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The secret to creating a global, virtual workplace that’s still productive

Employees working in office cubicles.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
At Symantec, it’s up to employees to decide how they manage their time—as long as they get the job done.
This article is more than 2 years old.

The physical part of work—where and how it’s done—is shifting in big ways. We all recognize the signs: you’ll schedule a meeting and you’re the only person sitting in the conference room, with 20 people on the phone. You’ll hear dogs barking in the background, babies crying. Yet all of these people have, in their heads, what they need for the meeting.

It seems as if it was just a few years ago that we were taking people out of offices and putting them into cubicles. From there, the trend went to open work spaces, then hoteling (similar to offering “hot desks”), and then shared hoteling “cubes”—all driven by the need to keep real-estate costs low in a very acquisitions-oriented industry that’s always streamlining. Now, more and more of our employees are working remotely.

In many ways, that’s a good thing. It gives people a lot more flexibility and freedom, and makes them happier about the job because they’re able to put their lives together in ways that matter to them. This is true for men and women both. I think the additional flexibility makes Symantec more attractive to all employees and helps us get better people. I remember having discussions, eight or nine years ago, with my boss at the time about somebody who was just the perfect candidate but didn’t want to move to our headquarters, in Mountain View, California. The answer was, “Nope, we need him here.” That is much less likely to happen today.

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