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11 listed companies embracing the future of work

Hardly a week goes by without a major company making headlines about its working from home strategy.

Allie Nawrat

Leader

Unleash Your Workforce Ford has declared it will allow its employees to continue to work from home even after the pandemic comes to an end. Why are Ford and other big companies embracing long-term remote working?  

  • The world is one year into the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • 72% of the global workforce is working remotely, according to an ETR survey.  
  • Remote working is likely to continue as a trend as big names, including Ford, embrace long-term remote working options.  

Hardly a week goes by without a major company making headlines about its new working from home strategy to adapt to the future of work.

In fact, just yesterday, US car manufacturing giant Ford announced it would let employees work from home long-term — and it looks like the trend is here to stay.

According to a September survey of more than 1,000 chief information officers (CIOs) by US-based Enterprise Technology Research (ETR), 72% of their global workforce are working remotely.  

The CIOs told ETR that they expect permanent remote working to double from pre-COVID-19 figures to 34.4% of the global workforce in 2021. This is partly because the pandemic has proven that it’s is possible for many workers to do their jobs well, if not more effectively, from home — even if some CEOs are heavily opposed to the idea.

With this in mind, let’s look at some 11 listed companies embracing remote working for the long-haul.

Ford

Employees: 86,000 (approximately)

Stock exchange listing: NYSE

2020 Revenue: $127 billion

First up, Ford. The majority of Ford’s 86,000 global employees are expected to return to the workplace this summer through a new hybrid work model that will allow workers to decide when they are in the office.

According to Kiersten Robinson, Ford’s chief people and employee experiences officer, employees will be able to work from home depending on their responsibilities and discussions with line managers.

“The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element,” Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.”

Dropbox

Number of employees: 1,000 to 5,000  

Stock exchange listing: NASDAQ  

2020 revenue: $487.4m   

Document sharing company Dropbox announced in an October 2020 blog post that it will become a virtual first company.

In this paradigm, “remote work will be the primary experience for all employees and the day-to-day default for individual work.” This decision was based on Economist Intelligence Unit research, which Dropbox commissioned. 

The blog post also noted that, once the public health situation allows, the company will facilitate in-person collaboration and team meetings in its existing office spaces or elsewhere in so-called Dropbox Studios — but these spaces will not be available for solo work.  

In addition, Dropbox’s new virtual-first working approach will be supported by a new set of HR and IT resources, known as the Virtual First Toolkit, that will support employees while remote working long-term. 

In turn, the company hopes its approach will also improve its own products to support other businesses with more efficient, long-term remote working.  

Salesforce  

Number of employees: more than 10,000  

Stock exchange listing: NYSE  

2020 revenue: $17.1bn   

In February 2021, Salesforce president and chief people office Brent Hyder declared “the 9-to-5 workday is dead” and said the company will be allowing its employees to work from anywhere.  

In a news release, Hyder explained that the cloud-based software company would be providing its employees with three ways to work: fully remote, office-based, or a flexible mixture of the two. 

In the third option, Salesforce will allow its employees to flexibly work one to three days per week in the office for team and customer meetings, as well as presentations.  

As a result, Salesforce, along a similar vein to Dropbox, will transform the office space. Hyder wrote in the release:

“Gone are the days of a sea of desks — we’ll create more collaboration and breakout spaces to foster the human connection that can’t be replicated remotely.”  

This move is linked to employee feedback that found almost 50% of employees only wanted to come into the office a few times per month, but that 80% still wanted the option of a physical office space to work in.  

Slack  

Number of employees: 1,000 to 5,000  

Stock exchange listing: NYSE  

2020 revenue: $630.4m   

Workplace messaging app Slack, which went public in 2019, has historically had an office-first culture. However, as a result of the pandemic and its switch to remote working, the company announced in June 2020 that it will give its employees the option to work from home forever.  

In a June blog post, senior vice-president of people Robby Kwok wrote:

“In the past, the physical office was the default space for work – from grabbing a small room to check in with your manager, to convening a large group to brainstorm on a whiteboard, to catching colleagues in the hall to hear about their weekend plans.  

“While we’re still navigating exactly how and when our offices will reopen, we expect them to look quite different: fewer amenities such as catered lunches and coffee bars, less focus on in-person meetings with colleagues and more options for focused solo work.”  

Interestingly, in December 2020, Salesforce offered to acquire Slack for $27.7bn. Talking about the deal, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said: “This is a match made in heaven. Together, Salesforce and Slack will shape the future of enterprise software and transform the way everyone works in the all-digital, work-from-anywhere world.” 

Twitter  

Number of employees: 1,000 to 5,000  

Stock exchange listing: NYSE  

2020 revenue: $3.72bn  

Early into the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told employees he would allow them to work from home forever if they so chose.

In a blog post, vice-president of people Jennifer Christie wrote: “The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.  

“If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”  

However, as reported by Business Insider in October, Twitter is considering pay localization whereby those employees who moved out of the San Francisco Bay Area will face a pay cut.  

Facebook  

Number of employees: more than 10,000  

Stock exchange listing: NASDAQ 

2020 revenue: $86bn  

Only a few weeks after Dorsey’s announcement to Twitter employees, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg followed suit and stated that most employees would be allowed to work from home permanently. 

According to reporting by Vox, employees will have to request to permanently work from home. Senior employees with a history of strong performance reviews will be prioritized.

Facebook envisions that most employees will embrace hybrid working, splitting their time between in-person office work and working from home.  

Also, it seems Facebook is keen to hire more remote employees who do not need to live near a physical office space. This recruitment drive will similarly start with more senior roles.  

However, like Twitter, Facebook seems to be considering implementing a pay cut for those who move away from the Bay Area because its salaries are adjusted for local cost of living and employees will be required to tell their managers if they are moving to a different location.  

Spotify  

Number of employees: 5,000 to 10,000  

Stock exchange listing: NYSE 

2020 revenue: €7.9bn ($9.4bn)  

Sweden-based music streaming platform Spotify is another company embracing the work from anywhere model in the long term. 

In February, Spotify vice-president of HR Anna Lundström and Alexander Westerdahl co-wrote a blog post detailing the company’s ambition to become flexible first.  

Spotify’s move is based around the company’s view that productivity is not linked to the number of hours you spend in the office, that flexible working enables a better work-life balance, and that distributed working can be more efficient with intentional use of communication and collaboration tools.  

From the summer of 2021, Spotify employees will be able to work full-time from home, the office, or a combination of the two. Each employee and their manager will have the freedom to decide the mix that will work best for them.  

Also, Spotify will be flexible in allowing employees to work from anywhere they like within undisclosed time zone parameters. If this means the individual is not near a Spotify office, then the company will provide them with a co-working space membership if they decide they want to work from an office.  

Siemens  

Number of employees: more than 10,000  

Stock exchange listing: ETR 

2020 revenue: €15bn ($17.86bn) 

In July 2020, German manufacturing and technology company Siemens decided to embrace the ‘new normal’ and immediately make remote working a permanent option for its employees.  

Siemens’ perspective is that employees across the world will be able to work remotely two or three days a week, whether this is from home, a coworking space or other appropriate working environments. Office working will then make up the rest of an employee’s working week.  

Siemens head of industrial relations and employment conditions Jochen Wallisch explained: “The New Normal Working Model fits seamlessly into our concept for the future of work.  

“We’re using this model to pursue the goal of developing new ways of working together on a mobile, digital basis.  

“The new normal will also strengthen our ability to recruit and retain the best talent for Siemens and to increase diversity on our teams.”  

Microsoft  

Number of employees: more than 10,000  

Stock exchange listing: NASDAQ 

2020 revenue: $143bn  

After extending its working from home policy in May, six months later, Microsoft decided to take this one step further and embrace a flexible workplace in the long-term.  

Microsoft executive vice-president and chief people officer Kathleen Hogan wrote in a blog post: “Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual work styles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture.”  

Like many of its contemporaries, Microsoft will offer a combination of office and home-based working to its employees. The company notes it expects everyone to work from home at least part of the time, but it acknowledges that some jobs are better suited to office work than others. 

Hogan concluded: “Our guidance is to help employees plan ahead for the future. For now, returning to many of our offices around the world is still optional for employees, except for essential onsite roles.  

“While we’ve shared that we will challenge long-held assumptions and seek to be on the forefront of what is possible leveraging technology, we have also communicated that we are not committing to having every employee work from anywhere, as we believe there is value in employees being together in the workplace.”

In late-March 2021, Microsoft updated its policy further saying it will be opening its headquarters, and nearby campus sites, in Redmond, Washington, to staff from 29 March.

“As we watch for progress against the virus in the region and continue to evaluate our guidance, employees who work at Redmond work sites or nearby campuses have the choice to return to those facilities or to continue working remotely, and also have the flexibility to do a mixture of both,” wrote Microsoft executive vice-president Kurt DelBene in a blog post.

He continued: “Although we cannot predict everything the coming months have in store, we are prepared to face them with a growth mindset – learning, reevaluating and updating our response as needed.”

Shopify 

Number of employees: 5,000 to 10,000  

Stock exchange listing: NYSE 

2020 revenue: $2.9bn  

In May 2020, Canadian e-commerce company Shopify announced it was embracing permanent working from home as part of its new digital-first strategy. Shopify CEO Tobi Tutke tweeted:  

Shopify’s interest in going digital first centers around what it could mean for the company’s carbon footprint and its sustainability commitments.  

The e-commerce company plans to use this time to run an experiment about the impact of remote working on energy usage and emissions: it will share its findings with its global employees.  

Upwork  

Number of employees: 500 to 1,000 

Stock exchange listing: NASDAQ  

2020 revenue: $106.2m  

Last but by no means least, global freelancing platform Upwork has been doing a lot of research into remote working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a May report, Upwork’s chief economic Adam Ozimek surveyed 1,500 hiring managers about the impact of remote working on companies and their employees.   

The report concluded that one third of those surveyed concluded that productivity had increased as a result of home working and more than 60% said their workforce would be more remote going forward.  

In light of this report, Upwork itself has decided to embrace remote working. The company’s CEO Hayden Brown tweeted: “Building on our 20 years of experience as a remote work company, we are now permanently embracing a “remote-first” model.”  

The future may still be uncertain but companies adapting to a hybrid reality are likely to be better prepared to deal with the ever-changing HR landscape.

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