6 Strategies for Building a Hybrid Workforce From CEOs Who did it Overnight

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As the entire world pivoted to a location independent and hybrid style of working, a few companies made this transition their biggest value proposition. In this piece, we take a look at 6 such companies and the steps taken by their leaders.

Data from a study by Upwork’s Chief Economist, Adam Ozimek, is conclusive: the remote revolution is here and accelerating. The 5-year growth rate for fully-remote teams rose from 30% pre-pandemic, to 65% post-pandemic. The figures for work forces that can be called “significantly remote” and “some remote” are similar and favor flexible work.

While nobody was trained to pivot to a cloud-based office overnight, some of the biggest names in the industry have – and increased their markets while doing so too! Read on to learn from 6 companies leading the remote-hybrid work challenge.

Twitter: Flexible work starts with flexible leadership

The attitude a company’s leadership has towards work from home defines how the option is received. For Twitter, the option to work from home “forever” was always on the cards. Back in 2018, Jack Dorsey, then Twitter CEO, had mentioned the idea of Twitter employees being open-minded when it came to flexible work and “optimizing for where people feel their most creative.”

When leaders are positive about remote work, employees can leverage the option to its fullest potential. Employees know that they aren’t going to “miss a promotion”, have to meet certain “expectations”, or have to worry about “micromanagement”.

Jennifer Christie, Chief HR Officer at Twitter, urges Tweeps to #LoveWhereverYouWork. “Opening offices will be our decision, when and if our employees come back, will be theirs,” she says.

Slack: Manager-employee transparency is crucial to success

Slack backed up its decision to offer employees the “option to work remotely on a permanent basis if they choose” with healthy, open conversation.

According to studies, many employees quit for reasons such as:

  • No clear direction
  • Poor relationships with managers

Slack avoids these and does an excellent job at engaging employees by bringing future-defining deliberations into the common forum. When employees are made part of the process of change, the buy-in is strong. For instance, while affirming that the company will be more distributed in the future, Slack asks its employees to think about things like:

  • The challenge of building a culture of belonging
  • Improving trust amongst employees who have never met in person.

By being open about the hurdles, Slack employees are more likely to share a common vision. Ultimately, Slack has its employees understand that remote work is more than “technology and tools”. It’s about “culture and norms”.

Upwork: Productivity cannot be tied to a desk, but the office isn’t dead

For freelance platform Upwork, remote work has always been part of their DNA. However, the pandemic led it to a remote-first model. Its CEO, Hayden Brown tweeted, “Going forward, working remotely will be the default for everyone, while teams will also be able to come together—once it’s safe—for intentional collaboration and socialization.”

From the time of the announcement, May 2020, till December 2021, Upwork’s market cap has grown from $1.43 billion to $4.27 billion, and this includes its rising beyond $7 billion on multiple occasions.

Loss of productivity? The figures point to the opposite.

However, instead of shutting all offices, Upwork intends to work with 2 of its 3 workspaces. The reason? “Intentional collaboration and socialization.” Yes, despite the upsides of remote work, Upwork’s approach shows that companies must find space for human connections.

Google: Hybrid work models must be effective and attractive

Tech giant Google seems certain that a fully remote setup cannot be the future for its vast and myriad operations. In-person collaboration is a must. Its approach has been that of encouraging “voluntary return to office”, and secondly of embedding flexibility into Googlers’ work life in multiple ways.

At Google, hybrid work is attractive:

  • ~60% of Googlers will work from office about 3 out of 5 days a week
  • ~20% of Googlers can work from global locations
  • ~20% of Googlers can work remotely
  • To support holiday travel, Googlers can work from anywhere for about 4 weeks
  • Employees across Google will enjoy the day off on “reset” days

After tasting the benefits of remote work, many employees seem to need a reason to return to the office. With hybrid work being unchartered territory, companies like Google are envisioning work models that safeguard company culture and goals, as well as allow for employee benefits.

Salesforce: Remote-first works best when coupled with employee-first

In an interview with CNBC, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said he expects 50-60% of his workforce to work from home in the future. This step towards a digital future despite making huge real estate commitments showcases Salesforce’s greater commitment to its people.

For Salesforce, becoming remote-first is a product of being employee-first. When the pandemic struck, the company ran employee wellness surveys to discover employee pain points. The results were revealing.

  • ~50% of employees wanted to come to office only few times each month
  • 80% wanted to remain connected to a physical space

Keeping the results in mind, Salesforce devised a hybrid work plan in which:

  • Most employees will come to office 1-3 days a week
  • Some will be fully remote
  • A small amount will be predominantly office-based

Keeping to its people-centric approach, Salesforce doesn’t compel itself to fit hybrid work into the confines of company culture. Rather, it views the future of work as “the next evolution of its culture.”

Shopify: The home office deserves to be an office

Amid the pandemic, CEO Tobi Lütke announced that Shopify would henceforth be a “digital-by-default company.” “Office-centricity” in his words was “over.”

Shopify had remote employees on their roster well before the pandemic, and the company was proficient at this model. Existing remote workers would know that even if office-centricity was over, the office experience wasn’t. That’s because Shopify considers investments in home office setups a matter of great importance, according to an interview with John Riordan, Director of Support, Ireland. It’s about making work from home sustainable, even enjoyable. Amid the pandemic, Shopify is reported to have offered its employees $1,000 towards their home office setups!

The approaches taken by industry leaders show that when you are open to change, people-first, and intentional with your vision, the transition to hybrid work can happen without major hiccups.

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