BIG RYG - CS Conference - Oct 8, 2020

The Guide to Creating a Unique, Hybrid Remote Work Schedule

The Rotational Regional Remote (R3) Framework

The Rotational Regional Remote (R3) Story

ChurnZero is a fast-growing software company in Washington DC. Like most “knowledge companies,” we are dealing with:

  • A constricted talent pool,
  • with a desire for in-person interaction,
  • in the face of the nation’s second worst commuting city,
  • with a workforce that values flexibility,
  • where some younger employees looking for a place to grow and thrive or even sit,
  • with a company in a stage where cash conservation is still paramount,
  • on rare occasions, deal with black-swan events like the novel coronavirus crisis.

We thought hard about going fully remote but decided to go with a semi-remote schedule, or what we’ve termed Rotational Regional Remote (R3). To start, we divided the company by department and letter group. For example, an employee is assigned to their department (i.e. Sales) as well as a letter group (i.e. Group B). Using combinations of the department and letter groups, we create a rotating remote work schedule. Team members get BOTH face time and 50% work-from-home (WFH) flexibility. The company benefits from a happier and more collaborative workforce and a smaller real estate footprint.

This hybrid model could be an attractive option to knowledge companies looking for balance between in-office and remote work.

"Washington Monument B&W" (CC BY 2.0) by joncutrer

Here’s how R3 works at ChurnZero

  • The company is divided into four main letter groups (A, B, C, D).
    • Each group is comprised of colleagues from different departments.
    • Each group has a C-Level leader.
    • Each group is equally sized and comprises approximately 20-25% of the in-office employees.
    • There is also a Group E. This is the “Every Day” group. It’s comprised of junior employees who benefit from a structured work environment. New employees are also included for their first 2-4 weeks to onboard and acclimate them to company.
  • For R3, the company is also organized into three departments (Sales, Customer, All Other).
    • Note that our Engineering team is 100% remote.
    • This allows the departments to spend time together since they are dispersed across letter groups.
  • Each day, a subset of the departments or letter groups come into the office. The remaining groups WFH. For example, the in-office schedule for a week might look like this:
    • Monday: Groups A and B
    • Tuesday: Depts. Sales and Customer
    • Wednesday: Groups C and D
    • Thursday: Depts. Sales and All Other
    • Friday: Group A (one group only)
  • Our four main letter groups and three departments cycle through their combinations in 12 business days (Friday excluded), and then we repeat. See the appendix below for more information about a rotation.
  • A few other notes:
    • All desks are shared and are expected to be clean and neat at the end of each day.
    • An employee will see every colleague within six business days.
    • On average, an employee comes into the office 50% of the workdays.
    • R3 is optional at ChurnZero. Anyone can join Group E and come in every day.
Here’s an example of our R3 schedule over a six-week period:

Why Did ChurnZero Create R3?

A Constricted Talent Pool, Even in a Vibrant City

ChurnZero is a fast-growing software company with ambitions to be a very large company. This required us to locate in a vibrant metropolitan area with a strong pool of talented people.  The downside of being based in a vibrant metropolitan area is the traffic and high costs. For instance, we’re headquartered in Washington, D.C. where traffic is ranked as the second worst in the United States. The time spent in a typical commute is lost time to one’s professional and personal lives. Traffic congestion means that a company’s target talent pool does not span the entire metropolitan area, but rather a smaller, more constricted subregion zoned by untenable commute times.

In-Person Is Still Important, Even Necessary

An expanding company, like ChurnZero, benefits from having a physical office. Our employee base is doubling every year and the development of a strong culture as well as the training and onboarding of new colleagues is made easier with in-person interaction. And some people simply prefer an office environment.

Flexibility Is a Must for Some Employees

We think ChurnZero is a great place to build a career because we offer compelling work in an interesting industry. But the reality is that we must compete with other great places to work in Washington, D.C., including the entrance of Amazon’s second headquarters.

R3 allows us to attract more candidates across a greater area of the D.C. metro, because of our flexibility and reduced commute time. We have employees whose commutes are over an hour each way. Without R3, these employees may not have decided to be part of our team.

For many professionals, the best perk is having their office be their home office.

Why Rotational?

Staring at an Underused, Expensive Office Space

We started with implementing a “partially remote” schedule where all employees came into the office 2-3 days a week. This resulted in our office being underused and idle approximately 50% of the time.  With the company still supporting home offices with technology and equipment, maintaining an underutilized office space was wasting money.

How Do We Support Younger Workers and New Employees?

A partially remote schedule, where the office was empty half the time, did not help employees who:

  • are onboarding, training, and learning in their new role
  • prefer to work in an office environment
  • cannot work from home due to lack of space or other reasons
  • are starting their working careers and need more mentorship and training

Does It Work?

We started R3 in the summer of 2019, and we are staying with it. The company continues to perform well against its own goals and industry standards. The employees favor R3 and have given the company a Net Promoter Score® (NPS) in the 80’s, which is a number that is nearly impossible to beat.

APPENDIX: More on the Rotation Schedule

ChurnZero has four main letter groups and three department groups in R3, but you can vary the number of letter groups or department groups to suit your own needs. Tweak these groups and the schedule to bring in employees more or less often than the 50% that ChurnZero does.

Below is the ChurnZero scheduling cadence for our Monday-Thursday workdays. On Fridays, we bring in one letter group and that rotates on its own schedule.

The schedule allows us to be flexible. For instance, if we are outgrowing our office space and need some time to find a new space, we can add additional letter groups and break departments into smaller units. This will create a smaller population for each day. This same technique would work if you decided to have 40% in office instead of 50%.

ChurnZero's 12-day R3 rotation schedule

APPENDIX 2: The Impact of COVID-19 on R3

As of this writing, ChurnZero’s local governments are still requiring Shelter At Home. But we expect the following changes to our office space when we return:

  • Social distancing guidelines will likely reduce the capacity of our office desks and conference room desks by at least 33%,
  • Although we have done this already, we will have to continue and increase the use of disinfecting products for hands and for desks,
  • Consider the use of masks in the office.
R3 is particularly adept to deal with a sudden loss of capacity. We will simply divide the company into more letter groups and rearrange department groups so we fit into capacity. Our work in office percentage will decrease, but that will be helpful in our careful return to a more normal workplace.