Does Remote Work Really Work For Employers? Spotify Thinks It Does

Does Remote Work Really Work For Employers? Spotify Thinks It Does

COVID-19 caused a lot of changes in the workspace over the past few years, especially when it comes to remote work. Many companies had no choice but to allow employees who didn’t absolutely need to be physically present in the office to work from home. While this is something I have long believed more employers should do, many were unsure that remote work would really work for employers.

Spotify has found it works for them. Really, really well.

Spotify started its Work From Anywhere (WFA) program on February 12, 2021. With this program, employees could choose to live just about anywhere – so long as Spotify has operations in that country. Employees can work from home, in a coworking space, or even (gasp) go into the office sometimes.

The effect this had has been dramatic. Attrition has dropped 15%. Employee diversity has increased. And Spotify intends to keep this policy in place, unlike companies that have decided to bring remote employees back into the office as pandemic fears have eased.

Is It Really That Simple?

Declaring that WFA has been a major success for Spotify may gloss over some of the challenges they have faced. In their HR Blog, they note that the challenges they have faced include maintaining a sense of community for their employees. It is somewhat more difficult for employees to connect when they aren’t physically together, after all.

They are facing this challenge by paying attention to what employees need. Spotify has both a Diversity Inclusion & Belonging (DIB) team and a Community Experience (Cx) team to help build connections and bring a sense of fun to working for Spotify. They understand that there’s more to running a business than being efficient. When your employees never have fun at work, they’re more likely to burn out or look for a different job.

These are things many other employers can do. I’ve seen remote job listings where companies have the whole company go on annual retreats together – in fact, my sister has worked as a software developer for such companies. It’s a great way for employees to get to know each other.

A grand vacation, of course, isn’t the only way for employees to get to know each other. It may even be difficult for some employees to go on such trips due to personal obligations, whether that be children or other issues.

That’s where adding a bit of play into the job helps. Don’t keep everything employees do so utterly serious. With tools such as Slack to keep employees in contact, you also have a way to encourage a little fun, send the occasional (work appropriate) meme, and so forth.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Remote Work For Employers?

Remote work does have its challenges, of course. Not every company is going to delight in giving their employees so much freedom, even if the job is otherwise suited to remote work.

For that matter, not all employees love remote work. Some would much prefer to be in the office. But here I’m focusing on what remote work means for employers. I’ve written plenty of times about remote work challenges for employees.

Forcing remote work can alienate employees who don’t want to be remote. Going back to my sister’s example, there was a time when she hated working remote. She changed jobs just so she could go back to the office. She had to go remote during COVID and now loves working from home, which just goes to show how people can change through the years. 

It may also be more difficult to integrate new employees into the team. That in-person time at the office has helped many people get to know the new person at work and see what they can do

Training may also be more difficult. My husband’s job went remote, and one thing he has noticed is that the employees who were trained remotely have had a harder time learning the job. In the office, trainees could hear more experienced coworkers handle calls with clients. They could pick up tips that hadn’t made it into the training. In their own homes, they don’t get that.

How Can Employers Know When Remote Is The Right Choice For Them?

Deciding whether or not to allow remote work will vary from employer to employer. Many factors go into this decision.

Employee productivity will likely be a key part of this decision. There are reports that employees are more productive working remotely. Many employees agree.

The ability to collaborate is another important issue. There are a number of tools that encourage remote collaboration, including Slack, Zoom, Trello, InVision, GitHub, and Zapier. These tools make collaboration possible no matter where employees are.

What employers fear, however, is that employees will be less creative with remote work. Many doubt that online collaboration tools are effective team brainstorming tools. This obviously depends on how the team uses these tools. Some find it easier to get everyone’s input this way. Others find it more difficult.

The ability to work remotely is a benefit that many potential employees look for, and this is something else that employers should consider. It’s a tool for attracting better employees. People love the work-life balance they can have working from home. The savings on gas and lack of commute is great as well. Employers may need to provide equipment for remote workers to use at home, but they’d have to do that for in-office employees as well. 

Overall, employers need to look at what it is they want from their employees, and if encouraging remote work is the right way to get it. It won’t be the right decision for every company, but it will be a great solution for many.

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