Spotify has joined a growing list of workplaces to announce that things won’t be going back to the way they used to be. The more than 6,500 people who work for the streaming music company across 73 countries will not have to return to an office five days per week once the pandemic has passed.
Instead, Spotify will introduce what it calls a WFA (work from anywhere) policy, replacing the pandemic’s forced WFH (work from home) conditions.
Employees will be able to choose between two work modes: the “office mix,” meaning they’ll go into one of Spotify’s many global properties or a co-working space two or three days per week, or the “home mix,” which will allow people to drop into the office as needed, but not be based there, allowing them to live anywhere. They’ll be asked to commit to one plan or the other for 12 months, which ought to allow Spotify to manage the logistics of its physical offices or lease co-working spaces as needed.
Those who choose the home mix will still be welcome in the office, where they might meet with colleagues in a conference space, or have a coffee in a lounge. If someone needs a quiet space to work, they can claim a kind of a study booth—an attractive cubicle, essentially—in a newly imagined, quiet workplace “library.”
Travis Robinson, global head of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Spotify, said the WFA strategy is tied to the company’s goal of attracting talent wherever the firm can find it. Maybe someone moved to a big city to be near a Spotify office, but is also a primary caregiver and now wants to work from home—this would afford that person the opportunity to fill both roles, he suggested. Perhaps, like Robinson, you’re over the New York subway (one reason he moved to Los Angeles), or you want to buy a pickup truck and live on a farm hundreds of miles from the nearest Spotify office. Fine, it’s your call. With a WFA plan, people don’t have to choose between their dream community and their dream job, Robinson said.
Employees who live in major metro areas but choose to relocate will not see their salaries reduced, and people newly hired to Spotify will be paid according to big-city benchmarks, the company said.
This might have been where Spotify was heading all along. Spotify’s global HR team leader, Katarina Berg, said that during typically Swedish walking meetings before the pandemic, she and other executives at Spotify’s headquarters in Stockholm often discussed “distributed-first” as where the future of work and office design was going, not realizing that the future would soon come rushing at them.
Whatever plans the company had to make things more flexible, the Covid-19 shutdowns accelerated them.
Salesforce and Dropbox are being similarly flexible
Earlier this week, Salesforce announced that the majority of its staff now has the option to work from anywhere indefinitely and that the spaces inside its towers around the globe will be redesigned to include far fewer desks and more room for collaborating.
The software giant envisions that its employees will fall into one of three buckets: Most people will be “flex” workers, meaning they’ll be in a Salesforce office one to three days per week; some will be fully remote; and a small fraction will be office-based full time, if their roles require it.
The “9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks,” Brent Hyder, president and chief people officer at Salesforce, said in a company blog post.
Dropbox had been among the first of the big tech companies to formally announce a plan for the post-pandemic era. It’s turning its offices into “studios,” essentially refashioning them into meeting venues. Other major companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have indicated that employees will have the right to work remotely long after the pandemic ends.
The financial implications for the shift appear to favor companies, as long as people can remain productive in the long-term without taking up costly square footage in a downtown building.
What the changes might mean to big cities—in terms of housing, mass transit, and the ecosystem of businesses that count on office employees needing their shoes shined and $15 salads delivered—is unclear. The impact on office culture, innovation, and our sensitive work-life balance calibrations also remains a topic of speculation. But CEOs appear ready to be decisive.