Does Your Company Embrace Other Forms of Flexible Working



Are tech employees coming back to downtown Seattle? Here’s what companies are


planning forDowntown Seattle and Amazon’s headquarters campus during the COVID-19pandemic. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)The plywood is coming down, restaurants that survived are adding hours andvehicle traffic in Seattle is growing from the ghost-town levels of one yearago. But as downtown, Belltown, and South Lake Union ready for the return oftens of thousands of employees to its skyscrapers, coffee shops, andsidewalks, a handful of questions remain unanswered.Did the pandemic change Seattle’s central business district for good or willthe deep sleep dissipate over the coming year? Will companies require workersto come back to the office and will they need to be vaccinated? And isdowntown prepared to absorb all — or even part — of the 350,000 workers whodeparted 15 months ago?The answer depends on who is asked.In late March Amazon released a statement affirming that it’s an office-basedcompany and its commute-and-cubicle culture will resume this fall — a crucialboost for the vibrancy of downtown Seattle businesses that have been crushedamid the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar retail jobs declined 65% last year,according to Downtown Seattle Association data.Zillow, which pre-pandemic had 2,700 office workers in a building on SecondAvenue and Union Street, is taking a hybrid approach with some workers comingback only some of the time.And some companies are saying no, we won’t be coming back. Some are happy toditch their leases and shift employees to full remote work, while othersremain concerned with crime and homelessness. Seattle startup Ad Lightning,for example, exited its downtown Seattle lease last year and doesn’t plan toreturn.“What I’ve observed particularly the last five to 10 years is an attitude inSeattle that I would characterize as anti-business, and kind of anti-job, andthat certainly has accelerated in the last few years,” Ad Lightning co-founderScott Moore said on a recent GeekWire podcast. “And it’s unfortunate.”GeekWire surveyed a handful of tech company leaders via email about theirreturn-to-office plans in downtown Seattle and their mixed responses reflectthe varied approaches being taken after more than a year of remote work.Jodi Ellias, vice president of marketing for Payscale, said the compensationresearch company gave up its Seattle office lease during the pandemic but willreturn to downtown with a smaller footprint and a plan to mirror Zillow’sapproach.“Payscale plans to ultimately occupy … a more collaborative workspace in theSeattle area that supports hybrid work scenarios,” she said. Payscale had 160employees downtown out of 600 globally, she said. The company didn’t yet havefirm numbers for how many staff will go into the office each day. And it willnot require vaccines for staff to return.Ellias said she is looking forward to having some office time this summer forone key reason: She has yet to meet a single member of her 10-person team inperson after being hired in May.On the other end of the scale is Textio. The writing enhancement servicecompany will base none of its 90 employees in downtown Seattle. Co-founder andCEO Kieran Snyder — who will speak Wednesday at a GeekWire event aboutSeattle’s homelessness crisis — said Textio will not be returning full-timestaff to downtown Seattle, or downtown anywhere.“We’re considering whether we will add some ‘touchdown’ space for team memberswho want to meet in person,” she said. “But we will be distributed-first; moreof our employees want flexibility than not.“We are not planning to have a single HQ with remote satellites.” As a resultTextio, she said, won’t have a need to require vaccinations in 2021.A lone bike commuter on an August morning ride through Seattle on 2nd Ave infront of Zillow’s offices. (GeekWire Photo / John Cook)Whether the Textio and Ad Lightning departures from downtown are an exceptionfor tech companies remains unclear. But representatives with large commercialreal estate firms are certain someone is going to want the extra space thatcomes from downsizing. Lisa Stewart, the Seattle-based managing director ofreal estate giant JLL, said the idea that downtowns are dead is significantlyoverblown.“The headlines were that all of the coast cities that had led the (boom) lastcycle were going to crash (because) everybody was moving to other places,” shesaid in an online conference last week. “We always talked about it as thethree Bs — everyone is moving to Boise, Bend, and Boseman.”But the reality was pretty different. While some people did move to thoseplaces, actual moving data swamps the anecdotes.Stewart said Seattle had more people move to the city in 2020 than in 2019.The numbers indicate that Seattle likely benefited from out-migration from NewYork, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And because the region retained itswealth of talent in cloud computing, AI, and gaming, she said, it willcontinue to attract tech companies. “The more (talent) we have the more weget,” she said.

Addressing crime and homelessness


Representatives from the companies surveyed all expressed concerns about thehomeless problem in downtown and what the city and businesses can do toimprove it. “We are very concerned and saddened by the growing homelessnesscrisis in Seattle,” said Mary Miller, a senior vice president at Seattle-basedAmperity.“More work must be done to help those impacted find more permanent housing andmental health support,” she added. “We recognize there is a lot of work to bedone to ensure public safety so that our team members can feel confidentcoming downtown and commuting safely.”With the pandemic’s decline on the horizon and a commercial real estaterecovery, the city is left with a thorny problem: How will it clean updowntown and help restart one of the city’s primary sources of taxes whilefinding an acceptable solution to get its homeless residents the help theyneed?Tents line a Downtown Seattle street. (GeekWire Photo / John Cook)The overall numbers defy the entrenched belief about lawlessness in the city’scenter. Crime in downtown actually declined in 2020 from 2019, according tothe Seattle Police Department Crime Dashboard (though it remains unclear ifthe statistical drop simply was because fewer people were there to reportillegal activity).But city crime analysts who track the gap between crime perception and realityknow that the common visual indicators — tents, trash, hypodermic needles,sensational media coverage — have conflated a homeless crisis with a crimecrisis. This, in part, is what led to the business-backed Compassion SeattleInitiative.The initiative is a citywide ballot measure to force the city to fund abattery of services and shelters for thousands of the town’s unshelteredresidents. It also would require the city to keep “parks, playgrounds, sportsfields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets clear of encampments” once themandated housing, drug, and mental health services are in place.Currently, the initiative is in the signature-gathering phase. It must get33,000 valid signatures in the next three weeks to qualify for the ballot. Andwhile the measure backed by the downtown association is meant to mandate citypolicy regarding its homeless population, it’s also meant to let businessesand residents know that the city will be forced to do something to move theneedle — even if that something is controversial.Some companies remain committed to downtown Seattle and are excited to returnand be part of the revitalization process.Karen Clark Cole, CEO of UX company Blink, said she had 80 employees downtownprior to the pandemic shutdown. That number dropped to four employees at thepandemic’s height. But it plans to bring them all back, albeit slowly. BySeptember, she estimated the company might have 10% of its employees back inthe office.“We have not considered moving or downsizing our office,” she said. “[Blink]will gradually start requiring people to come in for collaboration sessions,team meetings and to meet with clients.”Moreover, she said, the company plans to expand its downtown workforce. “Wegrew during 2021 (only about 4%) and will continue to grow,” she said, addingthat Blink will require all of its in-office employees to be vaccinated.“There will be more people assigned to the downtown Seattle office, but mostpeople will be part-time so not everyone will be there at once.”Blink and other tech companies are considering a form of what is being calledthe 3-2 staffing model for business — three days in the office, two remotely.F5, the networking and application security company, plans to take a similarapproach to Blink. The company had more than 1,400 employees in its FifthAvenue tower prior to the pandemic. Currently, fewer than 5% of those workersare in the building. But that will start to change, said spokesman RobGruening.“As we surveyed our employees throughout the pandemic to get an idea of howthey want to work in the future, a significant majority indicated a desire tohave flexible schedules — the ability to come into the office for interactionand collaboration and work remotely when they need to focus,” he said.“Some people will still come into the office full time and some will workremotely full time, but a much larger percentage will do a hybrid of both,” hesaid, adding that F5 will not require its workforce to be vaccinated. Thehybrid work model means the company has sublet six floors of its building buthas zero intentions of leaving downtown Seattle, he said.Amperity’s Miller said managers there are planning a 3-2 staffing model andmandatory vaccinations for its 115 Seattle-based workers. The customer dataplatform company will keep the same downtown footprint, she said.Amperity at no point, she noted, considered moving away and managers still seesignificant benefits in Seattle’s business district. “Accessibility andcentralized location, amenities, and of course the energy,” said Miller.Are tech employees coming back to downtown Seattle? Here’s what companies areplanning forDowntown Seattle and Amazon’s headquarters campus during the COVID-19pandemic. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)The plywood is coming down, restaurants that survived are adding hours andvehicle traffic in Seattle is growing from the ghost-town levels of one yearago. But as downtown, Belltown, and South Lake Union ready for the return oftens of thousands of employees to its skyscrapers, coffee shops, andsidewalks, a handful of questions remain unanswered.Did the pandemic change Seattle’s central business district for good or willthe deep sleep dissipate over the coming year? Will companies require workersto come back to the office and will they need to be vaccinated? And isdowntown prepared to absorb all — or even part — of the 350,000 workers whodeparted 15 months ago?The answer depends on who is asked.In late March Amazon released a statement affirming that it’s an office-basedcompany and its commute-and-cubicle culture will resume this fall — a crucialboost for the vibrancy of downtown Seattle businesses that have been crushedamid the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar retail jobs declined 65% last year,according to Downtown Seattle Association data.Zillow, which pre-pandemic had 2,700 office workers in a building on SecondAvenue and Union Street, is taking a hybrid approach with some workers comingback only some of the time.And some companies are saying no, we won’t be coming back. Some are happy toditch their leases and shift employees to full remote work, while othersremain concerned with crime and homelessness. Seattle startup Ad Lightning,for example, exited its downtown Seattle lease last year and doesn’t plan toreturn.

GeekWire Virtual Event on Wednesday: Compassion Seattle: Is this the path


to solving homelessness?“What I’ve observed particularly the last five to 10 years is an attitude inSeattle that I would characterize as anti-business, and kind of anti-job, andthat certainly has accelerated in the last few years,” Ad Lightning co-founderScott Moore said on a recent GeekWire podcast. “And it’s unfortunate.”GeekWire surveyed a handful of tech company leaders via email about theirreturn-to-office plans in downtown Seattle and their mixed responses reflectthe varied approaches being taken after more than a year of remote work.Jodi Ellias, vice president of marketing for Payscale, said the compensationresearch company gave up its Seattle office lease during the pandemic but willreturn to downtown with a smaller footprint and a plan to mirror Zillow’sapproach.“Payscale plans to ultimately occupy … a more collaborative workspace in theSeattle area that supports hybrid work scenarios,” she said. Payscale had 160employees downtown out of 600 globally, she said. The company didn’t yet havefirm numbers for how many staff will go into the office each day. And it willnot require vaccines for staff to return.Ellias said she is looking forward to having some office time this summer forone key reason: She has yet to meet a single member of her 10-person team inperson after being hired in May.On the other end of the scale is Textio. The writing enhancement servicecompany will base none of its 90 employees in downtown Seattle. Co-founder andCEO Kieran Snyder — who will speak Wednesday at a GeekWire event aboutSeattle’s homelessness crisis — said Textio will not be returning full-timestaff to downtown Seattle, or downtown anywhere.“We’re considering whether we will add some ‘touchdown’ space for team memberswho want to meet in person,” she said. “But we will be distributed-first; moreof our employees want flexibility than not.“We are not planning to have a single HQ with remote satellites.” As a resultTextio, she said, will not require its staff to be vaccinated.A lone bike commuter on an August morning ride through Seattle on 2nd Ave infront of Zillow’s offices. (GeekWire Photo / John Cook)Whether the Textio and Ad Lightning departures from downtown are an exceptionfor tech companies remains unclear. But representatives with large commercialreal estate firms are certain someone is going to want the extra space thatcomes from downsizing. Lisa Stewart, the Seattle-based managing director ofreal estate giant JLL, said the idea that downtowns are dead is significantlyoverblown.“The headlines were that all of the coast cities that had led the (boom) lastcycle were going to crash (because) everybody was moving to other places,” shesaid in an online conference last week. “We always talked about it as thethree Bs — everyone is moving to Boise, Bend, and Boseman.”But the reality was pretty different. While some people did move to thoseplaces, actual moving data swamps the anecdotes.Stewart said Seattle had more people move to the city in 2020 than in 2019.The numbers indicate that Seattle likely benefited from out-migration from NewYork, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. And because the region retained itswealth of talent in cloud computing, AI, and gaming, she said, it willcontinue to attract tech companies. “The more (talent) we have the more weget,” she said.

Addressing crime and homelessness


Representatives from the companies surveyed all expressed concerns about thehomeless problem in downtown and what the city and businesses can do toimprove it. “We are very concerned and saddened by the growing homelessnesscrisis in Seattle,” said Lisa Chan, head of communications for Seattle-basedAmperity.“More work must be done to help those impacted find more permanent housing andmental health support,” she added. “We recognize there is a lot of work to bedone to ensure public safety so that our team members can feel confidentcoming downtown and commuting safely.”With the pandemic’s decline on the horizon and a commercial real estaterecovery, the city is left with a thorny problem: How will it clean updowntown and help restart one of the city’s primary sources of taxes whilefinding an acceptable solution to get its homeless residents the help theyneed?Tents line a Downtown Seattle street. (GeekWire Photo / John Cook)The overall numbers defy the entrenched belief about lawlessness in the city’scenter. Crime in downtown actually declined in 2020 from 2019, according tothe Seattle Police Department Crime Dashboard (though it remains unclear ifthe statistical drop simply was because fewer people were there to reportillegal activity).But city crime analysts who track the gap between crime perception and realityknow that the common visual indicators — tents, trash, hypodermic needles,sensational media coverage — have conflated a homeless crisis with a crimecrisis. This, in part, is what led to the business-backed Compassion SeattleInitiative.The initiative is a citywide ballot measure to force the city to fund abattery of services and shelters for thousands of the town’s unshelteredresidents. It also would require the city to keep “parks, playgrounds, sportsfields, public spaces and sidewalks and streets clear of encampments” once themandated housing, drug, and mental health services are in place.

Does Your Company Embrace Other Forms of Flexible Working?


Flexibility is at the heart of the concept of the four-day work week, so it’sunsurprising that for many CEOs, this one approach alone is not enough.“We go one step further at Exposure Ninja,” explains Tim Cameron-Kitchen. “Weallocate monthly hours, but we then take a step back and allow employees todecide when they want to work them. If they so choose, they can complete alltheir work on Monday through Wednesday, thereby creating a four-day weekend.If, on the other hand, they choose to work seven short days a week, that’sokay with us, too. All we ask is that our employees are refreshed and eager towork while producing great results. This degree of flexibility means our ranksare filled with content, loyal and engaged employees.”This is a progressive philosophy shared by Ajit Nawalkha. It emphasizes theimportance of allowing employees to work with their productivity rhythms, sothat they can give work their best. “Our employees can choose when they work.Some people are morning people, some people are night people. What we alsofound is when we give people flexibility, their availability increases intimes of emergency […] They understand that sometimes a company emergencyoccurs and at these times they become more available because they can see howmuch care the company is giving to them. We believe that in modern times,caring about the employees is one of the most important things to ensure[they] stick around and remain aligned with the company mission,” he says.Elena Kerrigan has built flexibility into her company culture, stating that”flexibility, or agile working, is part of our cultural DNA. When staff havemoved cities or countries, we stayed flexible to their needs and developed ourown remote working policy. We offer flexible start and end times for the larksand owls on the team. We’ve found that when people feel respected and areshown consideration, they tend to not take advantage of this flexibility. Weall benefit from being part of this amazingly supportive team and culture oftrust.”Likewise, Katie Henry has tried to shift focus from working hours entirely,choosing instead to focus on goal achievement. In this way, growing SMEs likeArt in Offices are replicating processes seen in companies such as Netflix,which doesn’t track employee hours at all but rather bases performance on goalcompletion.To make this system work, Katie and her team need to ensure great levels ofcommunication and collaboration at all times. So while Katie doesn’t insist onset working days or predetermined hours, she meets with each member of staffso that they can roughly agree when they will be at the office. This meansthat Katie is able to easily plan meetings, work research trips and studiovisits.“However, staff are allowed to change the days they work at very short noticeif they have life admin they need to get done or emergencies to deal with.Ultimately, I don’t mind when or how things get done, as long as they getdone,” she says.The flexibility involved and the fact that employees are permitted to workremotely on occasion means that the Art in Offices team needs to be up to datewith modern technology, such as collaboration software.Katie continues, “Our entire filing system is on the Cloud, we have meetingsvia Skype, we keep track of ideas and communications for each project usingSlack, and our CRM software (which also tracks our project tasks) is on thecloud. Banking and finance can be done through apps, marketing can be donefrom iPads and laptops, [and] large files can be transferred through apps.With all this technology, there’s really no reason why people can’t work aseffectively from home as they do from the office.”[Related: Why Glassdoor is a Must-Have Tool for U.S. Employers: 3-MinuteGuide]

4-Day Work Weeks as a Recruitment Tool


Flexibility is a top workplace perk, and one that is guaranteed to attract toptalent. Interestingly, though, opinion is divided on whether or not an optionof a four-day work week should be touted as a recruitment benefit.Katie Henry is unafraid to use flexible working as a recruitment perk: “Wedefinitely promote the fact that work can be done flexibly because we want toattract the best talent. I’m also aware from a female perspective that womenwant careers but also want to be at home with their families. They shouldn’thave to choose between the two. The number of women being sacked for beingpregnant is on the rise, which is a travesty and feels really unlawful. My aimwith Art in Offices is to enable people to do their best work on their ownterms.”Likewise, Tim Cameron-Kitchen proudly uses it to recruit employees: “We makesure our prospective employees know all about our flexible workingenvironment, as we see it as a huge selling point and, in the past, it hasattracted some amazing candidates who have really helped to grow the company.”Meanwhile, Stephen Titchener is less eager to open with flexible working as arecruitment perk. Despite the fact that flexibility is at the heart of how TwoGuys operates, Stephen says they refrain from mentioning these perks whileadvertising jobs — this is because they want to find the right person for thejob, not someone who is simply keen to work fewer days.[Related: Refine Your Talent Acquisition Strategy with Powerful GlassdoorAnalytics]

Are 4-Day Work Weeks the Way of the Future?


While all of the CEOs and business leaders I spoke to are passionate about thefour-day work week, they also acknowledge that it isn’t a silver bullet.Interestingly, Katie, as a proponent of complete flexibility, believes thatthe four-day workweek doesn’t go far enough:“You need to give [your employees] the option of working around life’s littleemergencies and still be able to meet that deadline, without them feelingjudged or feeling like they’ve underachieved. Empowering staff like this makesthem feel less stressed, less anxious, more satisfied in their job, and happy.Why wouldn’t you want a happy workforce?”Meanwhile, Elena Kerrigan argues, “I believe the four-day week and other formsof flexible working are the future. Technology is already enabling forward-thinking companies to adopt this new way of work. I believe future generationslooking back will struggle to understand how we accepted this permanent stateof stress and information overload, long hours and ridiculous expectations,with little or no regard for people’s health, wellbeing or happiness.”Leah Ryz wholeheartedly agrees: “I think humanizing business is the way of thefuture. And if that were to mean that four-day, three-day or two-day workingweeks meant that businesses were able to meet their objectives by [having]employees who were enjoying a better work-life balance, than that can only bea great thing.”While nobody is saying that shifting to a four-day work week will be easy, orthat it will cure all your company’s ills, it is certainly a concept worthconsidering. You became a CEO by taking chances, experimenting and stretchingyourself. It only makes sense that as you look to the future, you questioneverything about how your company runs. You might just find it to be thecatalyst to greater levels of corporate success.Stuart Hearn is CEO and Founder of Clear Review, a performance managementsoftware solution that enhances overall productivity and performance on anindividual, team and company level.

1. Hiring People Who Fit Your Culture


Tech Journalist Robert Scoble meets with a lot of CEOs. And when talking abouthiring decisions, they always try to make sure they don’t hire jerks. It’s forthis reason that companies have such a rigorous hiring process. Some companieslike to bring job candidates in to work with their employees for a week. Theygive the candidates a project and see how they work and how they work withothers.In a post on Harvard Business Review, Eric Sinoway breaks down types ofemployees and how they impact company culture. The high performing employeeswho don’t fit into your culture are known as vampires. These vampires must beterminated because, while performance is solid, they’re attitude isdetrimental to company culture, which is detrimental to business.Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, one of the strongest advocates of culture, makes agreat point when he notes that the people you hire represent your company evenoutside of work. If you meet someone and they tell you where they work, yourperception of that place will change based on your opinion of the person. Ifthey’re nice, you’ll view the company in a positive light. If they’re a jerk,you won’t view the company favorably. This effect can be even greater whenit’s a company you’ve never heard of and didn’t previously have any opinionof. If the person is helpful, you’ll view the company as helpful. This is whyit’s important to hire people who share your company’s values.One bad hire can affect an entire department and possibly dozens of customers.And it can happen quickly, acting like a virus that spreads. The employeeswill talk about the bad hire; and if action isn’t taken, it can get muchworse.But the good thing is that any damage can be reversed. And more than that,your values can be reinforced at the same time. If you release that toxicemployee (the vampire), it’ll show other employees that you appreciate themand are serious about your culture.

2. Having Employees Know the Values and the Mission of the Company


There’s a question that often gets asked in job interviews:Why do you want to work here?The purpose of the question is to provide the interviewer with a sense of whatthe interviewee knows about the company. If the interviewee can provide aspecific, pointed reason for why they want to join that company, it shows theinterviewer they’ve done research on the company and may be a fit for theposition.Of course, an interview will show only so much. A person can be whoever theywant to be for 30-60 minutes. The only real way to know if someone is on boardwith the values and mission of a company is to watch them work for an extendedperiod of time. Do they follow the same values in their personal life? This iswhy you need to really get to know the serious candidates.Zappos has their core values. They guide how employees work and enjoy theirpersonal lives.When employees are passionate about the values and mission (like organizingthe world’s information at Google), they are dedicated to accomplishing thegoal.In a video on the Facebook Careers page, Mark Zuckerberg says:“The reason why we’ve built a company is because I think a company is by farthe best way to get the best people together and align their incentives arounddoing something great.”At Facebook, it’s about making the world more open and connected. These drivethe employees, guide the product, and energize the entire company. If anemployee isn’t committed to the mission, it just becomes another job. And whenit’s just another job, it usually means the employee isn’t happy.On the other hand, when the employee is on board with the mission, they’reengaged in the job and want to help the mission succeed, thus helping thecompany succeed.

W. L. Gore and Associates


Voluntary turnover rate: 3% Average number of applicants per opening: n/aThe synthetic fabric manufacturer’s low turnover rate probably have somethingto do with its benefits, which include paid time off volunteer and a dedicatedfun committees. The law firm the company also has 446 associates who havestayed with the firm for over 30 years. Granted, the firm also added 654 newpositions last year.See why W. L. Gore and Associates is No. 12 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies toWork For.

Burns and McDonnell


Voluntary turnover rate: 4% Average number of applicants per opening: 37For this Kansas City-based firm, 59.5% of voluntary turnover can be attributedto workers leaving for new jobs, while an additional 17% to those leaving forretirement.On average, employees stay with the company for about six years before movingon. The engineering and design firm also added 785 new positions last year,and can tout the engineer positions as those with the lowest turnover.See why Burns and McDonnell is No. 16 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to WorkFor.

World Wide Technology


Voluntary turnover rate: 4% Average number of applicants per opening: 37It’s not hard to see why workers tend to keep their jobs at World WideTechnology. The company generates great pride and atmosphere among it’sworkers, and offers an extensive medical care facility to its employees atheadquarters. About 2 to 5% of people who leave depart for new jobs. Thecompany noted that it added 632 new positions last year, noting that abouthalf of its employees are three to five years in tenure.The company can also attribute the job with the lowest turnover rate in thefirm peaking in the position of consulting systems engineer.About 2% to 5% of people leave, depart for new jobs. The company noted that itadded 632 new positions last year, noting that about half of its employees arethree to five years in tenure. The company can also attribute the job with thelowest turnover rate in the firm peaking in the position of consulting systemsengineer.See why World Wide Technology is No. 38 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies toWork For.To check out the full list of this year’s best employers in the U.S., visitfortune.com/best-companies, where you can also find job searching tips, careeradvice, and secrets from recruiters on how to get hired.

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