Starting this summer Spotify will launch its “My Work Mode” programme, giving its 6,500 global employees the flexibility to work full-time from home, the office, or a combination of the two. Staff may also choose the country and city to work from, subject to time zone limitations and local laws.
“Effectiveness can’t be measured by the number of hours people spend in an office,” the Stockholm-headquartered company announced in a blog post. “Instead, giving people the freedom to choose where they work will boost effectiveness.
“Giving our people more flexibility will support a better work-life balance and also help tap into new talent pools while keeping our existing band members.”
The podcast and music streaming company said it had “considered labour law, tax, and insurance readiness for our workforce to be ‘working from anywhere’”.
Announcing similar changes at San Francisco-based Salesforce, chief people officer Brent Hyder said in a blog post: “An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers; the 9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks.”
An internal survey of Salesforce’s employees found that while 80% of staff want the option to work from the office, around half would only do so a few times each month. The company expects most of its employees to be in the office one-to-three days each week.
“It’s our responsibility as employers to empower our people to get the job done during the schedule that works best for them and their teams, and provide flexible options to help make them even more productive,” Hyder said, adding that the tech giant’s new work-from-anywhere model would help drive greater equality at the company, which employs 29,000 staff around the world.
“Our talent strategy is no longer bound by barriers like location, so we can broaden our search beyond traditional city centres and welcome untapped talent from new communities and geographies,” he said.
For these organisations, working from home is just hot-desking 2.0.
The announcements from Spotify and Salesforce continue a trend of tech giants embracing flexible working arrangement for employees post-pandemic.
Despite purchasing a new 400,000-square-foot corporate campus last year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg expects half of his 48,000 employees will work remotely over the next five to 10 years.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told his company’s 4,900 employees in May that many of them would be permitted to work from home permanently.
By contrast, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced in September a proposal to construct a 40-acre company-town project in Mountain View, California.
Asked whether more companies will adopt work-from-anywhere policies, Chris Oliver, a director at People + Culture Strategies in Australia, told IEL such ultra-flex arrangements appeared limited to those companies with disruption and innovation at their core.
“Alternate ways of working are a natural part of their DNA, and the nature of the work often does not mandate the need for office-based workspaces,” he said. “For these organisations, working from home is just hot-desking 2.0.”
The key issues an employer should consider before replicating the policies of Silicon Valley are cost, convenience, control, and employee wellbeing, according to Lewis Silkin partner Kathryn Weaver.
“It can often be more cost-effective for a company to have their workforce work remotely, as the company can then reduce or close their office space,” she explained, adding, however, that costs will likely be incurred on assisting employees with setting up home offices.
Moreover, the convenience employees experience with working from home may not be the same experience of their employers. “Employees report that working from home is often more convenient for them for various reasons including no commute, being able to wear comfortable clothing, eating more healthily, able to look after pets, children, the elderly easier, etc. For employers, it can be less convenient because they don’t have all their employees together in one place to gather for meetings, etc,” Weaver said.
“It is important for employers to put in place remote working policies if they intend to move towards a model where a significant part of their workforce will be regularly working from home,” she added. “Such policies should detail health and safety obligations, dealing with confidential information and data privacy, how supervision and performance management will be dealt with, amongst other things.”
Weaver also implored employers to remember staff wellbeing: “If employees continue to work from home for extended periods of time, this may deteriorate team morale. Without the chance for face-to-face interaction and casual conversations between employees, they may also feel more isolated when working from home, which can cause mental health issues.”
Finally, Weaver advised that for remote working abroad schemes to be successful, employers should consider all associated employment law, tax, immigration, and data privacy risks.
“If employees are working remotely abroad, then a downside may be that issues arise around what employment law rights they have, where they should pay tax and how much, whether they have created a permanent establishment by working in this other country, whether they are processing personal data in this other country and whether they have the right to work there long-term.”