Brex CEO on the right ways to think about remote work

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Henrique Dubugras, founder and chief executive office of Brex.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

While some employees are eager to return to the office, and many others simply want a choice between in-person and remote work, companies continue to grapple over which return-to-work strategy works best for them. 

Some companies are moving to permanent virtual models, and enjoying lowered office costs and increased access to talented employees, but most are planning some form of hybrid work, according to a recent CNBC survey of senior executives across many sectors of the economy.

Brex, a financial services platform that allows businesses to manage finances and credit lines which ranked No. 6 on this year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list, recently announced its switch to a virtual-first model while getting rid of its physical headquarters.

Henrique Dubugras, who is the co-CEO and co-founder of Brex alongside Pedro Franceschi, joined CNBC’s Technology Executive Council Forum on Wednesday to offer insight into how his company, and others, can benefit from remote work.

1. A virtual water cooler or happy hour isn’t a solution

At the beginning of the pandemic, companies were eager to replicate office experiences for employees with things like virtual happy hours, online coffee meetings and Zoom networking events, aiming to mitigate feelings of separation.

But a beer is meant to be shared in person, and people have Zoom-fatigue, Dubugras said. If companies want to be remote, Dubugras said they should learn that there are some in-person office experiences that cannot be replicated in the virtual space and, instead, companies should model that differently.

“There’s a lot of experiences that were designed to be on the internet,” Dubugras said. “For example, gaming, so sometimes when we do team bonding events, we just play an online game all together.”

When looking at how people connected online before the pandemic, Dubugras said there are ways people can feel love and connection through virtual spaces similar to how kids feel connected to their favorite influencers on YouTube, or other social media platforms. Virtual connections can be strengthened through frequent communication and Vlog-style channels where managers at Brex provide recorded videos of themselves to employees, he says.

“There’s a lot of things the internet solved before, on how to do things that we should look to and copy, instead of trying to bring what we did in the office into an online version,” Dubugras said.

2. Don’t base return-to-work plan on what other companies are doing

3. The biggest advantage of remote is access to talent

Though there are disadvantages to remote work, doors have opened across the country, and even globally, for people to work virtually for companies they would otherwise never have the chance to work for without a remote option.

“Hiring people globally is the main advantage of remote,” Dubugras said. “We’re willing to take the downsides of remote for the fact that we get to hire people wherever they are.”

The option of working remotely allows for companies to recruit anywhere from the biggest cities to the most rural parts of the globe, and companies can not only hire the best applicant in the area but potentially the best applicant in the world.

“Our best people are able to live their best lives and live wherever they want, independent of where our offices are,” Dubugras said. “It’s an amazing benefit.”

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