Hubble’s Story: Why We Put All Our Chips on Hybrid Working
In partnership with Hubble. A guest post written by Helena Sampayo.
31st Aug 2021
The world of work is in the midst of another great disruption. But unlike 2020’s sudden shift to remote work, there’ll be no universal method for how to approach it—and companies are going to have a lot more freedom. You guessed it; it’s the hybrid workplace revolution.
What’s great about hybrid working is that it’s truly bespoke to each company and their employees. Whether you work from the HQ, home or on-demand workspaces—it’s up to both individuals and organisations to decide how teams split their time.
So, each company will have their own unique story to tell—at Hubble, we’re no exception. Our hybrid journey has been an interesting one. Not only have we adopted a hybrid workplace strategy, but we also became the world’s first hybrid workplace platform at a time when the office industry was in complete disarray.
But we’ve come out on the other side, stronger than ever. We’re now on a mission to empower every organisation to find their ideal blend from working from the HQ, home, and on-demand via our four flagship products; the Workplace Strategy Tool, Hubble HQ, the Hubble Pass and Hubble Perks.
But how did we get to this? And how did we navigate building a product that would eventually solve the challenges we were experiencing ourselves? In this blog, we’re going to tell our story—with David Anderson, COO at Hubble, giving invaluable insights on Hubble’s hybrid journey.
Pre-pandemic, what was Hubble’s relationship with the office?
Before the pandemic hit, Hubble had grown to be London’s largest flexible office rental platform. The team was matching businesses with their perfect office every 3 hours—so it comes as no surprise that our relationship with the HQ was a positive one.
“It was important for us to be physically together as a team at least some of the time”, says David Anderson, COO at Hubble. “So a number one priority was ensuring that we had a super comfortable office environment—a place where people were proud to spend their time”.
But although we pulled out all the stops for a great office space—which at this point was a stunning 6th floor HQ in the middle of the city—we still believed in the value of flexibility. “We were also happy for team members to work from home or elsewhere; to either support their wellbeing or allow them to work where they felt most productive”, says David.
Hubble has, therefore, always operated a hybrid working model of sorts. “Our workforce consisted of team members who were in the office 5 days a week, some were fully remote, and others preferred a mix. We found this level of flexibility worked best for individuals as well as the entire company.”
How did Hubble adjust once the pandemic hit?
Once the pandemic hit our shores and the first national lockdown became more probable, Hubble acted fast. We decided to run a two-day trial where the entire company worked from home—so we could identify and resolve any issues before it became mandatory.
But this is where things started to get pretty unpredictable. “During the two-day trial, the situation with the pandemic deteriorated—so we decided to go fully remote from that point”, tells David. “It's interesting; no one knew that our two-day test would turn into over a year of remote work—but we're pleased to have come out the other side.”
But while the move to remote work came in a wave of uncertainty, the team adjusted pretty well. Luckily for us, we were already used to employees working remotely—so teams were comfortable communicating and working via tools such as Slack, Zoom and Google Docs.
But like most people, the team was struggling to adjust to the pandemic itself. “It’s something nothing could prepare us for”, says David. “Many of us were finding it difficult to adjust with homeschooling, social isolation, and increased stress or anxiety. So it was crucial that we established how to maintain social connections and find ways to support each other from afar”.
So, we came up with a few ideas. We recreated some of our clubs, office perks and social activities by moving them online. Like many companies, we hosted regular coffee mornings, weekly quizzes and sent out care packages to our teams—which we all enjoyed. After all, who wouldn't like a snack box now and again?
What was our journey like throughout the pandemic?
Of course, the series of national lockdowns was a challenging time for everyone. “No one knew what was going to happen—not just in our particular market—but the global economy as a whole. So, the uncertainty at all levels was hard to come to terms with”, says David.
Initially, companies were reluctant to make any new workspace decisions, especially when there was such a high degree of uncertainty in the market. As a result, many businesses were giving up their office space at the first opportunity—including us at Hubble.
So, we made the decision to pack up our things and move out of our 6th floor HQ for good. From that point on, Hubble was an office search platform without its office—and we started navigating our journey through what was an incredibly dark time for the industry.
Our costs were slashed by 70% and we also had to furlough 47 of our fantastic 56 employees—with half of the team returning a few months later. But at Hubble, our company culture prides itself on “friends first, employees second”—and so figuring out how we could bring this to employees’ homes for the foreseeable was also a significant challenge.
An opportunity for change
But while things were tough, the pandemic gave us an enormous opportunity for change. The world’s relationship with the office had undergone a significant transformation and employees worldwide began acquiring a taste for the flexibility it offered.
And at this point, “hybrid working” became a popular talking point—and businesses worldwide were predicting its prominence in the new world of work. At Hubble, we found this incredibly exciting—but we knew how difficult it would be to implement an effective and sustainable hybrid strategy.
“Pre-pandemic, finding the right office for your business was already a complicated and time-consuming task”, says David. “Hubble spent years making this process quick, transparent, and easy—and given our success before the pandemic, we thought we were well placed to try to solve these new challenges”.
So, the team came together and we began brainstorming. Our investors at JLL, Starwood Capital and Pi Labs backed us to help create the future of where we work in a post-Covid world—and as a result, “new” Hubble was born; the world’s first hybrid workplace platform.
Our four flagship products
Hubble is made up of four flagship products: the Workplace Strategy Tool, Hubble HQ, the Hubble Pass and Hubble Perks. Each one has been designed to empower businesses to configure a workplace strategy that’s bespoke to their company and employees’ needs.
This could be via a HQ space, home working solutions or access to a global network of on-demand workspace. Here’s a quick low-down on how they work:
Workplace Strategy Tool
This custom-built tool helps businesses understand how their teams would like to work in the future. You can survey your team using a 5-minute curated questionnaire and gain actionable insights into their preferences via your own personalised results dashboard.
Our bread and butter; Hubble HQ has been the largest online marketplace for renting flexible office space for the past five years. This product enables businesses to find a HQ or discuss their workplace options through a combination of tech, data, and industry expertise.
The Hubble Pass is a flexible membership that allows you to unleash your team’s ability to work from anywhere. With it, your employees can access a global network of top-quality on-demand workspaces across 200+ locations and book them whenever they're needed.
Hubble Perks helps teams bring the best of their company culture to employees’ homes. By joining the mailing list, you can access all of our recommendations that can maximise your remote team’s work experience—from virtual experiences and better workplace equipment.
How did we build the products? What was the process like?
At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that a key challenge for many businesses was understanding the changes that the new world of work would bring—both on a company and a countrywide level.
It was important for us to speak to employees and get their take on the future of work. So, we decided to run our Should We Ditch the Office? Survey to find out how employees worked before the pandemic, during the pandemic and how they’d like to work in the future.
And we gained some really useful insights—from the impact age has on working preferences to the link between commute time and enjoyment of working from home. While we delved into the findings, we were also offering companies a free, personalised report that exclusively detailed their team’s data—as well as an overall report that highlighted the wider responses.
This was incredibly well received, as was our offering of free advice as to how businesses could interpret and translate these results into a viable strategy. The feedback encouraged us to transform the survey into a permanent tool; the Workplace Strategy Tool.
“We also spoke to founders, COOs, HR and office managers of hundreds of companies just like ours; to try to figure out what their challenges were and how they were thinking about the future of their workplace”, says David.
“We then quickly spun up an MVP and launched a free pilot to enable employees to book day passes across 50 different coworking locations across London”. The pilot was a success; we had a long waiting list of companies of all shapes and sizes keen to try out once we had more capacity—and a few months later, we turned this pilot scheme into the Hubble Pass.
What’s next for Hubble?
At Hubble, our journey is far from over—in fact, we’re just getting started. We’re continuing to expand our global reach of on-demand workspaces at incredibly fast rates, as well as working hard to build exciting new features for our platform.
But as we approach this new world of work, Hubble plans to continue evolving our hybrid workplace platform to ensure it’s at the forefront of the revolution—just as we’ve done over the past six years with London’s flexible office market.