‘90 per cent of those people who responded to our survey want some type of flexibility’
While many businesses are in the planning stages of bringing employees back to the office, one online job posting firm has told its employees around the world to stay home, at least until next summer.
Indeed first told its employees on March 3 to work from home as the pandemic ramped up, and it recently decided that there were too many reasons not to push back a decision to return to work, especially considering what is happening south of the border.
“We let our employees know we weren’t going to require anyone to be back into an office if they weren’t comfortable for the end of this year and with what’s going on, mainly with the spikes in cases in a lot of U.S. states; we made the decision to push that date until July of 2021,” says Paul Wolfe, SVP head of global human resources in New York.
To gauge how its workers are feeling, the company ran a survey in May with its workers, including more than 250 in Canada, on how they preferred to work.
“We had about 80 per cent of our employee population respond to the survey — which was higher than we expected — but we got a very large data set and 90 per cent of those people that responded say they want some type of flexibility. It may be they want to be in the office three days a week, and at home two days a week; it may be a day a week at home and the other time in the office. And then we have a small percentage who said they want to be in the office full time,” says Wolfe.
Keeping employees connected has been a challenge during the lockdown, says Wolfe, but they have seen some positive outcomes.
“Engagement has stayed strong, productivity has stayed strong, we’ve hit all have our company KPIs [key performance indicators] during that four-and-a-half-month period. We know that we’re certainly lucky that we’re a tech company; we’re not a manufacturing company that requires people to go into a facility and we know that we can effectively manage through this.”
Indeed has promoted events focusing on virtual wellness activities such as yoga and meditation, which Wolfe has joined, he says.
“I saw at nine o’clock my time a meditation session pop up for our Sydney office. I popped into that and I did meditation before I went to bed. I wouldn’t have normally attended a Sydney function since I’m based in New York,” says Wolfe. “Part of the beauty of this is we’ve got the ability to interact with people in different offices that we wouldn’t normally be physically in the same space as.”
But what is heartening, says Wolfe, is there are a lot of employees who are putting in time on various planning committees to keep engagement up.
“We’ve got inclusion resource groups that are started by our employees, one that started at the beginning of the year with our parents and caregivers... I’ve spent some time with the leaders of that group to think about how we can better support our Indeedians. That’s a really tough one because we can’t create school or force childcare to reopen and so it’s just being really empathetic and mindful and being as flexible as possible for our employees and helping are parents.”
“We’ve made some headway there,” he says.
Many remote workers are enjoying participating in multiple video chats, found a recent survey, while almost four in 10 workers surveyed by Statistics Canada were not comfortable being back in the office.
As well, the company has allowed remote employees to expense needed office items such as new desks or ergonomic chairs, and they have offered 90-day unpaid leave for parents who want to spend more time with their kids.
The company also offered voluntary severance packages and reduced pay for reduced hours to those employees who wished to implement them, he says.
Indeed also offers an unlimited vacation policy but not surprisingly, earlier this year there was less interest in taking time off, according to Wolfe.
“Certainly early on, travel was locked down and really we didn’t have any place to go.”
To help employees take time off, the company offered global holidays, one day per month, where every employee was off at the same time, says Wolfe.
“The nice thing about that is everybody has that day off. I’m not concerned about an email from somebody who may be working that day. That’s the beauty of that. And that’s worked effectively.”
For HR, they are already looking at the benefits of living in a post-COVID world, he says.
“Our role in HR is really thinking about what roles look like, how we’re going to recruit differently. Part of the beauty of going to a more distributed workforce is it opened up our talent pool greatly. We’re not focused on hiring talent in cities that we have offices.”