Ep 9: Crafting Inclusive Hybrid Workspaces: Bethany Nicole Smith on Experience Synergy

Wednesday, December 13, 2023
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Bethany Nicole Smith, driving force behind the HERitage Network, delves into the heart of the hybrid work transformation. This episode unveils:

  • Hybrid frontrunners: Traits that set apart the successful from the striving.
  • Ensuring fairness: Strategies to balance onsite and remote team dynamics.
  • Experience dissected: Contrasting workplace vs. employee experiences.
  • Fusion magic: The potent mix when these experiences align.

Implementing Hybrid Work: Traits That Set Apart the Successful From the Striving

In our season finale, I sat down with Bethany Nicole Smith, Workplace Experience Specialist and Founder of the HERitage Network, to dive into how to ensure equity between onsite and remote employees. Smith shared her experience crafting inclusive workspaces for all in her previous roles and how that’s transformed after the pandemic. 

Bethany Nicole Smith explained that each individual human being has a different relationship with both their home and their workplace. And that relationship is inevitably going to factor into what they want from the organization and what they need from their workplace experience package in this hybrid universe.

Bethany Nicole Smith pointed out that the reality is people who are women or femme presenting, who have a racial minority identity, or who experience chronic or mental illness have a different experience and different needs. It’s not necessarily the organization’s job to understand that when they begin building the hybrid programming—but it is their job to find out.

“It is your job to find out. And that is the piece that's going to be super pivotal in separating the giants from the nots, because that is what is going to make your hybrid workplace offering truly bespoke and truly amazing, and have people buying into it in a way that has them making viral LinkedIn posts about how awesome the organization is.” - Bethany Nicole Smith, Workplace Experience Expert

Strategies To Balance Onsite and Remote Team Dynamics

Bethany Nicole Smith emphasized the importance of firstly being clear from a programming perspective. Figure out: Why are we doing programming and what are we gathering for? What do we want our attendees to get out of the experience? After that, organizations need to understand that equity and equality are not the same thing

“There's no way to have the same experience, but we can get the same outcome by doing two different things.” - Bethany Nicole Smith, Workplace Experience Expert

Bethany Nicole Smith shared her experience putting together a team event package in a hybrid universe for an organization. It was about work-life balance and building camaraderie between people on the team by having fun together. They linked up remote folks with each other and sent them off to do something together while the people in the office did something else together. Then, everyone returned to a specific Slack group to swap pictures. At the end of the program, they designated a spokesperson from each group who would share what the group did. 

The two groups each did something different, but the goal was the same: To make sure that these folks had fun together and came out feeling like they’re connected and belong.

Workplace vs. Employee Experiences: What’s the Difference?

Workplace Experience is all about creating an amazing physical environment where employees thrive. It focuses on office design, facilities, technology, and that oh-so-important atmosphere that inspires collaboration and boosts well-being. 

Employee Experience is the holistic journey of an employee within the organization. From recruitment to career development, work-life balance to recognition, it encompasses every touchpoint that shapes an employee's connection with the company. 

For Bethany Nicole Smith, providing a great workplace experience in a hybrid universe means asking herself: If you work from the office, what can I provide in that space to make your experience great? If you don’t work from the office, what can I provide to make your experience great? 

Smith explained that answering those questions is cross-functional oftentimes with the employee experience piece. For example, how can I make working from your home setup work for you? Do I need to make sure that any work from home package that I offer you provides ergonomic suggestions? I also need to work with IT to make sure everyone has the technology to do their work. Do I need to send you headphones? Do I need to do something onsite to ensure that when we’re having a hybrid meeting, everyone can be heard?

Lastly, Bethany Nicole Smith emphasized the need to establish norms and cultural niceties, like making muting yourself second nature in a Zoom meeting, utilizing the chat so that there’s an equivalent experience, or sending an agenda out beforehand and attaching it to calendar invitations so that there’s an equitable experience. 

Hybrid Magic When Workplace and Employee Experiences Align

Bethany Nicole Smith explained that both the workplace experience and employee experience functions utilize learning and development pathways, DEIB principles, and people operations initiatives to communicate, and they both require well-established processes and relationships. 

While they intertwine, their core focuses remain distinct. Workplace experience centers on the physical environment, whereas employee experience embraces the emotional journey and growth opportunities. 

“Making magic is about understanding where all the intersections are, who your key stakeholders are, and what they need.” - Bethany Nicole Smith, Workplace Experience Expert 

A well-designed workplace enhances the employee experience, making their workdays more comfortable and productive. Meanwhile, a positive employee experience nurtures appreciation and care for the workspace. The magic happens when these two kinds of experiences merge!

Together, the two disciplines create a harmonious environment that boosts satisfaction and engagement.

Evolving Company Culture To Meet the Needs of Hybrid Employees

Bethany Nicole Smith believes that being willing to evolve is the first step to transforming company culture to meet hybrid employees’ needs. Organizations need to be willing to adapt based on what their employees need and what they’re setting out to do. It’s really about balancing those two aspects through leadership and change management.

“We as a collective society on a grader scale went through a collective experience together. I think on the back of that, everybody agrees that change is nigh. I think it’s important to just be willing to adapt and make the adaptation based on your employees’ needs and organization’s goals.” - Bethany Nicole Smith, Workplace Experience Expert

The organization and employees need to break those walls down and be able to have real conversations. Some people have been productive from home, some have been depressed, some miss in-person interactions, some don’t want in-person interactions all the time but do need a place to escape from their roommates. Having these conversations a little bit more authentically is key. 

Ensuring a Good Hybrid Work Experience

The key to ensuring a good hybrid work experience: listen to your employees! Following her own advice, Bethany Nicole Smith set out with a research project to find out more about the current status quo and her employees’ needs. She did focus groups and surveys, and realized their org needed to approach hybrid work on several different fronts. 

Smith discovered there was a facility piece to the hybrid work experience. People didn’t know where anybody was when they came into the office. And so little things like making the neighborhoods more clearly defined [was very helpful]. For example, they created the “Nest In Your Neighborhood” campaign where each section came up with their own team mascot.

There was also a tech piece, Smith explained. If someone can’t hear the people who are in the room when they’re at home on Zoom, that means they need a microphone. She also found that if people were hosting an all-hands type meeting in the office, they needed to leave the room that the meeting was being hosted in and post up in a separate area that was close by but had a screen.

All of this required lots of researching, asking questions, and figuring out what the people that she was trying to serve are looking for.




Jenny Moebius

SVP @ Skedda | Angel Investor

Jenny is a top Go-To-Market (GTM) leader in the Greater Boston area, where she has a track record of building powerful brands and categories, generating demand (for both sales- and product-led orgs), and creating energizing mission-driven cultures of belonging in the B2B tech space.


Bethany Nicole Smith

Workplace Experience & ERG Program Manager | Internal Comms Lead | Author + Keynote Speaker

Amplifying employee community spaces for a thriving, diverse company culture that retains top talent, lowers turnover cost, and produces high functioning teams that underrepresented people are excited to belong to.

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