After living through a pandemic, it's undeniable that workers' priorities have changed. With employees rethinking their work/life balance, recruiters have reported a significant push for more flexible working in a trend that's likely to last for years to come.
A recent McKinsey study revealed that companies responded 40 times quicker than expected when it came to remote working. Pre-pandemic, employees anticipated it would take over a year to shift to working outside the office. In reality, it took a mere 11 days for organizations to make the change, with more robust remote work policies implemented within months.
But the future of the workplace differs vastly depending on individual business needs. With so many new working models to choose from, each organization will adopt its own approach to foster employee retention and attract top talent. Another important lesson from the coronavirus was that having a strong company culture is more vital than we could ever have been imagined. No longer a concept associated with ping pong tables and Silicon Valley, businesses viscerally experienced the problems that arise when employees feel disconnected from one another and lose interest in their company's mission.
So with that in mind, we investigated the transformations of 6 great companies to see how they have shifted to meet employees changing needs during this pivotal time. Let's dive in!
TomTom - shifting to a flexible future
In the wake of COVID-19, the team at TomTom decided to overhaul their approach. Shifting to a hybrid working model, from 2021, management started pushing the focus to their teams' activity rather than their location.
After noticing location was not as crucial as previously thought, TomTom got ahead on the curve towards flexible working options. Rebranding their office spaces as collaborative hubs, employees can choose to work from home or come into a shared workspace to meet in person or simply get through their to-do list.
In January this year, TomTom shared the latest iteration of their innovative W@TT (Working at TomTom) initiative, reinforcing their offering of total flexibility and encouraging employees to work from the space best suits them.
Rather than mandating which days need to be spent in the office, TomTom asks their teams to structure their week according to their tasks. Got an intensive day of data entry ahead? Feel free to work from home so you can buckle down and focus. Want to brainstorm some new ideas as a team? Head into the office to designated break-out rooms to make the most of each other's creative energies.
Our employees know what's best for themselves. The expectations are quite simply to get the job done.Arne-Christian van der Tang, Chief HR Manager at TomTom.
On top of championing WFH options for their teams, TomTom also allows employees to work from anywhere for up to three months a year and provides a stipend to cover bills and get home offices set up with the appropriate equipment.
Google - placing value on in-person encounters
As pioneers of the fun workspace, Google has always championed that people work best when they are happy in their personal and professional lives. With break-out spaces that resemble a trendy coffee shop, their approach has inspired coworking spaces and other startups for years.
In a recent interview with TIME, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai shared that the uncertainty around whether offices would close was hindering productivity at the start of the pandemic. Staff struggled to do their best work under so much understandable anxiety.
Google's response was to dive all in on remote working, and as the first waves of COVID-19 washed over the world, they were one of the first companies to send their employees home. According to Pichai, this enabled teams to focus on getting systems into place rather than wasting time strategizing for multiple approaches.
As the pandemic played out, Google continued to extend out of office working for as many employees as possible. But as the months rolled on, reports circled that Google's remote employees were missing the generous perks they enjoyed in office, and executives were similarly keen for staff to return to shared workspaces.
We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new so we don't see that changing. But we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models.Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet.
However, as restrictions slowly lifted, employee surveys revealed a different story. Google discovered that while over 60% of their teams did want to return to the office, they only wanted to come in part-time. To add to Google's headache, around the same time, competing technology companies like Twitter and Facebook began announcing their plans to allow remote workers indefinitely.
It's always made me wonder — when I see people commuting two hours and away from their family and friends on a Friday, you realize they can't have plans, so I think we could do better.Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet.
Google is by no means alone in its preference for in-person working. Fellow tech giants Apple and Microsoft have made it known they want their teams back in the office. But all three of these companies have taken employee feedback into account and begun to look at options to introduce a more hybrid approach. A quick scroll through their current job openings, and it's clear Google is carefully selecting which roles are eligible for telecommuting while still maintaining their flagship offices.
Twitter - hiring for a hybrid workweek
Social media giant Twitter has long been considered a champion of workplace culture, and year after year, they have topped surveys of the best places to work. Known for their cheerful slogans, Twitter's recruitment strategy centers around the empowering hashtag #LoveWhereYouWork.
Life's not about a job, it's about purpose.Twitter
As this newest phase of the digital age reared its head, Twitter adapted its approach, playfully switching its motto to #LoveWhereYouWFH. Perhaps seeing the responses from their Tweeps inspired their shift, but from now on, Twitter is laser-focused on offering flexibility for their employees.
Twitter is transparent about its provisions for remote, hybrid, and full-time in-office working. When searching for their piece of the Tweep Life, Twitter remains committed to offering job seekers as much flexibility as possible. But in a smart move, they are candid that some roles require office work and market those positions to candidates who prefer their workdays to be shared with others.
Organizing job listings by what extent they can be worked remotely inevitably weeds out a lot of awkward questions at the interview stage. But this seemingly small distinction reaffirms why Twitter is such a leader in developing a strong company culture.
Drift - a remote revolution
Software company Drift started as staunch believers in a shared office space. Their culture relied heavily on in-person interaction, and they were openly against the notion of remote work. So when the pandemic hit in 2020, they faced a huge challenge when their workspaces were forced to close.
But out of these difficult times, Drift's leaders came to some revelatory realizations. Their previous notions around remote working were proved wrong time and time again. For example, they noticed their fears around remote hiring were unfounded, and not meeting face-to-face didn't hinder them in attracting and onboarding top talent.
In 2021 the company decided to take the plunge to permanent remote work. They announced that their physical offices will transform into spaces for meetings, collaboration, and company events but that employees will not have the option to use these for hybrid working.
Co-Founder and CEO David Cancel explained that his experiences at previous companies inspired this shift to become a remote-first company. Cancel claims that, even with the best intentions, management will inevitably favor employees they see in the office regularly. The only way to make sure employees can truly reap the benefits of telecommuting without fear of being overlooked for professional development is to become a fully remote company.
We've seen a lot of advantages to the team: people have moved to lower-cost places, closer to family - and because of those moves, they've been able to get married earlier or make different life choices that they've been putting on hold for a long time.David Cancel, Co-Founder, and CEO of Drift
This shift in company policy has allowed employees to make drastic lifestyle changes. Whether it's escaping the challenges of expensive real estate in cities like New York or San Francisco or achieving a greater work/life balance, empowering employees to make decisions to better their wellbeing has seen Drift go from strength to strength. Drift also announced that salaries would not be adjusted to reflect remote team members' new locations in a move that is bound to attract candidates and inspire long-term employee loyalty.
Curion - advocates for the office
Curion, a company that provides consumer insights for retail brands and e-commerce platforms, has been open about its desire to return to shared workspaces ASAP. Employees spread across several states had many interesting insights when introducing remote work options.
I am super passionate to get everyone back. What we are really missing is that creativity, and that spontaneity and the ingenuity and talking to your teammates face-to-face. The whole creativity has kind of been gutted without people being together.Sean Bisceglia, CEO of Curion
Curion's leaders found that while productivity wasn't particularly affected, there were serious concerns for employees' mental health. Staff struggled to switch off and were sending emails long after their work hours ended.
Concerned about burnout and the wider implications for their organization, Curion decided to stick with a shared office model. With so much of Curion's work focusing on creative problem solving, getting the same results with remote employees wasn't easy. Management found teams were missing the creative spark and spontaneity they saw when they gathered staff in the same room.
After determining they could no longer rely on Slack or Zoom, Curion decided that employees with predetermined remote jobs could continue to work from home, but most employees would be asked to return to the office as soon as possible. While this strategy might see some staff look elsewhere, Curion predicts the benefits of getting teams collaborating in person again will outweigh any individual losses.
Adobe - a bespoke approach to flexible working
Regularly voted one of the best employers, Adobe has earned a reputation for being an innovative and creative workplace. They have spent a staggering 21 years on Fortune's list of the 100 best companies to work for, and they are considered thought leaders in creating a strong company culture.
This is why it came as no surprise when Gloria Chen, Chief People Officer and Executive Vice President of Employee Experience, revealed Adobe's vision for the future of work in June last year. Reminiscing on Adobe's people-centric culture, Chen shared her experiences of returning to the organization's San Jose headquarters.
I can only compare to the feeling of seeing an old friend and picking right up where we left off, while simultaneously understanding that so much has changed since the last time we were together. The office looked like the same space we left behind in March 2020, but it was missing the most important thing that makes working at Adobe so special: our people.Gloria Chen Chief People Officer and Executive Vice President of Employee Experience at Adobe
Focusing on employee experience, they have opted to move forward with a hybrid model to "develop a future of work approach that leverages the best of in-person and virtual interactions to foster creativity, innovation, and culture."
Adobe reached out globally to its various teams, from human resources to their salesforce and software engineers, to conduct hundreds of focus groups and interviews. After analyzing all these insights and much deliberation, they settled on using their expertise to fashion a tailor-made app named Adobe Life.
As an organization, Adobe's skillset means they are well poised to take advantage of this digital revolution, but management remains committed to teams gathering in person for the right reasons. Within Adobe Life, each office will have its own campus where employees can receive custom updates, swap real-time messages, book meeting rooms, and pre-order meals to enable teams to establish their own work schedules.
Adobe is no stranger to pivoting. Over the years, they have switched from store-bought software to cloud-based offerings, pioneering new markets before many of their peers. With a strong company culture, they have used the pandemic to reevaluate their team's needs to ensure they remain on the best workplace lists for years to come.
After running through this list of inspirational organizations, it's clear that there is no singular way to approach working in the new normal. Top companies know that forging your own path based on your own business needs is the true key to success in this new digital frontier. But it's not easy weighing up employee preferences over the realities of individual roles. At TravelPerk, we had our own journey over the past year to discover which working model would be best for our teams. Check out why we decided to go hybrid here.
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