Category All, Best Practices, Company 5 Companies that Make Flexible Work Work for Them Flexible and remote work has become one of the most popular and attractive benefits employees all over the World ask for. This blog post provides insight into companies that made flexible work a staple of their EVP. Read on to learn how they did it. December 15, 2022 By Ravijojla Novakovic Introduction Before Covid shook the World into a state of perpetual panic, there weren’t that many companies that worked remotely, hybridly, or flexibly. The Pandemic caused irreversible changes in how we work, and as of December 2022, experts still do not unequivocally agree that the Pandemic is over. Companies that didn’t rely on on-site work embraced remote and flexible ways of working during the Pandemic. And soon, the workforce rejoiced, realizing how much time and money they saved on commuting. For a while, it seemed that these changes were here to stay. Fast-forward to 2022, and some companies are now asking their employees to return to the office. Examples abound in the IT sector; Twitter’s new CEO, Elon Musk, requires all employees to be back in the office, Apple’s employees are expected back (with substantial resistance), and so do Alphabet’s employees (former Google). Having experienced the benefits of working from home, employees are trying to push back, with more or less success. An interesting example is Amazon, a company that expected its employees back in the office after the end of Covid restrictions, only to pull back and reconsider after employees resisted and stated they’re rather quit. This doesn’t apply to Amazon’s warehouse employees, who worked on-site throughout the Pandemic. In this blog post, we bring you a list of companies that made flexible and remote work one of the staples of their employee value proposition, attracting and keeping top talent and thriving despite the challenges. We also highlight the HR tech needed to make remote work as effortless and productive as possible. Flexible and Remote Work is More Popular than Ever For employees, it seems that there’s no going back. Gallup’s 2022 data reveal that 59% of employees who work in remote-capable jobs prefer a hybrid work model, which according to Gallup, falls anywhere between 10 and 100% remote work mode. An additional 32% of employees prefer to work remotely, and only 9% would prefer to work exclusively on-site. It is important to note that not all industries can offer their workforce remote options. As of December 2022, “44% of companies do not allow remote work and only 16% of companies hire remote-only workers in the US”, according to Apollo Technical. Healthcare employees, blue-collar workers working in factories, and various on-site workspaces like retail and manufacturing do not have options that white-collar employees can enjoy. Bearing this in mind, those companies that can offer flexibility – at least flexible schedules – gain a significant advantage in the war for talent over those that do not offer flexibility at all. The Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes is a monthly survey run by the University of Chicago, ITAM, MIT, and Stanford University. Their pre-Pandemic findings suggest that work from home was about 0.25 full days per week. In 2022, the number of work-from-home days averages 1.5 fully paid days a week across countries. SWAA’s data also show that employers plan an “average of 0.7 WFH days per week after the pandemic, but workers want 1.7 days” in the future. 5 Companies that Make Flexible Work Work for Them 1. SAP In June 2021, SAP’s CEO Christian Klein announced a Pledge to Flex, SAP’s public commitment to provide employees with workspaces that are: “100% flexible and trust-based”, with “flexible work schedules, so employees can decide when they work aligned with business needs.” SAP is one of those companies that embraced workplace flexibility in response to popular demand; before Covid – flexible working wasn’t a company standard. The pledge came as a result of SAP’s openness to their workforce needs; as in company surveys, 94% of staff wanted more flexibility, and more than 80% of SAP employees stated they “want a mix of working from home or remote with some time in the office.” According to Jens Obermann, Project Expert Future of Work at SAP, “Bringing together individual work preferences, team needs, and business goals in one workable team setup feels like an enormous undertaking. And it is — if you try to just wing it. Teams partly must deal with contrarian work preferences of its members and often the first reflex is to roll back to the simpler times before Covid-19 with its standard office attendance. But the world and the people in it have developed and so has their approach to work. Falling back into old habits is the worst step to take.” SAP recognizes that with flexible work, various demographics can contribute better. With the Pledge to Flex, SAP services its workforce on several levels: flexibility allows employees to be productive and creative while improving equity. Christian Klein distinctly expresses that he hopes that Pledge to Flex will attract and retain women and recent graduates. How does SAP make it work? SAP’s own-created technology ensures a seamless switch to flexible work modes. It helps immensely that SAP’s own SuccessFactors solution is a human experience management software – a core HRIS that makes handling data of a diverse workforce manageable. Further on, SuccessFactors is augmented by addons such as the internal communications software, helping employees stay connected. 2. Buffer Buffer, a social media management platform, is a genuinely trailblazing company when it comes to flexible and remote work. Not only is it fully remote, but it’s been so even before the Pandemic, since 2015. Today, Buffer comprises fully distributed teams of 82 people working from 20 countries around the world in several time zones. Commenting on the perks and advantages of working fully remotely, CEO and co-founder of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, says: “The thing about hiring people for a distributed team is that they need to be self-motivated and productive working at home, coffee shops, or a co-working space. During the hiring process, we look especially for people who have worked as freelancers or on startups. Everyone on board is incredibly smart, and it’s humbling to work with them.” To sustain its fully distributed teams, Buffer relies on an asynchronous communication model, organizes structured, 1-hour sessions on a bi-weekly basis with people at a similar peer level (they call it Masterminds), monthly All Hands meetings, and runs hack weeks via Slack. A stellar 4.4 Glassdoor rating suggests that Buffer treats its employees with respect and succeeds at keeping its workforce content, and is likely to recommend to potential new employees. Buffer uses an impressive tech stack of 12 different tools to support an entirely remote workforce. Highlights are Zenefits as the core HR system, Zoom for video conferencing, Notion for collaboration, Threads and Slack for internal chat and conversations, and others. 3. Spotify Spotify, a global platform for music, podcasts, and videos with approximately 6500 employees of 90 nationalities working from 21 countries across the world, has recently become fully flexible. Spotify’s Work From Anywhere Program, launched in 2021, allows employees to choose where they work from, with several options: working from the office, working from home, or a combination of these two. Spotify’s employees also have the opportunity to work from other countries as long as employees stay in the same region of working and as long as employees work in countries in which Spotify is registered. Even before the Pandemic, Spotify was introducing elements of flexible work. In 2018, Spotify introduced Flexible Public Holidays, an approach to the flexibility that works as both a DEI initiative and an introduction to more flexible ways of working. According to Alexander Westerdahl, HRBP/ VP, HR at Spotify: “All employees can make a day-off trade: work on a day that is a public holiday in the country where you are employed, and then take out another workday as a holiday instead when it fits your values, beliefs, and celebration calendar better. For example, someone working in Italy, where Christmas Day is a public holiday, can work that day and then trade it for a day off on for example Yom Kippur, or the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.” With strong employer branding, effective internal comms strategy, and a motto, “Work isn’t somewhere you go, it’s something you do,” Spotify encourages its workforce to be productive and happier from (almost) wherever they wish to work, encouraging a better work-life balance. To support flexible and remote work, Spotify relies on tools such as: Slack, Workplace, and GoodTime. 4. Hubspot Hubspot, the CRM platform providing clients with marketing, sales, service, operations, and website-building software, understands the importance of the employee experience excellently. One of the reasons why is that Hubspot ties its culture to values, not spaces. Hubspot is 100% flexible and offers its employees multiple options; to work from home, in the office, or a flexible, hybrid option. Employees can select the option that works best for them once per year. One of the perks that employees appreciate the most is the ‘unlimited vacation’ program, and a company-wide week of rest in July. According to Liz Coralli, Program Management, Hybrid Enablement at Hubspot: “At HubSpot, we aim to make our employee experience accessible, inclusive and equitable regardless of where and how a HubSpotter works. When we ask, our employees are clear that they favor flexibility with work now more than ever. In 2022, approximately 53% of our employees have opted to work “@home” while less than 12% have opted to work “@office”, with the other approximate 35% choosing to flex between home and the office. This level of flexibility requires intentionality. That means we’re leaning into empathy and transparency as we design programs for our employees, and focus on experiences that activate our employee culture across all time zones and work preferences. When we work on creating experiences that center our values, we create less friction and empower all of our employees to do their best work, regardless of where they sit in the world.” Liz Coralli, Program Management, Hybrid Enablement at Hubspot Hubspot has been a flexible workplace since before the Pandemic, having had ample time to master flexible work before others caught up to it. In 2016, Fortune and Great Place to Work awarded Hubspot a place in the Best Workplaces for Flexibility list. Meaghan Williams, Hubspot’s leader of the Hybrid Enablement Operations, explains that unlimited vacation program does not mean there are no expectations from employees: “It can’t be the case that me showing up as my best self means me saying “I only want to work two hours today” and ‘I don’t ever want to lead a project’. There has to be some element of ‘here’s what we expect, here are the results that we expect, and here’s how we expect everyone to treat each other based on our values… but then there also has to be an opportunity for openness and discussion, to understand different viewpoints in a safe way. And I think that again comes back to psychological safety.” To support flexible work, Hubspot relies on its own all-in-one platform CRM tool and tools such as Zoom and Slack for communication. RemoteSpot is an internal central spot for all resources employees need. 5. Semos Cloud (that’s us!) Semos Cloud, the provider of software solutions that enable employees to thrive at work and improve workforce culture, applies an agile approach to its employees and development. Semos Cloud is 100% flexible and almost 100% remote, allowing its employees the freedom to arrange their schedules as long as the work gets done. This level of freedom dramatically affects employees’ engagement, feelings of belonging, loyalty, and overall productivity. According to Vladimir Antonovski, People Success Manager at Semos Cloud: “Giving people space to choose their work model is a must! People will succeed and be the best they can be in their work only if they are given the space to choose which way of working they prefer. Flexible work from home on Friday, working on a busy Monday in the office, or 50-50 on Wednesday always leaves room for the employee to be happy and satisfied. At the end of the day, we at Semos Cloud practice what we preach, complete freedom for the workers to choose which model best meets their needs.” Vladimir Antonovski, People Success Manager at Semos Cloud Since Semos Cloud nourishes a culture of appreciation, excellence, agility, and curiosity, always learning and designing best practices to help employees and companies thrive, it is paramount that we apply these principles to the work we do. To do so, we’re powered by our own tools, such as recognition and rewards solution JobPts, and internal communication tool Nurture, which are built atop SAP’s SuccessFactors. Essential HR Tech that Supports Working Remotely From task and project management to collaboration and video conferencing tech, there are many tools out there that help remote and flexible teams deliver astonishing results. The following list of tools is the essential, basic HR tool stack every enterprise needs in order to keep its workforce together and thriving, regardless of where and how they work. 1. An Integrated and scalable HCM system A human capital management system is precisely that – a system designed to manage human capital with people in focus. A solid HCM is a staple of any high-performing enterprise business, allowing HR to automate processes, support agile working and create better employee experiences. A flexible workforce produces an immense amount of employee data. HCM is designed to manage that data, from managing flexible work hours and leaves to finding the optimal benefit package companies offer to specific employee demographics. One excellent example of an integrated, scalable HCM system is SAP’s SuccessFactors. 2. Recognition and rewards tools Atlassian reports that one of the major roadblocks for high-performing teams in 2022 is imposter syndrome. Not getting recognition for work makes employees look for work elsewhere. The way to counter that is by recognizing the worth and value of individuals when they do good work and display positive behavior. Further on, when companies nurture their values and use recognition tools to reinforce them, they effectively iron out the misalignment that plagues dislocated teams. Atlassian identifies four aspects of ‘legendary teams’: 1. Alignment, 2. Cohesion, 3. Psychological safety, 4. Potential for innovation. Recognition tools tackle the first three; with possibility to cover innovation as well, as long as innovation is one of the company’s values that is being reinforced via recognizing innovative behavior. Note that when the recognition and rewards tools are integrated with the HCM – the system provides data on employee performance, allowing employers to make data-informed decisions about promotions and whom to reward. 3. Internal communications tools Internal comms is essential for empowering your workforce to do their jobs – remotely, flexibly, or on-site. Internal comms directly support flexible work by ensuring that employees know exactly what is expected of them and by informing employees of any changes in company strategies. To summarize, internal communication tools allow companies to: improved internal marketing, personalized and targeted communication that increases engagement, maximum alignment of the workforce regardless of location and mode of work. Benefits of Flexible Work for Employers While most employees want more flexible and remote options, there are plenty of benefits for employees, too. 1. Improved employee productivity According to Mercer and SHRM, 94% of surveyed employees who experienced working from home stated that their work productivity was higher or the same since they started working from home. 2. Employers lower costs Employers are able to lower costs directly because of savings on office space, utilities, cleaning and supplies, and travel expenses, but also due to reducing turnover and increasing productivity. There are estimates that companies save approximately 11000 $ per employee when they work remotely. There are other indirect cost-saving reasons. Since flexible work allows employees to manage their time more efficiently, this leads them to a better work-life balance, increasing their wellbeing and lowering companies’ costs on absenteeism. 3. Attracting new candidates Flexible work is a considerable pull for job applicants, and plays a significant role in the war for talent. Forbes reports that “38% of Millennials, 33% of Gen X and 32% of Gen Z identified flexible working benefits as most important”. Flexa, the platform that allows job seekers to search for jobs based on flexibility, reports a 33% increase in searches for remote and remote-first roles as of August 2022. 4. Reduced turnover Employees appreciate and value the option to choose where they work and are more likely to stay in companies that offer more flexibility. SHRM’s study finds that the ability to organize schedules allows companies to reduce turnover by 45%. In Spotify’s case, attrition has dropped after the company allowed employees to work flexibly by 15%. 5. Increases diverse representation In many cases, flexible work options go hand in hand with DEI initiatives. Since flexible work allows people to work in their preferred schedules, they can consolidate work with whatever obligations they have outside employment. For example, women are usually the primary caregivers in families, and working remotely and flexibly allows them to do both. Not restricted by location, remote-only companies can select top talent wherever they live. In Spotify’s example, their Work from Anywhere Program allowed the company to hire more diverse talent from more locations. Conclusion It doesn’t often happen that an event so magnanimous in size happens and changes everything. Such is the change we are witnessing today, the shift from understanding work as something that happens in an office to something that can happen anywhere as long as it is done. Due to the differing nature of work, some workplaces are more adaptable to remote, flexible, and hybrid work than others. In this blog post, our focus was on white-collar employees. We have analyzed the flexible and remote work offerings by five selected companies that do flexible work well. We have found that flexible work offers several benefits for employers: increased employee productivity and engagement, boosted employee loyalty and reduced turnover, and saved costs. In many cases, flexible work goes hand in hand with DEI initiatives, ensuring that a diverse workforce gets what it needs to thrive. We have proposed three key HR tools that support a flexible workforce: an HCM system, a recognition and rewards tool, and an internal comms system are quintessential for providing employees with a digital employee experience that sets them up for success. Flexibility is a powerful pull for new and existing employees. We can only predict that flexibility in work will gain more space in the upcoming years as personalization becomes a standard, not just best practice.