Photo via the Boston Globe

It should come as no surprise that while Kendall was (and continues to be) at the forefront of vaccine creation, it was (and continues to be) leading the way in how work…works. Today’s hybrid work model was a necessity for labs in Kendall early in the pandemic to provide a safe space for scientists to test and create.

Synthetic biology company Synlogic is one example. The company provided free PCR testing to employees even during early lockdown restrictions. An easy decision, chief executive Aoife Brennan recently told The Boston Globe, since the cost was equal to the weekly company lunches that were no longer taking place. Like many other companies, as these temporary work patterns became the norm, Synlogic had to figure out what to offer employees and how over.

“Nobody really wants to go back to the way we worked in 2019,” says Brennan. “We did a couple employee surveys in 2021, and it became very clear to us is that the type of work you’re doing should determine your work location—there are some things that really are better and optimally done in the office setting and there are lots of tasks that can be done equally well, or may even be better, remotely.”

This feedback became core to what Brennan calls a “hub and home” approach, where employees decide where to work based the type(s) of work they’re doing. The idea has expanded into “hub weeks” were, once per quarter in 2022, all workers are invited to Synlogic for a week of in-person work and connection.

“We’ve hired new people who are not based in Massachusetts for the first time, and they’ve actually really liked this idea of the hub weeks because a lot of them have had experience working as remote employees in the past and feel that you can get a bit disconnected if you don’t have that tether back to the headquarters and to the rest of the team,” says Brennan.

Brennan recognizes that Synlogic’s decisions about hybrid work over the last two years were trials, some they’ve leaned into after conversation and consideration—and others they’ve abandoned. Brennan urges other companies, including those unsure of what’s to come, to simply remain open and honest with employees as decisions unfold.

“I’ve noticed there’s a lot of anxiety from people about what the future is going to look like,” says Brennan. “And sometimes I feel just saying something, even if it’s very broad principles, could be really helpful in alleviating some of that anxiety about the future.”