Steps for Spotify and Salesforce to take on their Work from Anywhere journey
Implementing hybrid and remote work models is a big step forward, but there are challenges on the way.
The list of companies that allow Work From Anywhere (WFA) just got two additions — Salesforce and Spotify. Both giants in their respective industries, these companies made quite a noise with their decisions to go fully hybrid when the pandemic is over.
This announcement is a massive win for Spotify and Salesforce employees and the larger WFA movement. These two companies are now following in the footsteps of Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Dropbox, and many others who embraced work from anywhere. The shift towards hybrid and remote work is slowly but surely taking place, prioritizing flexibility, productivity, and employee wellbeing.
However, there will be challenges on the hybrid-remote path: implementing new processes, innovative ways of thinking, different strategy and organizational approaches. I don’t doubt both these companies’ capability to bridge these challenges, but I’m also sure it will take more than goodwill to get them there.
Here’s what I think will be the most significant steps to take for Spotify, Salesforce, and any other company transitioning to hybrid work:
With the transition of their workers to remote-first, companies are also transitioning many services to the cloud, which requires using different security tactics. The security systems that worked well on-premised will no longer be enough when people are working on sensitive or classified materials from home.
Investing time and money in tools and protocols can make or break security efforts for newly-remote companies. Revisiting and revising security protocols and training are mandatory when moving to offsite work. Apart from that, companies need to protect their cloud assets, enforce compliance, and encourage best practices in development.
Spotify has already decided not to change salary calculations for remote workers and continue paying them as they did so far. On the other hand, Facebook has said their employees will take a pay cut if they continue to work remotely after the Covid-19 pandemic. Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, but strategic decisions like these could affect how talent will perceive a company in future years.
Some companies will decide to penalize or reward hybrid and remote workers. In contrast, others will opt not to make a difference between office-based employees and remote ones. Choosing a model that works best for the company and its workforce is the only right choice here.
While we’re on the topic of talent, retention will be a challenge for companies that don’t emphasize wellbeing and work-life balance in their transition to hybrid work. The savings that will come from downsizing office presence can partially be distributed towards talent retention efforts. These are the pillars I believe talent retention stands on:
- Clear communication protocols
Establishing remote work policies and documentation procedures is the holy grail of transitioning to remote work of any kind. Ditching endless meetings and relying on async is the best advice I can give to any company wanting to make the leap to offsite work. Asynchronous communication plays a crucial role in hybrid and remote teams — it encourages people to discuss ideas, tasks, and status updates in writing so everyone can dedicate time to it at their convenience and not at the same time.
- Employee happiness
When implementing hybrid work environments, companies will need to ensure their workforce is fully equipped to benefit from such a transition. Creative, well-designed, and thoughtful perks and benefits will ensure employees’ health and happiness, increase retention, and enhance productivity and output.
I spoke with 200 companies in the previous months, and they shared some of the practices they use to keep employee satisfaction high. Most of the teams I talked to use Donut, organize happy hours and trivia nights, and focus on social experiences as a way to connect with coworkers. One company even created a VR party for its 400 employees! Most of them also have clear remote onboarding plans with assigned buddies and checks up to 3 months after their new colleague has joined the team.
- Managing physical workspaces
Hybrid work models will try and integrate remote work with face-to-face collaboration. One of the key aspects of that balance will be managing workspaces, both existing and new ones.
Some companies will certainly keep their offices and will need help managing the safe return of employees. Hybrid teams will want to meet by scheduling their time slots to avoid crowded situations. Others will want to ditch offices and find smaller, more focused spaces in the hubs where their workforce lives. Finally, some of them prefer to offer on-demand workspaces to their employees as part of their perks & benefits package.
We at Gable focus intensively on managing workspaces and using them in new contexts, as places to connect and thrive, focus and collaborate. Redefining the meaning of physical workspaces is going to be a different experience for each company, depending on their structure, employee needs, and use cases.
Isolation and burnout
It’s well known by now that isolation and burnout are two very real possibilities for remote workers. Loneliness and isolation can often happen when people work from home and with minimal team contact. On the other hand, being at a computer all day and working longer than necessary can cause burnout, resulting in poor performance and employee productivity. In fact, Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work Report emphasized isolation and the inability to unplug from work as the biggest struggle for remote workers.
Companies can tackle isolation and loneliness with incentives for team members to get out of the house and collaborate with team members. Introducing employee wellbeing programs and budgets will help companies go a long way in tackling isolation due to work from home.
Some indicators of burnout include people not turning on their camera at meetings, delayed deliverables, and coming late to meetings. Encourage your teams to set boundaries and mark their off-hours for their colleagues to see. This is as easy as blocking off time on Google Calendar whenever you’re off work, taking care of your family, doing some self-care, or hanging out with friends.
No one should be expected to work longer than usual just because they’re working offsite. Employers who double down on this approach will surely benefit from a happier, more productive workforce.
Recognition and career growth
While hybrid-remote work environments show a spike in overall productivity and happiness, there is a possibility that those who work remotely will have fewer chances for growth and promotions.
In fully remote companies, this is resolved by the mere fact that nobody comes into the office, and therefore everyone has the same chances for promotion. In hybrid teams, however, the unconscious bias of “out of sight, out of mind” can creep up even with the best of intentions. As the co-founder of GitLab pointed out in a recent article — “If an office is the “glue,” and processes and systems don’t adapt for a remote workforce, remote team members will not feel included and will face constant communication barriers. This will make it harder for them to perform at the same level as their in-office peers.”
Coming up with processes and ideas that make sure no one is forgotten and overseen will undoubtedly be the priority of people teams worldwide in the coming years. Every company will need to examine its HR procedures and career growth opportunities and reevaluate its fairness. The way to start is by making sure you measure the results and output — not hours spent in front of the computer screen.
The rise of hybrid work environments
The debate on different work styles shows no sign of slowing down as companies try to navigate fully distributed, hybrid-remote, and office-based environments and decide which works best for their business model and employees.
The hybrid environment is the most difficult to implement so far because it relies on using two different work and communication methods concurrently. Implementing hybrid work is largely still a balancing act — one that needs to be carefully played to succeed.