As COVID-19 developments continue to unfold around the world, companies big and small are taking a closer look at work-from-home policies and procedures around a future safe return to the office. These decisions are complex, and there is no “one size fits all” solution for every workplace.
At Indeed, we are taking a conservative approach to protecting the health and safety of our employees at a time when the pandemic is still affecting many countries and U.S. states. As a result, we recently announced that our employees will not be required to return to our global offices before July 1 of 2021. The decision to push our potential return-to-work date out by an entire year was driven by a desire to make it easier for employees to plan well in advance for decisions such as childcare and living situations.
- We have established the following criteria for opening each of our offices:
- Meet global health guidelines with 14 days of sustained reduction of new cases and widespread testing availability
- Comply with local regulations allowing nonessential businesses to open
- Abide by landlord requirements and local health rules
- Establish added safety measures, including building capacity limits, social distancing, PPE, temperature checks, and cleaning protocols
- Ensure availability of critical staff including security, IT, and facilities to safely maintain policies.
At this time, we are preparing to pilot partial office openings in a couple of our global offices where the criteria are met this year.
We do understand that many employees prefer working in an office at least part of the week, and we find tremendous value with in-person interactions that working in a physical office provides. Specific plans around opening offices remain in development, and we continue to study office layout adjustments to better understand how we will use offices moving forward. A phased return-to-work approach is envisioned to help reduce crowding in offices and common spaces. Limits on or elimination of conference rooms are also being considered.
Certain employees will have priority as we return to the office, with first consideration given to those who have expressed a high degree of eagerness to return and have indicated hardships encountered while working from home. Our Return to Office survey conducted in May revealed that nearly half of Indeed employees are eager to come back. However, almost all of our employees have a strong desire to work remotely for at least part of each week. In fact, 63% of respondents cited that when things start to return to “normal” (daycare/schools reopen, most other businesses reopen), they would prefer to split time between working from home and in an Indeed local office. Prior to COVID, about 5% of our employees worked from home full-time. Now, 10% of our workforce wants to work from home permanently.
On the flip side, we understand remote work is not for everyone. In response to employee feedback, we provided three voluntary options for those who do not wish to continue working from home over the next 12 months: 1) Reduced work schedules for reduced pay; 2) Unpaid leave; or 3) Voluntary severance. Taking advantage of these options is entirely up to employees. We have not laid off employees or closed any of our offices and have no plans to do so.
This pandemic has been stressful for everyone, and we appreciate all the ways our team has been able to manage work during this time. In an effort to maintain engagement and productivity, we want to make sure that employees are regularly hearing directly from leadership and feel supported throughout this uncertain period.
Since we moved to a remote work model, I’ve sent weekly update emails to our global teams to keep everyone informed on company news, and we conduct weekly Zoom Q&A sessions with our CEO and COO to provide another communication access point for our employees. It is through these channels that we have been able to share our return-to-office survey with our employees, receive employee feedback on our programs that we’ve put in place since the pandemic began, and make company-wide announcements such as our most recent return to office timeline.
The COVID pandemic has been educational from the perspective of remote work. The fact that we have not seen a drop in productivity is remarkable, particularly considering how stressful it is to juggle working schedules with health concerns and family duties. We remain mindful of the personal toll that working from home can cause, and we often talk about the importance of taking time off to rest and recharge and do the things that bring us joy.
We are in a very fortunate and unique position as a tech company to have the ability to successfully operate with a completely remote workforce. While we know there are challenges with working from home for some, we find value in our ability to maintain productivity in this current model and will continue to embrace remote work as a viable part of our workforce culture moving forward.
Paul Wolfe is senior vice president of human resources at Indeed.