ClickUp CEO on the present and future of work

Zeb Evans has seen his productivity hub startup grow rapidly and has had a close-up view of changing trends

Headshot of Zeb Evans, CEO at ClickUp

We continue to live through a state of flux in how and where we work. The pandemic created a crossroads where, for many of us operating in the knowledge economy, hybrid working became the default setting. 

I’ve spent much of the last 18 months talking to people with interesting insights and perspectives. Productivity and hybrid working go together like love and marriage so in this piece I exchanged emails with Zeb Evans, CEO and founder of ClickUp, a productivity platform that’s marketed as “one app to replace them all”, by unifying tasks, files, messaging, project tracking and beyond.

Founded in 2017, the company notched a remarkable $535m in funding round to be valued at $4bn and it now has about 800 staff. Customers include McDonalds, and Netflix.

To what extent are you seeing significant changes to working patterns since pandemic restrictions were lifted?

The most significant change to work-life we've witnessed in the post-lockdown world is that we will never return to an office full-time. Employees are prioritising flexibility, especially when it comes to when and where they get their work done. That's why I believe that hybrid work is here to stay. To build a solid and connected team, companies need to be thoughtful about when it makes sense (and is valuable) for a team to come together in person. For example, at ClickUp we continue to invest in physical office locations and have designated in-office days for local team members. We also offer memberships to co-working spaces and host regular team gatherings like Sales Kick-Off and offsites to bring our distributed crew together.

Do you think there will be significant changes in how offices and workspaces are designed?

Because most employees will not return full-time to an office, we'll likely see the end of permanent desks. "Desk hoteling" has become a popular alternative, and I imagine it will remain the norm as office spaces continue to adapt to facilitate a distributed model. I would not be surprised if rows of traditional desks were eventually replaced with different work environments, such as communal tables and more conference room space to accommodate groups better.

What do you see as the most successful approaches to hybrid working?

It's hard to ignore the impact of building relationships with teammates in person on fostering strong company culture. One approach that works for our hybrid culture is standardising in-office days, so everyone is together when they're in the office. Our San Diego and Salt Lake City employees come into those offices weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to work with their teams in person. This allows employees to plan their work week accordingly and maximise their time in the office with their teammates.

Are you seeing signs of the Great Resignation going global and people feeling less loyalty to employers?

I think the Great Resignation has established the importance of building a culture for today's remote workforce. That's why we feel it's important to get in person periodically to really develop deeper connections. Creating an aligned and connected team where individuals can experience the non-tangibles like community and belonging is critical. Even as ClickUp has scaled to over 800 employees in five years, we still host a live weekly All Hands meeting to communicate as a team, discuss company updates, and celebrate our wins. I've also learned that hiring for passion and potential is essential for any fast-growing company in today's market. Every single person at ClickUp was screened for a growth mindset. That's because growth leads to fulfillment, happiness, and success—which significantly impacts culture. Never underestimate how fostering connections and providing employees with ownership can empower your team to do the best work of their career.

People talked about productivity raising during the stay-at-home order period. But do you think we analyse productivity in the right way?

There are a lot of misconceptions about how to define productivity. It's no surprise that we live in a world of distractions, so staying productive is more challenging than ever. But productivity is not about doing more work. It’s defined as doing the same amount of work in less time and eliminating unnecessary work. What isn’t factored into this definition is the constant distractions today’s workers face. So, while some people became more productive when forced to work from home, many remote workers waste hours each day searching for information, switching between applications, and getting distracted by endless pings. Analysing and improving productivity comes down to efficiency and working smarter, not harder.

How can companies raise productivity in the new environment?

While many of us moved from working exclusively in-office to working in a remote or hybrid environment, one thing that remained constant is the value placed on productivity at work. Companies can improve their hybrid teams' productivity by streamlining and consolidating work into fewer platforms — leading to better collaboration, greater visibility, and stronger results across hybrid teams. By connecting work and minimising silos created by using too many apps, companies can maintain and increase productivity.

Managing a team in-person versus remote is very different. What tips do you have about managing well in today's new world of work?

In today's new world of work, managers must be mindful of protecting their employees' time. In the past few years, companies have adopted new practices and platforms designed for hybrid teams to increase efficiency and collaboration, but often more tools equal more time wasted. By consolidating a team's work into fewer platforms, they can spend their time on strategic, high-value work that delivers world-class experiences to customers.