While debate has raged on Twitter between Elon Musk and Scott Farquhar over the benefits of remote work, FoodByUs co-founder Ben Lipschitz says it’s “ideal” for his business to have employees in the office.
Last week, the world’s richest man Elon Musk sent a memo telling his staff to either come into office or “pretend to work somewhere else”. Australian software giant Atlassian’s CEO Scott Farquhar responded to the news by saying it felt like “something out of the 1950s”. Farquhar then went on to expand on Atlassian’s “Team Anywhere” policy, which champions remote working.
It’s an approach some other startups have embraced, but as Ben Lipschitz told SmartCompany, it depends on the company and what stage it’s at.
For smaller, high growth startups like FoodByUs — which has grown 600% and raised $10 million in the last year — working from home forever is not feasible, particularly given that working in the office helps foster collaboration and gets staff involved in the company culture.
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Lipschitz notes that while working from home can — and has — been done with success, “it’s ideal for people to be in office because it helps things to move a lot faster, helps decisions get made a lot better and helps the process of organic sharing”.
He says for a fast-moving tech startup like FoodByUs, going back to office was the right move, but that it wasn’t necessarily the case for bigger companies where the decision making process was relatively slower.
Despite his belief in the benefits of being in the office, Lipschitz acknowledges the importance of flexibility.
“Going outright is a mistake,” he said. “We want to be able to collaborate but you can’t collaborate if there is no flexibility.”
The need for flexibility has opened up a hybrid approach, where workers can come into work either three or four days a week, with the remaining days at home. There’s always room for exceptions, Lipschitz adds.
When asked if staff required any inducement to come into office, Lipschitz points to the importance of having a good work culture.
“We were flexible to begin with, so we didn’t need any inducements. Our staff loved the idea of coming back and being social. We work in tech and hospitality and we have a lot of innovative, fun, people-people on our team.”
When it comes to working without distractions, he says that apart from the option of staying at home, there are breakout areas in office where the staff can put on headphones and do deep work.
Ultimately though, Lipschitz says the work FoodbyUs does is essentially collaborative in nature and requires cross-team collaboration.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Bridgit co-founder Aaron Bassin, who spoke of how the non-bank lender was navigating the hybid working waters. Since launching last July, Bridgit has raised more than $7.7 million in funding and processed more than $500 million in loan applications.
“To innovate and to build new products, you have to collaborate,” Bassin told SmartCompany.
“Collaboration is done a lot more effectively and enjoyably when it’s face to face, because we’re able to develop much more meaningful and deeper relationships with our colleagues, and work through solving problems more quickly.”
Bassin adds that as a business, Bridgit was brand new, fast-growing and customer-facing, and that working from home posed challenges.
This resulted in the business introducing a hybrid work environment, where employees came into office for three days a week and worked from home on the other two.
But culture plays a role, and Bassin says workers need to like to come to the office with a higher purpose.
To this end, Bridgit has introduced various initiatives, including an F45 training session every Wednesday at lunchtime.
And then there are other inducements — like an office puppy, which employees like to play with or take for walks.
The result, Bassin says, is that despite the option of hybrid work, most of the staff come in every day.