A Hybrid Office Survival Guide
For business owners, hybrid offices present all kinds of challenges, but there are big mistakes you can avoid.
Here are today’s highlights:
Once again, a delivery platform offers a marketing scheme that’s too-good-to-be true for consumers and too-awful-to-believe for business owners.
In New York City, there are now more Airbnb listings than rental listings.
Consumer demand remained strong in April.
Would you drink a premium vodka made from CO2 emissions?
GrubHub offered New Yorkers a free lunch, and it was a disaster for business owners: “A delivery app marketing campaign offering a ‘free lunch’ — aka a $15 promo code valid for three hours — sent customers and restaurant workers alike into a spiral on Tuesday as thousands of orders jammed the system and disgruntled New Yorkers tweeted through their hunger pains. GrubHub's New York City campaign on May 17 touted the physical and mental benefits of eating lunch, but yielded dozens of complaints, canceled orders and service workers telling BuzzFeed News they were ‘exhausted’ trying to keep up.’”
“‘A lot of us haven’t eaten because we’ve been waiting for our orders just for them to get canceled,’ Leilani, a Manhattanite, told BuzzFeed News. ‘I don’t understand what Grubhub was expecting tbh.’”
“Erin Fred from the Upper East Side told BuzzFeed News no one ever answered her calls for help, but GrubHub did ask her to complete a satisfaction survey about her experience.” READ MORE
The Wall Street Journal offers a primer on overcoming the challenges of hybrid work: “We asked a variety of workplace researchers and companies these questions, and their responses revealed the magnitude of the challenge. It encompasses pretty much every aspect of management—getting people motivated, nurturing trust, knitting together teams, monitoring performance, making sure disadvantaged workers aren’t left behind, and more. But for every challenge, these experts also had a path to overcoming it, and suggestions for making employees both more productive and more connected. Hybrid work, they say, just requires new approaches, new traditions and, especially, a new mind-set.”
“The biggest barrier to making hybrid more efficient is the desire to have one uniform policy for everyone. The reality of work is that different work—and different people—have different needs for being in person and for being remote.”
“The biggest mistake in effectively implementing a hybrid model is for leaders to declare their future arrangement is ‘hybrid,’ while implicitly or explicitly signaling their bias for in-person work.”
“Messages such as, ‘Oh, being in person is so much better than on video conference,’ or, ‘This conversation is very important, so we should have it in person,’ convey a bias that confuses workers.”
“For companies adopting hybrid structures, don’t let employees dictate when they come into the office. Employees should all be in on the same days, because when different groups come in on different days, it defeats the purpose and prevents cross-team collaboration.” READ MORE
Apple is pushing back its return-to-office date: “Apple, in a blow to its efforts to restore normalcy to its operations, has suspended its requirement that employees return to the office this month for at least three days a week because of a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. The reversal was welcome news for thousands of employees who pushed back against the company’s demand that they begin coming to the office three days a week in late May. Early this month, the group, which calls itself ‘Apple Together,’ published a letter calling on the executive team to allow for a hybrid and flexible work schedule, saying they could collaborate remotely using online tools such as Slack and spare themselves hours of commuting.”
“The company also asked that employees who do come to campus wear masks in common areas and elevators. It said it would continue to monitor Covid cases and provide employees with updates at least two weeks before any future changes to its office policy.”
“The pandemic hit less than a year after Apple celebrated the opening of its new, $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., a splashy circular building that resembles a spaceship. It has largely sat unused for the past two years.” READ MORE
New York City now has more Airbnb listings than apartments for rent: “The fever isn’t breaking. There are now bidding wars for one in every five Manhattan rental apartments (and one in three luxury units), according to the most recent Douglas Elliman report. Inventory in all of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and northwest Queens has been hovering well below 10,000 units — as of April, the number was just 7,669. Which is several thousand less than the number of entire-apartment and entire-home Airbnb rentals available in New York City right now: 10,572, according to AirDNA, a third-party site that tracks short-term rentals. Inside Airbnb, another site that scrapes Airbnb for listings data, puts the number even higher, at 20,397.” READ MORE
April’s retail sales show consumer demand remains strong: “Americans continued to pump money into the U.S. economy in April, with increased retail spending offering the latest sign consumers are driving demand at stores and manufacturers despite the pinch from high inflation. Retail sales—a measure of spending at stores, online and in restaurants—rose a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent last month compared with March, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That marked the fourth straight month of higher retail spending.”
“Retail sales aren’t adjusted for inflation. That means that while consumers have continued to spend more, they are getting less due to rapidly rising prices.”
“Consumers spent more at restaurants and bars and boosted expenditures on vehicles, furniture, clothing, and electronics. They cut spending sharply on gasoline in April as pump prices pulled back briefly from a run-up related to the war in Ukraine.”
“In another sign of economic momentum, the Federal Reserve said industrial production, a measure of factory, mining and utility output, increased a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent in April—also a fourth month of gains.” READ MORE
Walmart’s disappointing performance may be flashing a warning sign for the whole economy: “The results are unusual, though, because Walmart has been famously cost-conscious. Its frugal philosophy is a big part of why it’s able to charge low prices. If Walmart is struggling even with its thriftiness and superior scale, then smaller and less efficient retailers are in for a very difficult time — not least because there was another note of caution in Walmart’s first quarter announcement. The squeeze of inflation on discretionary incomes is starting to affect what consumers buy. Because Americans were having to spend more on food, they cut back on clothing and home furnishings more than Walmart had expected. Unseasonably cool weather, affecting items such as apparel and patio furniture, didn’t help either.”
“First, Walmart’s wage bill expanded. It hired many employees at the end of last year to cover for staff who were out sick with the Covid omicron variant.”
“Second, it sold less clothing and home furnishings than expected, and these are some of its more profitable categories.”
“Finally, it had to pay $160 million more for fuel in its U.S. business, and it could not pass this through to store prices as quickly as it had hoped.” READ MORE
Not one car was sold in Shanghai in April: “The majority of the city’s 25 million residents were mostly confined to their homes or residential compounds in April as part of a sweeping lockdown to stamp out the nation’s worst Covid outbreak since the virus emerged in Wuhan more than two years ago. Almost all dealerships in the city were closed during the month, the Shanghai Automobile Sales Association said in a statement Monday, when it highlighted the zero sales figure.”
“Passenger throughput at the city’s Pudong International Airport plunged about 99 percent from a year earlier in April, figures released Monday showed.” READ MORE
Backed by Toyota and JetBlue, a startup is making premium vodka out of CO2 emissions: “At Bathtub Gin, a reinvented speakeasy in lower Manhattan, patrons may be pining for the past but they are drinking a vodka specifically invented for a cleaner future. Air Vodka is made in part from greenhouse gas emissions – specifically, captured carbon dioxide. It is just one of a bevy of new products designed to make use of CO2 emissions that can be captured from various types of industry.”
“Distilling alcohol the old fashioned way not only releases its emissions, but it uses a lot of water — about 35 liters of water to make one liter of distillate. Air Vodka is made of just two ingredients, CO2 and water.”
“The three-year-old start-up’s vodka is a luxury brand, costing about $65 a bottle. But at Bathtub Gin, the vodka is getting high praise.”
“Captured carbon is being used to make everything from vodka to eyeglasses, laundry detergent, Coca Cola and even jet fuel.” READ MORE
NICKLpass wants to be an “E-ZPass for news”: “NICKLpass is a growing Philadelphia-based start-up that offers discounted subscription packages to news websites, video services, podcasts, and other media. NICKLpass created software and a browser extension that acts as a sort of ‘E-ZPass for subscriptions,’ according to the company, as it grants corporate clients access to news and other content without requiring individual logins each time, for a lower price. Companies can offer the service to employees as a benefit and cost-saver for workers who need to stay informed. Employers get discounted bundles on news subscriptions while NICKLpass earns a portion of revenue from publishers.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Have You Looked at Your Employee Handbook Lately? This week, Jay Goltz and Dana White talk about their employee handbooks. Do they take them seriously? Or is it just boilerplate? Has anything changed since the pandemic? Is the handbook the place to remind employees that they are hired at will and can be fired at any time with or without a reason? Are there issues that should not be addressed in the handbook? When was the last time they updated it? When was the last time they read it? “Me, personally?” responded Jay. “Actually picked it up and read it?” Yes, Jay, that’s the question. “Years.”
You can subscribe to the 21 Hats Podcast wherever you get podcasts.
If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren