Working from home has become the norm for many businesses, at least temporarily. Over the last few months, however, companies have begun to adopt a new type of flexible working arrangement.
When it comes to flexible working, employees traditionally have two options: They can either commute to and work from their city centre office, or they can work from the comfort of their home. For some companies though, this WFH model doesn’t provide enough freedom for workers. And so, they have adopted a “Work From Anywhere” policy.
Spotify (SPOT) is the latest technology company to offer employees the chance to work where they like. Recently, the streaming firm announced it would allow staff to choose whether they want to be in the office full-time, be at home full-time or a combination of the two.
It has also introduced more flexibility around locations, so employees will be able to choose the city and even country where they work. Spotify will provide co-working space memberships for employees who want to work remotely but still want a dedicated workspace.
“The events of the past year have accelerated my and the executive team’s thinking about the future and we believe that the time to start transitioning into becoming a flexible/distributed-first company is now and we’re pleased to introduce our work from anywhere programme for all employees,” Spotify’s HR executives R Anna Lundstrom and Alexander Westerdahl wrote in a blog post.
“A flexible working culture is built on trust, communication, collaboration, and connection and acknowledging that we’re all individuals,” they added. “We have considered labour law, tax and insurance readiness for our workforce to be ‘working from anywhere’ – whether that’s working from home, in a café, hotel lounge or a co-working space. And, not forgetting the investment required to make sure the safety and growth of our people.”
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An increasing amount of companies are starting to consider remote work as a more permanent option due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Twitter (TWTR), Facebook (FB) and Square (SQ). So why are some going a step further and allowing employees to work from anywhere?
Lundstrom and Westerdahl highlighted several key factors behind Spotify’s decision, including boosting employee effectiveness by allowing them to work in their ideal environment, improving work-life balance and tapping into new talent pools.
Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who studies the changing Geography of Work, the model offers significant benefits to companies and their workers. To find out more, he carried out a study of several companies which have embraced remote working, including the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and GitLab, the world’s largest all-remote company with 1,300 employees.
He discovered that WFA arrangements allowed organisations to reduce costs associated with renting office space, as well as hire and use talent globally while mitigating immigration issues. In addition, employees with geographical flexibility reported a better quality of life, with “productivity gains” for employers. Giving employees more freedom is linked to job satisfaction and happiness too, which is known to increase engagement and reduce staff turnover.
There’s no denying that allowing workers to move away from tech hubs and metropolitan areas is a positive thing. Not only does it expand opportunities for workers but also employers too, who can expand talent pools beyond an office location. These “borderless workspaces” – as Choudhury calls them – allow businesses to choose staff based solely on their skills and abilities.
Work from anywhere policies also have the potential to boost towns and rural areas too, by reducing the damaging impact of “brain drain” as people move to big cities.
As with all changes to the way we work, there are challenges. Companies have expressed concern over how work from anywhere arrangements will impact communication and the general benefits of being in an office. When we’re working alongside our colleagues, it can be easier to brainstorm ideas, offer advice, support and problem-solve.
It’s possible that remote working tech may help mitigate at least some of these problems, as the development of video calls, virtual reality and more help us connect more effectively. It is only by learning to adapt and evolve – often by trial and error – that businesses will work out the kinks in remote working.
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