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A once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we work

As the world opens up, how are tech companies returning to the office?

It’s probably fairly safe to say that of all the industries that were impacted by the pandemic and had to move to working remotely, the tech industry was probably ahead of the game – at least in terms of being able to implement remote work at speed. Now that restrictions have been lifted and companies are having people return to the office, how will the industry respond? Has being in the office full time become a thing of the past?

Brían Sutton, client relationship manager, Great Place to Work, believes that tech employers understand the developing needs of their employees. “Leading tech employers know what’s most important is what you’re working on delivering rather than where you are working from.

“So, coming back to the office does not mean bringing everybody back at once to be together but offering flexible opportunities where their teams can do their best work in ‘their own space’ and come together to maximise collaboration and innovation.”

A new way of work

Terri Moloney, senior director, employee success, Salesforce says the reality is that the world has changed and employers have to recognise that they are never going back to the way things were before.


“The traditional ‘9-to-5 workday’ is no more, which is exciting, because we now have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we work.”

Amanda Hall, senior director, software engineering, Toast agrees. “Our dedication to creating the best work environment possible has evolved since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic because the needs of our employees have changed.

“We are even more focused on finding opportunities to foster an inclusive, welcoming community here, because we know our teams work best when they are united by our mission to empower the restaurant community to delight their guests, do what they love, and thrive.”

Cloudera has been operating a fully remote working model for the past two years and has commenced a phased re-opening of offices globally, says Jamie Griffin, senior director, global commercial operations at Cloudera.

“Currently, our working model is hybrid, where employees can choose to work from their local office a few days a week.”

Flexibility and empowerment

The decision whether to bring everyone back, continue remotely or operate a hybrid model is individual to each company, but understanding employees’ needs is a key part of the decision.

“We have listened to our employees and what has come out loud and clear is that flexibility is very important to them,” says Moloney. “That is why we are empowering teams to decide how, when and where they work with Flexible Team Agreements (FTA). This includes how many days a week they come into the office and what kind of work they’ll continue to do at home.

“Teams can also decide how they communicate and what behaviours are most important to them. For instance, my team has ‘No Meeting Fridays’ and monthly ‘Wellbeing Days’.”

“As a leadership team, we strive to enable our employees to reach their career goals and empower them to do so through resources, programmes and open lines of communication,” says Hall. “We also recognise and celebrate that each member of our team is unique and has different needs when it comes to work/life balance and we encourage our team to find and adopt the blend that works best for them.”

Griffin explains that local government and health authority guidelines always prevail in the decision making. “After that, our executive leadership has put the protection, health and safety of our employees as our top priority. We regularly survey employees to understand their preferences and work hard to ensure these are met as much as possible. In response to their feedback, we are now beginning to welcome staff back into the workplace on a voluntary basis.”

How does hybrid look?

Moloney explains that Salesforce staff will have three new ways of working – office-flexible ( 1-3 days a week in the office with most employees falling in this category), home-based (a smaller number are fully remote), and office-based (working from an office location 4-5 days per week).

“Our office spaces are transforming into hubs for collaboration and reconnecting, while individual deep thinking work will continue to happen from home. We are also creating in-person experiences from networking events and training to volunteering opportunities. Through this people’s time in the office will be meaningful and worthwhile rather than a box-ticking exercise.

“While employees have the flexibility to choose where and how they work, they miss their co-workers and want to connect in-person and there is still a very important need for physical spaces like our offices,” says Moloney.

“However, instead of setting arbitrary deadlines for people to return to the office our priority and focus is reimagining the office experience. We want our people to be excited to return and enthusiastic about the time they choose to spend in the office each week.”

“If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that flexibility and trust are critical for cultivating a strong work/life blend for our employees,” says Hall.

Keeping the talent happy

The technology sector is incredibly competitive at the best of times, with tech companies at the forefront of the initiatives they implement to keep staff happy – from table tennis tables to free breakfasts. In a hybrid situation, how does that look like, if people are often not in the office to take advantage of these perks?

The technology sector is incredibly competitive now, says Griffin. “Core to this is providing employees with freedom to choose working from home, a hybrid approach or indeed, return to office full time in the coming months. This level of flexibility will be key to attracting and retaining key talent now and in the future.”

Sutton agrees. “Employers know that they must pay attention to all opportunities to retain their top talent, they do this by listening and identifying how they can support their people to be their best in both delivering for the business and for caring for themselves.”

Edel Corrigan

Edel Corrigan is a contributor to The Irish Times