ll count us down and we will go in three, two, one.

Jeff Frick

Hey, Welcome back, everybody.

Jeff Frick here coming to you from the home studio for another episode of Work 20XX.

And you know, there's earnings season that comes around every quarter, but this seems to be report season and research season because there's all kinds of great research just getting published and dropped right down.

There was one that just came out recently that hit my attention and it's called the Flex Report Job Growth Edition, July 2023.

So to find out more about what that thing is all about, we went obviously to the source, we're excited to have joining us, I think, from Brooklyn today.

He's Rob Sadow, the Co-Founder and CEO of Scoop.

Rob, great to see you.

Rob Sadow

Thanks for having me, Jeff. I appreciate it.


Absolutely and I shortchanged you there. Not only are you the Co-Founder and CEO of Scoop, but relative to today's conversation, the creator of the Flex index and also the host of the Flex Perspective podcast. What is the Flex index? Where did it come from? What's kind of the detail behind the data set and the collection of the data? Where does it come from? How do you collect it?


So the Flex Index is a data set and a product that we put out at Scoop. Funny enough, it came out of a problem that maybe is embarrassingly obvious as a problem in retrospect. Our core business at Scoop is software. So we build software for hybrid teams to help them better coordinate around their time at home, time in the office to make sure when you go in it feels worthwhile.

And we ran into this problem about a year ago where we asked ourselves, 'Well, how do we figure out which companies are hybrid and in what capacity?' Funny enough, not only did we not know the answer to that question, but we figured out that few people knew the answer to that question. That data just wasn't available, and it was important to a lot of different people.

For job seekers, they were trying to figure out whether a company's flexibility policy matches what they want. For companies looking to benchmark against other companies. For media who would write a story and see a particular company changes their policy and they're trying to figure out if that's emblematic of just that one company or a broader trend.

And so we created the Flex Index, which is a global repository of company office requirements. So we track policies for what will soon be north of 6,500 companies across 30,000 plus offices. Those companies employ more than 100 million people globally, and we put that information up for free on our site. And every month we write reports on trends. So whether what's happening in tech versus not tech by size of company in particular industries, to understand where we might be headed when it comes to future of work.


Is it by job or is it by company? How do you collect the data?


So we collect the data in a few different ways to answer your question on the data points. So we were just about to add a new batch of companies. We're constantly adding and pulling more information. So soon we'll be about 6,500 plus companies in there.

The way we do it is a few different ways. One, any employee can add their company to the Flex Index. No cost to do that. You would be amazed how much time it took us to create a survey that was short enough and representative enough that we could get people to fill it out. And within 60 seconds and 4 to 5 questions, we could do a pretty good job at typecasting a company and what their flexibility requirements are.

The second thing that we do is we collect any information we can find publicly. If the Wall Street Journal writes an article about a company changing policy, we'll find that. If you add it to your careers page or if it's in a job description, we can use that to complement the data that we get from employees.

And the third is we reach out to any company we add to the Flex Index and say, 'Hey, look, we create a listing. Feel free to add, edit, change, however you want to that information. There's no cost to do that.' And it's allowed us to create a really large data set and a very accurate dataset over time using those inputs.


Well, I'm curious because it begs the question that a lot of the best practices, maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse, is around, you know, kind of group-level agreements and team-level agreements and you know, it’s not necessarily dictated from on high as the best way to do it.

But you’re is there a way to go in and see like individual jobs, which would potentially reflect more kind of team-oriented stuff, or you're really just trying to get at this level, really just a corporate policy, not so much the individual. You're not tapping into Indeed, or something like that to query all the jobs at a giant company and discern which ones are hybrid or not.


Yeah, it's hard because even at companies the same job for two different teams might even have different requirements. I'll give you an example of that. One of the things that we found over the last few months is that the move toward what we describe as structured hybrid, which is when a company sets specific expectations on when or how often to be in the office, that's rapidly becoming a more popular model.

So in February, I think we found it to be 20% of companies were structured hybrid in the U.S. Now it's moved to 30% in May. And my guess is when we do the next update of that data in August... it will move further."

What that allows and what we're finding to be the most common model within structured hybrid is a minimum days per week. So a company says, 'We want everybody to be in the office two days a week or everybody be in the office three days a week.' What then happens is the specifics on that quite often get kicked down to teams. So a team will decide based on our workflow and the mix of external and internal stuff we do, our personal needs as a team. Maybe we're going to be in the office together on Tuesday, and then everybody else can choose one other day, and another team might choose Thursday and Wednesday or whatever it might be. And so that stuff is very, very hard to track at the team level because it can change month to month. We're much more interested as a result of the company policy, kind of at the corporate level. What are the guardrails getting set to which are slightly more fixed over time? And I think a pretty good sense of where you can use that data to get a pretty good sense of where we might be trending over time."


"Okay, so then let's before we get into the details, let's talk about the buckets, because as you say, you touched on it briefly. You've got, you know, kind of fully remote. So like our good buddy, Darren Murph, you know, no office at all. There is no office defined in that. You've got employees' choice where they can do anything they want. And then, like you said, you've got these structured hybrids that are broken down either by minimum days, specific days, minimum and specific, or percentage, so different slices on how to get to five days, and then full-time in the office is it's only as a standalone obviously full-time is full-time."


"Yeah, so I was very curious. Look, if I take a step back and I look at where we were at the end of 2022, I think most of us thought 2023, the first half of the year would be pretty soft economically. The market may not do well. Interest rates were climbing pretty high, inflation was still fairly out of control. You know, fast forward six months later, job market has been way stronger, I think, than most of us anticipated. And think somewhere in that 1.6 1.7 million jobs added so far this year. Unemployment rate is still, you know, historically low at 3.6%. And so I was curious because there's been a lot of research out there around how important this topic is to job seekers around flexibility."


"The thing that I saw some headlines jumping around the other day is that, as we know, there's a talent shortage, a global talent shortage. At the same time, it gets kind of blended in with this kind of macroeconomic malaise that we've been in for a little while. So what's coming out of the research? What did you find in this last release? The companies that were full-time in office were lagging behind companies that were offering flexibility in headcount growth, often 2x or 3x behind the rate of companies that were flexible. And so to me, that was fascinating and probably the best or kind of the, maybe the first even data point that I had seen that kind of quantitatively showed the difference that some of these policies might have on whether they can attract and retain talent. That is amazing. And again, especially in light of what we hear is kind of the top of the news headlines is that, you know, there's continued layoffs."

I mean, I'm in Palo Alto, so I’m probably a little bit skewed on the tech side in terms of the ongoing layoffs. And then, you know, there's been two or three reports lately that said, oh, productivity is not as solid in remote work when you dig into the details and you actually get into the who they studied and what was the dataset, and what was the condition that, you know, the generalizability of some of these statements is just not accurate. And that certainly is supported in what we're seeing here.


I think that's right. I mean, look, productivity is such a difficult thing to put your finger on, and some of it even matters what time frame you look at. Like if you look from 2020 to 2023, productivity looks very different than if you look at just the last five quarters. It's impacted by industry mix. There's a lot of noise in that right? What I care about is what's actually driving outcome differences for companies.

And look, headcount is never a perfect proxy for financial performance. Just because you're growing more team does not mean that you're generating more revenue or generating more earnings. But when the market is not great and interest rates, and as a result borrowing capital is expensive, the companies that are hiring are typically the ones that have the financial position to be able to do so. They're growing revenue, they're growing earnings, and therefore they can afford to invest. And so it's not a leap to believe that the companies that are growing headcount then on average are probably doing better, winning in their industries. And to me, that's fascinating when you think about the performance of full-time in-office versus more flexible companies. Yeah.


And like 2x is 2x, I mean and then I guess on the other one you can even stretch it almost to 3x, right, with the 6.9% compared to 2.6%. Pretty, pretty amazing. I want to get your take on kind of the days of the week. You know, I was talking to Julie Whalen from CBRE. They've got their research on the Occupier Survey and we just kind of talked about this over/under at two and a half (2.5) because it's a five day workweek and, you know, their that's kind of their split level.

I was talking to Phil Kirschner at McKinsey, and their global study that they just released about a week ago, everything was falling in kind of the 3 to 4 range, you know, nothing below three. What did you see in kind of days of the week in those companies that did dictate the days? How is that kind of shaken out? Where do you see kinda of this This kind of over under, on two and a half (2.5)?


Yeah, I think, Hey look everybody's sampling approach and data is slightly different, you know, And in my mind, the best way to get good answers to these questions is to try and triangulate across a few different data sources. In my opinion, I think the three best or maybe the most interesting datasets that I care about are One, I look at our policy data. So what are companies saying that the expectation is? I combine that with Nick Bloom and the WFH research data on which is an employee survey. Okay, well, what are employees saying that they're doing? And then the third is the data from Kastle on badge swipes, right? To understand okay, well, what's actually showing up at the building? And if you triangulate across those three things, generally you can get a pretty good sense of what's going on.

And so our data on policy has shown over the course of 2023, anywhere from just under 2.5 to 2.6 days required on average for companies that have a minimum days requirement. Nick’s data at WFH Research shows I think employees on average want to be in office like 2.3 days a week and employers would like employees in the office 2.7 days a week. Right. The Kastle data says they were right around 50%. So 2.5, give or take, that's 2.5 or down. And so when I look at those things, they tie so closely together, everything is right around that two and a half range. Maybe it stretches up a little bit toward three depending on industry or company size. It may move a little bit based on the macro environment and what's going on. But it seems like that's where we're at and it seems like we're kind of staying in that range and that's got some power, some staying power to it.


Yeah, And as we said, the companies that do it right, you know, they may dictate some direction on high, but most of them, you know, all the consistent feedback is you know, you push your organizational norms down to the team level and let the team figure out what works best for them. 

So let's shift gears a little bit. Let's talk about Scoop. I was looking at Scoop before we jumped on. You started it in 2015, but congratulations just announced a round of funding in 2022 and I was curious, you know, 20, 2015, the market for kind of hybrid work coordination tools was probably not what it is today. So tell us a little bit about the history of Scoop. What were you doing in 2015 and then what happened for you to be able to raise some money in a not easy fundraising environment last year? Thank you. It is a wild story. I will tell you about what happened. It is a bit of a saga.


So I started Scoop with my brother, my co-founder, and we grew up in Atlanta, and when we were kids, our high school was 25 miles away from where I lived. So my experience when I was 16, 17, 18, was driving 250, 300 miles a week back and forth to school.


Where are you in the country, or was that particular school  far?


You know, it's interesting, like. So I grew up in Atlanta and Georgia has some good schools at the time, some not good schools. A school that was better was a little bit further away. And so I would drive from kind of the suburbs to all the way toward near the airport in Atlanta like one exit away from the airport. And basically I would do 50, 60 miles a day. 


That’s rough, any time you got to drive to Hartsfield is a tough drive right? 


You're telling me it was brutal, right. You get used to it after a while, but it, you know, it sucks up a lot of your time.

And so, you know, funny enough, in 2015, I had moved out. I used to work at Bain doing strategy consulting. I moved out to the Bay Area. My brother had worked at Google as a product manager, was out there, and we became really passionate about this idea of can we use software to enable people to share trips and have a better commute experience back and forth to the office. And so from 2015 through early 2020, we built a commute solution and we sold it to enterprises. So companies like Microsoft and Amazon and a bunch of other really large companies are our customers to improve the experience for employees, reduce real estate demand for parking, things like that. We raised a lot of funding, built the team pretty meaningfully about a couple of hundred people.

And then in March 2020, commute volume went effectively to zero. It went near zero and near zero. Where were you at that point, just in terms of the life of the company and customers and this and that? Yeah, I mean, we had raised our series C in 2019. We had raised more than $100 million in capital. We had built a pretty large team. I remember the moment very vividly because we were having a kind of like an exec offsite for our exec team, right when companies were just starting to announce that they were going to go work from home for a period. And it's just this moment that's seared in my mind of like right before everything went crazy and effectively the world turned upside down for us. 


So just had to shut were you just, hibernate and try to figure out something else, or you didn't or just shut it down. I mean, like you said, it's kind of like being in the travel business or the convention business or, you know, so many businesses at that moment in time. That just literally came to a stop.


Yeah, so it was a really hard decision and it didn't we didn't get there overnight. Probably took us a little bit of time in 2020 to figure out we wanted to do. But effectively, if I had to boil it down, we were faced between one of two things. Either we could wait this out with some belief that the commute was going to come back in a meaningful way, but with no clarity on the timeline whatsoever. If you remember back in 2020, every three months, people would say, ‘Oh, I think Covid's going to end in three more months, right?’ And then and it just, the can just kept getting kicked down the road. And the other was we started hearing from our customers for the first time in kind of like early mid 2020 about hybrid work and the idea that maybe people would never go back into the office full time.

And we became very enchanted with that topic because in some ways it would enable us to solve what we were trying to solve on the commute experientially more effectively than anything we ever could had done by enabling people to carpool back and forth to the office. And, you know, some really interesting logistical and personal considerations and stuff that we were pretty good at. And so, long story short, we made a decision in later 2020 that we were going to pivot and focus the business and a much smaller team on what it meant to build for hybrid. We still support some customers with commute and some people use that solution. But the main thrust of the organization was going to be focused on hybrid. And so in a very funny way, it was like a rebirth of a company, and it's almost like we're building a second company within the shell of the first one caused by the whole COVID experience, right? 


It's very Phoenix-ey, you know, it destroyed what you had built in the rebirth it gave you a slightly different variant of the same thing that you were kind of already working on.

So even at that point when you first were thinking of hybrid, what did you think would be the greatest challenges of hybrid? Because, or did you just say, ah, we’re already kind of in this scheduling matching business, is there an opportunity there? Because it turns out that one of the biggest challenges of hybrid the biggest complaints from people is, okay, I got up, I took a shower, I put on a fresh shirt, maybe put on some makeup, or did my hair and I got to the office and nobody's there. And as it turns out, this is one of the biggest challenges that people are facing in trying to execute hybrid well is this coordination of who's in the office when, and if you guys just basically, it kind of ran into you, you ran into it, I don’t know, it’s kind of like the peanut butter and jelly commercial or peanut butter and chocolate. It just kind of boom. 


I think that's kind of right. I mean, it was a funny thing. Everything is clearer in hindsight, right? Like at the moment it was very murky and hybrid was early and there are only so many teams that were actually coming into the office. But we started to tinker and we felt like the recurring theme that we started to hear most often was when people go into the office, that experience left a lot to be desired. You know, to your point.

You know, I go in because I think Jeff's going to be there and, you know, and then all of a sudden something changed and I didn't know that. I’m like, okay, well, I just spent all this time getting myself ready and commuting? And the reason kind of evaporated. Or, I go in, I spend the day on Zoom and ask myself, ‘Well, why did I even bother to do this in the first place?’ I could have done this from home. And all of it was fundamentally driven by the idea. And what we started to find in every single piece of research, user research, etc., was that the number one reason people wanted to go into the office was just based on who else was going to be in the office. And so it kind of led us down this path of how do you create better visibility around that.

And what we started to realize as we dug deeper and deeper into the problem was with each passing quarter, people were getting more comfortable with the idea of what it meant to be hybrid. And you’d spend some time in the office or not and kind of adjusting their life accordingly. But our tools were almost all built in a world where hybrid didn't exist, you know, where location was not a focus because everybody was in the office all the time. And so we ended up spending a lot of energy saying, okay, how do we build a software layer to effectively bring tools like Slack and Google Calendar and Chrome into a world that makes hybrid easier and make it easier and effortless for teams to coordinate? And when you go into the office, feel like you could do that with confidence. And that was just something that started to resonate quite deeply with teams all over the world as they were trying to figure out hybrid and what it looked like for them.


So is the secret sauce really the magic behind this new attribute of place, which is, you know, in the office where before it was just, you know, whether you're in the conference room or you're dialing in? But now to share that information in a meaningful way with a meaningful group of people, to be a catalyst to drive other types of activities, is that kind of the crux of it.


I don't know if I would say it's the secret sauce. I think it's certainly a really important component, right. Like, I think one of the things that we've invested a lot of energy into is how do we make it easy enough? And when I say easy enough, I mean in a click, or two clicks, to be able to share where you're working or planning on working and reproduce that out to all of the places where that information is useful. You can update your Slack status, update where you're going to be on your calendar, in your meetings, I can see who's going to be in-person versus virtual. And trying to make that currency, if you will, of location ubiquitous across your software stack was something that’s very important for us, not just for yourself, but visibility for others.

But the other half of it is how do I take the things that are taxing in terms of getting people together and getting value out of time together and eliminating that stuff? And a really easy, simple example is we started to find lots of people didn't know what day they wanted to go into the office. They were interested in going into the office, but I don't know what day, and I would like to do it with other people. But other people don't know either what day they want to go into the office. And so the manifestation of that was hundreds of messages in Slack. Hey, Jeff, do you want to go in on Wednesday? Well, Wednesday is not great for me. Maybe I'll do Thursday. Oh, but so-and-so is out on Thursday, and it's a nightmare and you waste all this time back and forth. As a result, people just say it's just not worth it. I'm not going to go in because I don't want to do it.

And so we built some like really simple intuitive polling functionality into our Slack application where you could effectively launch a poll. Anybody could respond on what days they were interested in. It would automatically find the answer based on what day won out and automatically add it to calendars. And you could take a hundreds of Slack message workflow and turn it into something that gets done in 30 seconds or less. And so the other half of what we do is taking workflows like that, things that make hybrid complicated, and trying to eliminate the pain of it and the back and forth of it so that you can be where you need to be and do that relatively effortlessly. Right?


You’ve got the challenge of the existing toolset that you've got to work with. And it's funny your story because as most people know, Slack was also born, you know, of the tool that was created to build the original idea that didn't go so well.

So they ended up just doubling down on the tool, which worked out pretty well. So in terms of workflows, how intrusive is just another tool? How do you integrate with, you know, kind of Slack specifically with some of these other digital workplace tools so that it's a seamless kind of experience? Because I know I've tried some calendaring tools just for some calendaring, and it works all fine on a straightforward process, but as soon as you start, you know, adding some changes and things, the integration becomes a little bit less elegant, shall we say.


Yeah, totally. The way that we kind of think about this is, you know, like I think it's Mark Twain, you know, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” you know, quote, I think it's Mark Twain. We always think about it as you invest a ton of energy in a team, we spend so much time on trying to make it so that things just work beautifully, magically, right. Like it's so easy to use within tools that you already use.

And I think there was a thought process, especially in technology and venture capital for a long time, that in order for companies to be important, they had to kind of build their own standalone applications. You had to take you out of some other workflow into this workflow. And the more time that you spent in it, the more valuable the company. And I think some of that has changed over time because of the proliferation of tools and software that people use, so many different apps and workplace tools on a daily basis. I think a lot of people are just inundated with it and companies are tired of trying to bring new stuff in. So wherever we can, we try and figure out how do we build into things that you're already doing and make it so that it's just a button that pops up in one place. But that button actually triggers a workflow that goes through a bunch of different things that make it really easy for you. There are some things that we build outside of that, like certain things around calendar, for example, we find so painful and difficult to build into Google calendar that we'll do it in our mobile applications in a way that you know, visually represents that information differently and gives an option to users to look at it a different way. But by and large, where we can, I'd like to build into things that you're already doing and make it just feel like all of a sudden the Slack app is installed for your organization. Everyone can benefit from it, and there's no learning curve associated with it whatsoever.


Yeah, interesting. Well, you've got this concept of routines that I just want to double click on because, again, I talked to Brian (Elliott) on my show, and he's a great guy. And again, he called it to these ‘Agreed to Collaboration Windows’ because it's like you said, it's the counter to the async work, which is, you know, move more and more work to async. But there are times that you want to know, you know when we do have to get together, you know, when do we schedule those meetings and with a globally distributed team in different time zones and this and that, that's a challenge. And it sounds like, just on quick blush, that's kind of what your routines feature is all about, you know, starting to basically establish norms which, you know, as Brian says, there'll always be exceptions from time to time. But in having that be an exception to the norm, it just changes the whole workflow so that you start to, you know, kind of funnel things into buckets of time that work best for everybody.


That's exactly right. I mean, the way we think about routine is most people are creatures of habit, right? Like the number of people that are deciding each week differently, where am I going to spend my time is probably less than the number of people who say, okay, I'm going to get into this habit where Monday, Tuesday, I work from home, Wednesday, Thursday, I go into an office, Friday, I work from home. Part of the challenge is not necessarily you figuring that out for yourself. Sometimes it is, but it's remembering everybody else's routine and how this team does it versus that team, and in larger companies, it becomes impossible. It's just too much cognitive overhead to do all of that. And so the way we built routines was in kind of two different ways. One was you can just tell us what your baseline is. So if you're Monday, Tuesday, home, Wednesday, Thursday, office, Friday, home,

You can preset that. If you do that, we will pre-populate that in Slack, in Google Calendar, in Chrome. So you don't have to set it; it will just automatically assume that's the case, and you can just edit off of it when it's not the case.

Another example of trying to reduce the number of clicks, reduce workflow as much as possible. The other is that we created something called a snapshot, and a snapshot is either a daily or a weekly update on what's going to happen in a way that's relevant to you.

The inspiration for this, in a very funny way, is the traditional view of an executive assistant who prints out your schedule and is like, "Hey Jeff, at 10:00, you're going to go be here with this person, and then you need to go do this or that." This is kind of like a digital version of that where we'll send a message late afternoon before that'll say, "Hey, Jeff, tomorrow you're planning on being in the office. Here are your team members who are going to be in versus out. Here are your favorites, and you can mark favorites who are team members or cross-functional collaborators or mentors. Here's which of your favorites that are going to be in the office versus out. You have these meetings on the calendar. Here's who's in-person versus virtual for those meetings."

And so we can take that routine information and also digest it and push it out to you in a way that allows you to make better decisions. "Oh, I do want to go into the office tomorrow because these people are going to be here, or wait, that meeting that we normally have in person, it looks like three people are out. I'm just going to cancel it and I'm not going to go into the office. It's a better use of my time." And if you can do that, you just make the experience that much higher quality for everybody.


Well, the other just huge productivity opportunity is in just better meeting etiquette, right? And doing fewer meetings, as Darren (Murph) would like to say, and making the ones that you have more productive. So you kind of are indirectly impacting meeting etiquette as well, both in terms of funneling them into fixed windows, having easier scheduling, and then even having, in the case that you just described, kind of dynamic updates of potential productivity based on changing environmental conditions, if you will. People are taking PTO or, you know, for whatever reason, it's not the same situation that you thought it was.


It's funny you mention it. It's something that's very top of mind for us right now is, you know, we spend a lot of energy, as you mentioned, on who's working where. And you know, those couple of days you might go into the office, but for every day you go into the office, you probably spend 5 to 10x that amount of time in meetings potentially. So maybe I go into the office two times a week. I do 20 meetings a week or something like that.

And so location is one element of getting a meeting right. Do I know ahead of time who's going to be where or not? Interestingly enough, hybrid has made the cost of being wrong substantially higher than it used to be. And what I mean by that is when we all were in the office together and I hop into a meeting and 5 minutes into that meeting,

I recognize this is a waste of time. I don't need to be in this meeting. Other people can make this decision. Whatever it is, I walk out of that meeting, go back to my desk. The cost was negligible. Right, it's like 5 minutes of time.

If I go to the office for a meeting and it's hybrid, and I went in because of that and I commuted and then I went into that meeting and realized it's a waste of time, just blew up my entire day. Right. Like, the stakes are way higher around that. And so we think actually sharing some of this information and creating better visibility around it actually has a lot of impact on, "Is this the right meeting or not? How do we make sure we set it up the right way? How do we get the right people together?" This is a topic, obviously, that's very important and being talked about a lot right now is how do you get meetings right and effective and reduce them in this kind of new flexible world.


That's brutal. No one's ever really highlighted the cost factor delta in the hybrid world before that's significantly different if you blew your whole day out for a meeting that for some reason wasn't the right place to be.

I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about your podcast, the Flex Perspective podcast, which is a ton of fun. I'm obviously a fan of the format, so you get to have long format conversations with interesting and smart people. I wanted to get your take on maybe a couple of nuggets from a couple of guests that popped out to you.

So one of them was Nick Bloom. From that show, what sticks out to you from Nick either that you didn't expect or just like, oh, my goodness.


Nick is always fun to talk to, and he's got such good perspectives, both based on the data they collect but also because he's constantly talking to executives at different companies, so he gets a lot of real-world examples of what's going on.

We did a show that was all about predictions for 2030. What's the future of work going to look like? Is remote going to win out, is hybrid? Nick has a belief, and I tend to agree, that hybrid is more likely to be dominant than fully remote work for a number of reasons. But he made this interesting point around fully remote work and the jobs that are fully remote, potentially being the most impacted by AI. And so we had an interesting discussion around what jobs remain in the U.S. versus abroad if they're fully remote, and how do we think the percentage of jobs that are fully remote impacts whether those are the ones that get automated the most? Some really good nuggets in that conversation on AI impact on future work policies and then just some broader Nick crystal ball topics on hybrid and what percentage of companies are going to be doing different things. That was a lot of fun to talk about.


Another friend you mentioned his research at Future Forum, Brian Elliott. What's one of the things that pops out from you from that episode?


Yeah, so Brian and I talked a lot about a couple of different topics. Like we talked about asynchronous work, which he's a big advocate for in the way they've approached that at Slack, which I thought was really valuable. One of the topics and we touched on this a little bit earlier in conversation was just the importance of team-level agreements. One of the interesting things is that they don't just do that at Slack from his time at Slack, but they had advised a number of very large companies like MasterCard and some others around this. How do you roll out team-level agreements across a big enterprise? What does it actually mean to scale that out and publish them and make it possible for other teams to see those team-level agreements? There's some really good stuff around that topic and around how do you get meetings that aren't productive meetings canceled and turned into async, and tips for folks to try and fight the good fight in that regard.


Do you have the concept of team-level agreements within the software?


That's a good point. So we don't necessarily create a published team-level agreement that another team could see. But we do have what we call a manager setting, where a manager for a team can set what effectively is the expectation. So you can go in and say, ‘Hey, look, for our team, the expectation is everyone's in on Tuesday and Thursday,’ and actually in the mobile app, for example, it will circle those days when you're planning your week as a reminder that that's what it is for the team. We do have some functionality that allows teams to kind of easily capture that as a setting and then have that be visually available to team members when they’re thinking about the planning.


Then one more 'cause I have my recency bias. I just had Phil Kirschner on the other day. Phil is a great interview. Lots of energy, lots of information. What popped out at you from your time with Phil?

Phil's the best. We had a great conversation. Phil was actually the first person that we had on Flex Perspectives - that's a great kickoff. We talked about something that I find fascinating - actually, I was just talking about this with somebody else earlier today. You know, the role of the HR Exec - the Chief People Officer, Chief HR Officer - it's just evolved so dramatically over the last five years. I would argue that the role of the HR Leader has probably changed more than any other executive over that time period. They had to lead through Covid, and then they had to lead through what is flexible work mean and how do we think about policy and operating. Now they're on the front end of AI and what does that do to our jobs and skills and training and who we hire or not? That role has gotten far more strategic over the last few years. It's become much more quantitative and financial in nature. So it's really interesting.

So what Phil and I talked a lot about was what's happening as a result in the relationship between HR and Real Estate. How do those two groups within an organization interface, and what are the new skills that an HR Leader needs to have? For example, how do you think about capital projects, which is a totally different skill than most HR Leaders have traditionally in working with real estate, and even some organizations where real estate is starting to report into HR because the workplace is often increasingly being viewed as downstream from workforce, whereas before maybe they were a little bit different. So we talked about a bunch of stuff there that was really, really interesting.


The other chapter on the human resources professionals is used to be kind of doling out benefits and making sure all the forms are filled in, and now it's really this focus on productivity and output and retention and engagement, which drives retention because it's just such a weird time because, you know, again, you read the negative press about layoffs and this and that, and yet the number of open jobs to people looking for jobs is what, 2 to 1 or 3 to 1, whatever it is. And, you know, with the aging population, especially in a lot of the Western countries, talent is just going to get tighter and tighter and tighter. So I think your Flex Index is pretty well timed as people now have that extra variable to go and, you know, kind of explore their next opportunity.


Yeah. And it makes us proud. I mean, one of the things we hear all the time, like I think, for example, I had Shujaat Ahmad from LinkedIn on the Flex Perspectives podcast, and he was talking about how they thought about it. And he gave an example to me of like they use our data when an executive said, ‘Hey, maybe we should evolve our policy this way.’ He said, ‘Well, actually I looked at these thousand companies based on Flex Index and 95% of them do it this way.’ And he's like, ‘Okay, well, that data is helpful. And so we get quite proud when we can enable executives to make better decisions because rather than looking at anecdotal evidence and articles, they can actually pull a peer set and look at those benchmarks and say, ‘Okay, well, this is where I sit in that world.’

And use that as grounding for kind of better approaches for their companies.


Yeah, that's great. And then the longer it goes, you know, you get the more longitudinal attributes on it, which is great. And that's why I reached out. I just love that, you know, when people get first-person data, publish first-person data, that then we can go out and look at the real data instead of making assumptions, because we all know what assumptions do to us, which is not a good thing.

Well, Rob, it's been a treat to catch up. Congrats on the research and the coverage on the research. And I look forward to continuing to see how it evolves over time. And good luck with the podcast, too. How fun is that?


Well, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be on. I'm a big fan of what you're doing and the different guests and conversations so far. And so it's a lot of fun to do it.


All right. Well, thanks a lot. So he’s Rob. I’m Jeff. You're watching Work 20XX. Thanks for watching. We'll see you next time. Thanks for listening to the podcast. Take care.


Awesome. Thank you.
Awesome, how was it? 

Was that good for you?

It was great.

Rob Sadow

CEO and Co-Founder at Scoop

Creator of the Flex Index

Host of Flex Perspective Podcast 



The Flex Report, Job Growth Edition, July 2023

Flex Index


Flex Perspective Podcast 


The Flex Report, Job Growth Edition, July 2023

4,500 companies, moving to 6,500 shortly

30,000 office locations 

100 million people employed globally 

Adding /Editing data to the Flex Index

Short Survey

Detailed Survey 

Editing data on the Flex Index 

People Data Labs

Company Dataset with Employee count


Flex Podcast Episodes mentioned in the interview 

Dror Poleg
Navigating the New Work Landscape: Career Shifts and Real Estate Risks | Dror Poleg - 

Ep07 2023-June-26 

Shujaat Ahmad
Building Effective People Analytics: LinkedIn's Success Story | Shujaat Ahmad

Ep05, 2023-May-26 

Nick Bloom

The Future of Remote Work | Predictions from Nick Bloom -

Ep04 2023-May-11 

Brian Elliott 

Team Agreements, Outcomes, Asynchrony: The Future of Work Trifecta | Brian Elliott -

Ep02 2023-May-22

Phil Kirschner

From property to people: The changing relationship between Real Estate and HR | Phil Kirschner - Ep01 2023-Mar-30 


Referenced in the interview 

WFH Research - Working from Home before and since the start of Covid

Nick Bloom, Stanford University; Jose Maria Barrero,  Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)., Shelby Buckman, Stanford University, Steven J. Davis, University of Chicago

Future Forum



How the Future Works: Leading Flexible Teams to do the Best Work of their Lives, Brian Elliott, Sheela Subramanian, Helen Kupp, Foreward by Stewart Butterfield, Wiley, 2022-May-17

Kastle Systems - Back to Work Barometer

Empty Spaces and Hybrid Places: The Pandemics' lasting impact on Real Estate,

Authors: Jan Mischke, Ryan Luby, Brian Vickery, Jonathan Woetzel, Olivia White, Aditya Sanghvi, Jinnie Rhee, Anna Fu, Rob Palter, André Dua, Sven Smit, Editor: Benjamin Plotinsky, McKinsey Global Institute, 2023-July-13 

Is your workplace ready for flexible work? A survey offers clues 

By Phil Kirschner, Adrian Kwok, and Julia McClatchy


MillerKnoll Research - Insight Group

Spring 2023 U.S. Office Occupier Sentiment Survey, CBRE 2023-May-18

The Leesman Index 

If i had more time, I would have written a shorter letter - Quote 

Blaise Pascal, often repeated in various forms by John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain and Woodrow Wilson

Referenced Work 20XX episodes 

Phil Kirschner: Real Estate, Futures, Workplace | Work 20XX Ep17

Julie Whelan: Mixed-Use Community, Healthy Submarket | Work 20XX Ep16 2023-June-28 - 

Brian Elliott: Connected, Effective, Workplace Future | Work 20XX #15 2023-June-23 -

Kate Lister | Research, People, Trust | Work 20XX #12 2023-April-08

Tracy Hawkins: Talent, Twitter, People Perching | Work 20XX #09 - 2023-Jan-19  - 

Ryan Anderson: Bürolandschaft, Activity-Based, Design, Neighborhoods | Work 20XX #03 - 2022-March-09 -

Chris & Melissa Bruntlett: Fewer Cars, Better Living | Turn the Lens #18 2022-Jan-21 

Darren Murph: Remote-First, Asynch Communications, Operating Manual | Work 20XX #01 - 2021-Dec-22 - 

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures, 1985


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Jeff Frick
Founder and Principal,
Menlo Creek Media

Jeff Frick has helped literally tens of thousands of executives share their stories. In his latest show, Work 20XX, Jeff is sharpening the focus on the future of work, and all that it entails.