As the future of work is being reshaped, both employers and employees need to adapt to the new reality. On-site, hybrid, 100% remote; the pandemic has broadened our horizons and people now yearn for the freedom to choose their work environment. Patrick Keefe, Customer Care Specialist in New York, and Eun Kleinheksel, Head of Supply Internal Communication in Seattle, are sharing their own Criteo experience with us today. Let’s hear their story!
Hi Eun, hi Patrick, it is a pleasure to have you with us today.
Patrick: Happy to be here!
For starters, could you tell us a bit about your job and type of working schedule?
E: Sure. So, my name is Eun and I am the Head of Supply Internal Communication based in Seattle. Before moving here, I used to work on-site in our New York office. When the lockdown struck, I switched to remote work and never came back to my “old ways”. I now live in Seattle where I work 100% from home as we don’t have physical offices here. We have started to get together for an in-person after-work once a month with the other 17 Criteos who are here in Seattle.
P: Hi, I am Patrick. I joined Criteo a few months ago as a Customer Care Specialist, more specifically in the Retail Media division, and I am based in New York. I work on a hybrid basis, mixing days at home and days at the office. When I started, the New York office was still closed but I was told the option would be hybrid and that I’d be free to choose where I work best. Today, I find myself working 2 days in the office, and 3 days at home, but that is by no means rigid. At my old job, it was the opposite with a full in-person mode, so getting that trust and flexibility with Criteo was a first. I admit this total freedom of choice kind of overwhelmed me at first, but it all vanished as soon as I could feel the trust coming from my managers and teammates. I now feel totally comfortable and there is no going back for me now.
Patrick, as a new hire, would you say the flexibility aspect was a strong recruiting argument for you?
P: Absolutely! And now that I work here, I see these weren’t just words. Criteo gave me an allowance to set up a real working space at home with a desk, a comfortable chair, etc. I could have just been told to take my computer home you know, but no. I feel like the company has invested in me, far more than I expected it to. I’ve been given the trust and means to succeed.
Having experienced both working environments, what are the main pros of working on-site?
E: When you’re on-site, you get to have these informal touch points and spontaneous feedback. For instance, after I deliver a presentation, I like having people give me feedback and all. It is easier to connect with other teams and to know what’s going on outside of your perimeter. Sometimes you may even have your questions answered just by overhearing two people talking at the coffee machine.
P: Exactly! For me, collaboration and direct communication are the main benefits when working on-site. The New York office is a fun and intuitive place that really brings out the best in me. It is set up in a way that encourages collaborative work. Even though you can manage it online, I myself prefer in-person brainstorming sessions as they can happen very spontaneously when you’re at the office. Besides, you have access to equipment like large conference rooms, whiteboards to write down ideas, etc.
What about the pros of working from home?
E: It is less time-consuming, in terms of commuting for instance. I feel I can manage my time more efficiently. I don’t have to spend one hour on public transportation to go to work anymore; it’s a real time-saver! I get to spend more time preparing for meetings and getting my job done. Also, as I have a 4-year-old daughter, it allows me more flexibility and reduces stress. I no longer need to organize everything considering extra parameters like commuting and so on.
P: Working from home grants more flexibility for sure and contributes to balancing work and personal life. It makes it easier for me to fit other activities into my schedule and do things I couldn't do if I were 100% on-site. For instance, when I work from home, I get to spend more time exercising before my day starts instead of having to commute to the office. I think having two working environments is great! It enables you to be more efficient and introduces more variety into your workdays. Both have pros, both have cons, and I feel lucky I can enjoy what both have to offer.
Has Criteo helped you set up a workspace at home?
E: Yes, I had an allowance to set up my home office. I feel better working from home here in Seattle because, back in New York, our flat was smaller and my husband also works from home. Once we were able to get a bigger place, we could set up a nice, dedicated workspace and it made a huge difference for me, mentally speaking. I strongly feel that having a dedicated office in my home affords me the necessary work and life boundaries that were difficult to achieve in a smaller NY apartment.
P: Yes, I also benefited from the Work from Home allowance even though I’m not 100% working remotely. I now feel a lot more comfortable when working at home, which wasn’t always the case.
Trust is a big part of Criteo’s management philosophy. Do you agree?
E: Yes. I always try to get the job done and to give timely updates to my team and manager, even if they don’t ask for it. I like to update them on my work status, breakthroughs, and difficulties so they can have a follow-up. It may not be mandatory to do that way, but I feel like it enhances trust, especially when working remotely.
P: It may even be what I’ve enjoyed the most since joining Criteo. My position didn’t exist before, my whole team is quite new, and my manager isn’t located in the same place as we are, so without trust, it can't work out. But it does! Nobody is a fish out of the water, we’re all in together. Our manager has been incredibly supportive of us, even from a distance.
Maintaining a sense of belonging is a challenge in the new virtual workplace, don’t you think?
E: Of course, in-person gatherings are a very powerful way to feel connected to others. If we take the Limitless Summit that took place recently, we can see how impactful it was. But it is possible to take a few reflexes that help maintain the sense of belonging without in-person meetings. On my part, I always try to do little catch-ups as much as possible, even by Slack, so I can feel I’m still connected with other people. At Criteo, we have a lot of non-work-related Slack channels where people share a variety of topics, and they are the places where I also get to know new people at Criteo. Also, when I look at the Criteo goodies on my desk – branded pencils, my former access badge – it helps me feel part of the company.
P: I got lucky with my timing as I was off to Croatia for the Limitless Summit only 4 weeks after starting out. I believe keeping a sense of belonging is a challenge but I also think this virtual environment pushes for new soft management skills in the end. It makes it easier to contact your manager when you have a question, whereas if you were in the office and the door was shut, you’d never go and ask. In my case, my manager isn’t located in the same place as the team, but we feel her support daily. This is amazing, really! I have a weekly 1:1 with her and she is always very attentive and hands-on, taking notes, and really tracking my progress. All in all, I speak with her 3 to 5 times a week. She explained that what Criteo wants is for us to build our own career paths and move up into the company. She wants us to figure out the path we want and is therefore doing a regular follow-up, kind of tailoring the position and projects accordingly. I appreciate how we can openly talk about strengths, weaknesses, pain points, and struggles. It doesn’t feel top-down but more like a two-way street. Ah, and we also do virtual happy hours every other week together. How could I forget?
What tips would you give a newcomer starting in this flexible work environment?
E: Flexibility is great, but it can also be tough for new hires. Try to voice out actively what you think, want, and need while onboarding. A better environment and system for new hires only comes from feedback and action. Furthermore, in the virtual workplace, the role of the company to support them is even more crucial. This work-from-home culture has made me want to be an active supporter of them. After multiple times of my onboarding buddy experiences for new hires, I made a dedicated community for them where they can freely share their questions and an internal newsletter that introduces them and their stories. Try to get to know and utilize those various internal channels and communities that can help you connect with the existing team members whether it’s work-related or not. Criteo is wide open for new hires!
P: Yes, my first tip would also be to overcome the feeling that you’re bugging people when asking questions. In my experience, it is never the case. I think this is the logical aftermath of remote work; since you can’t see the people that you’re messaging, you can get an uneasy feeling when you have sent multiple messages in a row. But, at the end of the day, everyone is willing to help you succeed. Also, make the effort to meet your colleagues in person if you can. It helps you get a sense of their tone and the way a person communicates. Sometimes, people can be more concise and to the point on Slack, and it can be misinterpreted. We have plenty of resources – Slack, Huddle, zoom – to generate these conversations, so I would encourage anyone to utilize them! Also, take advantage of the Work from Home allowance to set up a nice work environment at home and invest in yourself.
Lastly, could you tell us of 3 habits you have that help make your day better?
E: I step out of the house to get some fresh morning air before I start to work. I’ve also set up an alarm for my lunch break. And, at last, I erased my outlook app from my phone to be able to disconnect when I am not in the office hours. This helps me to truly set the boundaries between work and life.
P: Every morning, I like to take the time to wake up, have a coffee, do a Headspace session or read the news. It’s important to get into the right mindset before signing on and starting to engage with people. I also make sure I take breaks away from the computer to unwind at some point. I also try to schedule one zoom meeting a day to make sure I interact with someone each day. When you’re at home you can go off the radar easily, but I think interacting with others daily, even if just for a moment, is worthwhile.
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