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Episode #140: Back to the Workplace

Grad Conn

July 2, 2021  •  11 min read

I’m back in New York (at least for a while), and back in the office — a real-life, physical office — for the first time in more than a year. And I’m certainly not the only one going through this change. So, what will the new office experience be like? How does the office change as we take what we’ve learned from working at home, and bring that back into the workplace? Today we talk about redefining our corporate work spaces.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Oh yeah. You know what that music means. It is time for another episode of the unified CXM Experience. And as always, I am Grad Conn, Chief Experience Officer, CXO at the NYSE publicly listed company, Sprinklr, our ticker symbol is CXM.

Alright, so I want to start talking about the movie Aliens. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this movie. It’s the second movie in the Alien franchise. It was done in 1986. It was written and directed by James Cameron. And it’s a sequel to the 1979 science fiction horror film Alien. So, just in case you have not seen it in a while, it’s set in the far future. It stars Sigourney Weaver as Lieutenant Ellen Ripley, and she, of course, is the sole survivor of an alien attack on her ship. It also featured Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser in an unusual role. Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn, and a host of others – a very controversial film, very difficult film to make. All sorts of lawsuits and years went by. It was a horrible shoot, and everybody hated each other but opened to critical acclaim, was the highest grossing movie in 1986 and is now considered to be among the greatest films of the 1980s. And one of the best science fiction or action films ever made. And one of the best sequels ever made. It’s been called equal to or better than Alien. I think I’d agree with that, and it’s credited with expanding the franchise’s scope with all sorts of different lore and factions around the Colonial Marines. It’s also inspired tons of video games, merchandise, comic books, toys and it was followed by another couple of sequels, which didn’t do as well, but have created a lot of wonderful content for all of us.

Why am I talking about this movie? Do you remember the movie? Ellen Ripley, she’s in stasis, and then they bring her back to life. And, and then, she’s debriefed by her employers, do you remember all that, and then suddenly, they lose contact with the settlers on LV426, which is where they originally found the alien ship. And so, they all decided to go back to LV426, to see what’s going on. So, the expedition goes to the surface of the planetoid, and they find that the colony’s deserted; their makeshift barricades are battle signs, but no bodies. And it’s like, it’s a great scene. I love this scene when they first walk into the colony facility. They open the door and go inside this sort of water dripping, super moody scene … aah, it’s so great … I’ve got to watch this tonight. Super moody scene, so amazing. And they look inside an office and there’s like a half-eaten doughnut and a cup of coffee that’s sort of half done, bits of food and sandwiches around. It’s like everyone just sort of stood up and ran out all at the same time. Sort of frozen in motion.

That’s kind of what it’s like coming back to the office. I didn’t have to crack the door open with the Colonial Marines, but … holy she moly … back in the office after a year and a half and it is not dissimilar from that first scene in Aliens … It’s not the first scene. It’s the first scene on LV426 … And I’ve got to say, it’s been really interesting.

I’ve been in the office for two weeks now. huge shout out to Tony Vargas, who’s been leading our facilities team which has done just an extraordinary job. I did come in the office pretty consistently, through the early days of the pandemic, I was the only one here. I’m in the New York office. And I was coming in quite a bit early on. I came here on a frequent basis until I moved to Florida. And it got harder and harder to come in because there wasn’t any air conditioning, they didn’t have the air on. And then everyone had left stuff in their desks because, just like the colonists on LV426, they expected to come back. So, the smell of rotting bananas and apples and other pieces of slowly petrifying fruit, filled the office and it became a little hard to breathe in here.

So, I eventually had to kind of abandon this and also, you know, abandoned the state as well. But I’m back and you know, Tony and team have done an awesome job. Tom Packman, I also want to call out Tom who has done a really nice job of pulling all this together, the office is completely cleaned up, everyone’s desk has been cleaned out and put into a box, which is kind of cool. And all the boxes are labeled with people’s names. Sam Levenstein has also been working really hard on this as lead facilities manager for the New York office. And I’ve been a bit of a pain in the ass, not intentionally, but I’m a little early, we’re officially opening the office in mid-July.

But I’ve been here for a couple of weeks, we had our IPO. And so, there’s a bunch of work to do here in New York, got back in town as the city opened essentially that day. And so, I’ve been like … you know, the new locks got installed … and of course, you know, they all locked and couldn’t be unlocked. That was pretty fun. That was a pretty fun day. So I snuck in with the freight elevator (I didn’t sneak in, they brought me up that way). But you know, the freight elevator was used, then it broke. They’ve got the new locking system working beautifully now. And actually, it’s super cool because it actually uses an app on your phone, and you wave your phone in front of the lock pad, and then it opens the door. So you don’t have to carry a keycard and, and usually you forget your key card, etc. And it’s just a lot more easily managed too because it can be managed centrally. And then the apps can be disabled when someone is no longer able to have access to the building. So very secure, very safe, very low cost, you don’t have to print cards out. And a great experience for the employee as well.

I just wanted to talk a little bit about this experience of returning to the office because it’ll probably be old hat pretty soon. But I mean, just for whatever it’s worth, I am the only person in the office right now. It’s not like I’m surrounded by throngs of people, there are a couple of folks who are cleaning; they are still continuing to clean every day. Not that I’m messing the place up so badly that they have to have a whole cleaning crew following me around. But there is still work to get everything ready. We’re moving to a hoteling system. So, desks will be rotated a little bit differently. And should be very interesting to see how all this plays out. But I’ve got my podcast setup here in the office now. And what’s kind of interesting, I read an interesting article on this the other day, on how people are bringing their ‘work from home’ setups into the office, things that they learned working from home are now part of the office environment.

And I’d say that’s totally true for me. I’ve got a ring light now and I never had a ring light before in my office, I just kind of talked into the camera that was on top of my surface laptop. And now I’ve got a ring light, I’ve got a webcam, I’ve got this kick-ass sure directional microphone, I’ve got a boom for the microphone. So, it sort of sits over my desk and right in front of my mouth. I guess that’s probably all the big changes, I’ve got headphones on now. I didn’t used to have headphones. And I’ve got a headphones stand, which is actually kind of new, I don’t have that anywhere. But there’s this interesting sort of blend of the ‘work from home’ with office now. And I actually feel very comfortable in this environment because it feels very similar to what I had working from home. And you know, go from there.

And the other thing that I’m doing, which is a little bit new for me is that pretty much everything’s in the cloud now. So, I have a laptop here in the office, and it stays here in the office. And then I have another identical laptop in Florida, which I’ll be heading back to soon. And it stays in Florida. And then I have a little portable sort of small personal laptop that if I really need to get online, on a desktop, I can do that. But most of the time, I can just use my phone. And so my portability has gone way up. And what’s interesting is that I walk to work without a lot of encumbrances. I don’t need to wear a backpack anymore. I can just, you know, carry my phone. And I can go to the office and everything’s waiting for me here.

And so, as we think about experience, and you know, this is the unified customer experience podcast, what is the experience that we’re all going to have, it’s going to be very interesting. Just like the settlers in LV426, we all abandoned our desks without thinking we were going to be away for as long as we were. Most of us were told it was going to be a couple of weeks, then it was extended to a couple of months. And then people just stopped trying to predict the future. So for many of us, it’ll be a good solid year and half. And for some people, it may be up to two years. There are some revisions going on, in Back to Office policies. And I think there’s actually an opportunity here for us to change the reality of what it’s like working at work. And so, bringing in more of our home ‘Work from Home’ sort of aesthetic, having higher quality video interactions with each other …

I had an interesting experience this morning where I was doing a webinar with somebody, and that person was on a low bandwidth connection. They didn’t have headphones, they didn’t have a proper camera, they hadn’t prepared correctly, they hadn’t tested their equipment. And while that was pretty common in the pre-pandemic age, it just seems unacceptable now. It’s a social faux pas not to have your act together when you’re doing this stuff. I got quite irritated, it was wasting my time, it was wasting a whole bunch of production people’s time. And it was just because this person hadn’t been able to get their act together. And so, think a little bit about what the new world’s going to look like, how is video going to work in the new world? How are we going to be able to keep interacting virtually because that’s not going to go away? In fact, many of our compatriots will be in a virtual setting probably permanently. And then how does the office adjust to that? I think there’s a lot of work ahead of us, I actually think we’re going to be going back to more individual offices, be my prediction, people are going to need more privacy, not less privacy, as they sort of toggle between working, meeting face to face and having these video interactions that we’ve had over the last little while.

So that’s sort of my kind of quick observations, shout outs to the team for pulling it all together, I appreciate all the time, energy that’s gone into letting me get in here every day, even when the locks weren’t working, and the building was still closed down. And I’ve got to say, I’m really enjoying being back at the office. I missed it. And I missed being in a work environment during work. It’s nice to have the focus and to have the energy and concentration of just single mindedly going through the day. And while I enjoy the flexibility of working from home, I really hope that we don’t have to go back to that world anytime soon. So, for the unified CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. And I’m happy to be back in the office again and I will talk to you … next time.

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Grad Conn

Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

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