Maryana Grinshpun’s academic and professional experience in architecture taught her an invaluable lesson for her later role as founder and CEO of Mammoth Projects: the future of hybrid work is industry-specific.
Mammoth Projects, a Brooklyn-based modern interior design and renovation company, has operated in a hybrid capacity since before the pandemic, having hired overseas talent and working in a 24-hour capacity. While the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst that led to her U.S. employees working remotely, Maryana notes that for architects and designers, in-person work is crucial to camaraderie and morale.
Industry-specific hybrid work: Why it’s important for architects and designers to be in-person
When Maryana left architecture school, she realized there was still a lot more to learn besides building history and design principles. The actual construction process and the components of getting a project together were foreign to her. She wasn’t alone in this, either.
“In other industries, 10 years out of school, you’re a senior leader. In our industry, you’re still junior to mid-level because there’s just so much knowledge that you need to accrue with day-to-day experience,” Maryana said. “There’s a very long ramp-up to becoming a useful person within an architecture and design studio. There are so many moving parts to putting a project together. Training your team is a very long-term process.”
Maryana knows firsthand the long hours and hard work it takes to get up-to-speed in the industry. For her, workplace camaraderie is what helped the most. The bonds she created by eating out of takeout containers in an office until 9 p.m. were irrevocable – and extremely difficult to recreate in a remote capacity, especially once she became a leader.
“Training and working in-person is a challenge. Doing it remotely has been even more so, because you need to figure out a way to intervene on a very regular basis without doing somebody’s job for them.”
Like most companies, Mammoth Projects went fully remote at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. To Maryana, the pandemic offered the opportunity for leaders to ask what’s right for their organizations – something that is pretty revolutionary when everyone used to default to an office space straight away. It’s something she is considering as she tries to find the best way forward for her team to be productive – balancing in-person collaboration with at-home focused work.
She keeps returning to her experience in architecture school as she sets forth the trial-and-error process of finding the future of hybrid work for her company.
“People in design are used to – and look forward to – that camaraderie with their teammates,” Maryana says. “It’s a culture that’s cultivated in architecture school with your classmates and studio mates. Having that in office settings is really great for retaining employees, and that’s a big part of keeping teams going and intact, which is why I think it’s really important to cultivate that experience for people – independently of remote or in-person environments.”
“I’m looking for office space and we’re going to do what a lot of teams are doing – try to find a hybrid model that works. I don’t believe you can get rid of face-to-face interaction fully in my industry. But I want to give other people and myself the freedom to not have to show up somewhere where I don’t necessarily need to be that day, while still building that day-to-day culture that people in my industry expect and want.”
Quantifying hybrid work
With all cases of trial-and-error, a large number of honest conversations need to happen. You may save time on a commute, you may not need to rent an expensive apartment in New York (where Mammoth Projects is based), but are you missing out on pushing a project forward by having the same conversation twice? Do you spend more time going back and forth online, when you could just turn to the person next to you and ask for a quick piece of feedback? What actually is more productive: Saving time on commute or missing out on in-person time that things can get done faster?
“At the end of the day, I don’t know how to do that math, to be honest,” Maryana says. “And I don’t know one person who really has a very cohesive feeling about this entire process. Everybody has mixed feelings about remote vs. in-person work, which is why finding the right mix of hybrid work is so important.”
It’s why Maryana goes back to figuring out what is best for your company’s industry to help your team be productive. As a design professional that creates office spaces for other companies, she has a keen insight into how different fields are responding and adapting to these changes, and the increased competition of more and more companies offering remote-friendly roles.
“I still think the future of hybrid work is very industry-specific,” Maryana says. “Over the last two years, I’ve been trying to follow this narrative pretty closely in the media and try to understand what different experts in various fields have to say on the subject, because I want to know how I should be designing other people’s spaces. Every time I see a new article, there’s somebody saying, ‘This is the future,’ like everybody has a crystal ball. All of that feels very disingenuous. The pandemic has given us a reason to question how this should work for the first time, and I believe the most successful companies will see what works best for their workforce and culture.”
There is more freedom now with teams and organizations building a culture and the right fit. Maryana is continuing to listen to her employees, seeing what they need, and providing them the space to do the work on their own and with others. The bonding of late nights with takeout may be different, but she is hoping she can continue that legacy while also bringing it into current times – invigorating the culture with something new, yet still productive and close-knit.
Connect your IRL team members with your remote teams
Whether operating a team that’s operating in a hybrid capacity or spanning continents, keep your team connected and collaborating. Airspeed’s selection of Slack apps can help your team get to know each other, and raise morale, no matter what industry you’re in.