“We made a ‘work from anywhere’ model successful after Covid”

Jenny Shiers explains how her organisation has made the changes seen during the pandemic permanent after learning of employees’ desire to remain predominantly remote

Image credit: Rainer Berg/Westend61//Getty Images

We recently marked two years since the prime minister announced to the nation that non-essential workers should work from home where possible. Within a week of this initial announcement, the first national lockdown was implemented. This instigated the most rapid transformation to working life ever seen. 

For workers across the country, business operations changed overnight. Salesforce was no exception. Our culture has always been cultivated in our immersive spaces – from our towers in cities around the world to our 140,000-person community gatherings. The last couple of years have been a rollercoaster ride, but despite a challenging environment, we have learned a great deal, which has culminated in our ‘Success From Anywhere’ model, which embraces flexible ways of working while also prioritising togetherness and connection, no matter where employees sit.

Defining success from anywhere 

Our employees were the architects of this strategy because it was informed by two years of employee survey data. Through these surveys we learnt that only 3 per cent of Salesforce employees want to be office-based; 27 per cent prefer to be fully home-based/remote and 34 per cent prefer ‘office flexible’.

An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk; the nine-to-five workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping pong tables and snacks. Organisations should empower teams to decide how, when, and where they work – including how many days per week they come into the office and what kind of work they’ll continue to do at home. This new model has the added benefit of driving new growth opportunities that help deliver greater equality. The talent strategy is no longer bound by barriers like location, so organisations can broaden their search beyond traditional city centres and welcome untapped talent from new communities and geographies. Hybrid working can increase productivity. Throughout the great work-from-home experiment, our individual and team productivity increased by 16 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

However the ‘Success from Anywhere’ journey does not end with the lifting of restrictions; organisations should continue to pulse check employees and consider how a hybrid model can support long-term business continuity strategies. For instance, we are continuing to try and test new models of working to help our employees produce their best work possible and feel fulfilled in their careers. Recently we trialled an Asynch Week, an initiative designed to combat meeting fatigue whereby employees were encouraged to cancel all meetings and instead use this time to focus on their own development. More than 20,000 employees participated in Asynch Week and 80 per cent liked it: a roaring success. 

The digital headquarters

Work has shifted from a place you go, to what you do. With the addition of Slack to our portfolio we have been able to create a digital HQ that connects employees, customers, and partners, allowing them to thrive in a work-from-anywhere world. Through the integration of collaborative technologies, the number of emails sent within the business decreased by 46 per cent and resulted in three times faster problem resolution. Teams were able to connect and react quicker through one open and secure line of communication. 

The impact of the pandemic on digital acceleration in the workplace has only reinforced the urgent need to close the digital skills gap. Recent Salesforce research revealed four in five UK workers do not feel equipped for the future of work and by 2030, and nine out of 10 will need to learn new skills to do their jobs. As we continue to adjust to this new working world, it is integral that employers empower their workers with the digital skills needed to flourish now, and equip them for a digitally driven future. 

One size does not fit all

Everyone has a role to play in creating an inclusive and welcoming working culture, for every business its greatest asset is its people. Within our own organisation, we recognise that every employee brings their own unique set of skills and attributes and with that an optimum working style. This is why we are on a mission to create a culture that prioritises wellness, flexibility, and inclusivity to ensure every employee can be the best version of themselves, regardless of location.

Jenny Shiers is VP employee success at Salesforce UK