It has been over two years since the pandemic swept across the globe, forcing most companies to work almost exclusively remotely. Now as the vaccine and health mandates are playing their part in mitigating the virus, these same companies are stuck with the question of how to proceed with work from this point on.
Will they require employees to come back to the office? To stay remote? To provide some kind of flexible hybrid solution?
One company has thrown their hat in the ring with taking this problem and publicly declared their solution. On April 28th, Airbnb announced that it would allow employees to live and work anywhere.
As an employee at Rock Content, a remote-first company, I wanted to weigh in on the subject from my own personal experience. But first, let’s understand what the new, flexible Airbnb policy is all about and look into some research about the subject.
Airbnb’s New Flexible Policy
Airbnb’s new policy reflects the core values they have aimed at their customers from the start. To allow an individual to live or work from anywhere, giving them the flexibility to travel anywhere in the world.
With Airbnb still planning regular meetups and social gatherings every quarter, they are putting an emphasis on prioritizing meaningful in-person gatherings. Beyond the idea of flexibility, they are also aiming at more diversity within the company.
In a letter to the employees from their CEO, Brian Chesky, he writes
“If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage. The best people live everywhere, not concentrated in one area. And by recruiting from a diverse set of communities, we will become a more diverse company.”
Combining the elements of giving employees flexibility with their diversity initiative, Airbnb becomes one to look up to in the remote working field.
The Good, The Bad, and The Art Of Discipline
The Good – Looking at the pros of remote work, there are two key components that stand above all others: time and flexibility.
There is obviously no manager or leader hovering over you to make sure that work gets done, just the belief and confidence that it will. In this bridge of trust and good faith from employers, employees become masters of their own time schedule to uphold their side of the deal.
This level of trust and flexibility can give an employee a sense of power in their own rite. In fact, according to a report from the ADP Research Institute, 67% of workers say they feel more empowered to take advantage of flexible working arrangements at their companies, compared to only 26% before the pandemic.
From experience, if you have an activity outside of work, such as a doctors appointment, your child’s sporting event, or any activity that requires the need to drop out of work at a specific moment, you feel more inclined to arrange your schedule in a way where you will still do the work that needs to get done. Such is the concept of balancing time and flexibility through a level of mutual trust.
The Bad – There are also elements of remote work that struggle to meet the same culture an office workspace provides. You miss out on water cooler talk. In-person interactions are not the same as Zoom calls or Slack messages.
There starts to be a lack of the common repertoire you have with coworkers and colleagues. How do we alleviate this feeling?
By being more proactive in our communication, seeking out conversations with coworkers whether it is business related or just the casual chat. It may not carry the same weight as being face to face, but in a growing remote world it can relieve the tension of solitude.
The Art Of Discipline – As the makers of our own schedule with remote work, the best practice is growing in discipline. It is easy to get distracted around the remote work space, so there needs to be measures of accountability in the day-to-day routine.
On the other side of the coin, it can be exhausting to sit in one room with only a computer and four walls. It is important to set a schedule balancing work tasks with breaks such as taking a breath of fresh air outside to optimize your day without feeling burnt out.
Flexibility Is Worth Its Weight In Gold
In the dawn of the new cyber work era, flexibility is the new king.
According to a recent Slack survey, 72% of workers now prefer a flexible work model over returning to office full-time. To add to the mix, 30% of the respondents claimed they were more productive and engaged working from home.
People are starting to realize the true value that working remotely provides to their lives. While some may wish to return to the office, others are finding the optimal work-life balance in working from home.
To have the flexibility to be able to step away from your desk and take care of your child or go outside and take your dog for a walk, something that could not be so casually done from an office, is starting to take precedence in peoples routine.
This concept has gradually made its way to the upper echelon of priorities, so much that according to the WFH Research Project, people value flexibility as much as a 10% pay raise.
It seems that you can put a price on time, and people are willing to pay.
Rock Content’s flexible workspace
In 2020, Rock Content shifted from being an office-first company to a remote-first organization, with hundreds of Rockers (the way we call all coworkers!) working from all over the world.
And, even though, at first, this movement was a result of the pandemic scenario, Rock Content’s decision was made upon the premise that the future of work is remote, with people “globally integrated”.
Rock Content employees receive all the structure they need to work remotely through a warm welcoming package that at a first glance, already makes them feel like a rock star in a company that has been rocking the content marketing world!
Employees also receive a monthly remote work allowance, and can also decide on their own work hours, due to the company’s flexible approach to work.
Being a startup, collaborative and a people-driven culture, Rock Content is always open to evolve its practices and to find ways to engage employees from around the world. Rockers have regular rituals to connect with each other and the whole team through virtual events and other channels, such as Slack, which truly makes everything only a slack-away distance.
Rocking The Culture Of Remote Work
For me, it has been six months since I started my remote working journey with Rock Content and it has, well…..rocked!
I made the choice to donate my old corporate wardrobe and invested in more sustainable clothing. Clothing from brands that are working actively to promote environmental sustainability such as Patagonia, TenTree, and Parks Project.
I feel that I am contributing more towards carbon neutrality by not having to drive in rush hour Monday to Friday. Most days, I now get to shut off all the lights and energy using devices in my home and opt to work outside in the sun. To me, one of the best parts about Rock Content’s remote culture was the freedom it gave me to actively protect the thing I am most passionate about, the outdoors.
You could probably imagine the commute from my home in Chattanooga to any of Rock’s global offices would be quite the daily journey. But on the business communications side, Rock Content leaves no stone unturned.
As digital as our network is, I have grown to know individuals inside and outside my team. I feel constantly encouraged to reach out to seek knowledge and connect on a more intimate level. In the action of internal networking with a global organization, the exposure to cross-cultural learning is invaluable.
To have colleagues and coworkers seemingly on demand with a simple Slack message, provides the largest first hand encyclopedia one could ask for.
Despite the necessity due to the pandemic, I do believe the future is remote. In terms of environmental impact, diversity and inclusion, freedom and happiness, remote work has brought satisfaction to me in all of these areas.
I hope that one day, others will see the reaped benefits employees and employers are experiencing like those at Rock Content and Airbnb, and will follow in their path to this new culture.