Lockdown lessons learned at Indeed
Jobs website moved quickly to gets its staff working remotely when Covid-19 hit
Paul Wolfe, senior vice-president of human resources at Indeed: “It’s very likely that we will see more companies opting to let their staff work remotely once this crisis has passed.”
Jobs site Indeed hit headlines for telling all its staff to work from home early on in the pandemic. The company employs 10,000 people worldwide – more than 1,000 in Dublin. Paul Wolfe, senior vice-president of human resources at Indeed, reveals some of the lockdown lessons learned.
What was the company’s attitude to remote working prior to Covid?
Some employees were entirely remote, while others may have worked from home a couple of days a week. The world we work in has changed so much in recent years that a shift towards remote work could be seen as somewhat inevitable but it has certainly been accelerated by the current pandemic.
What happened when Covid struck?
We first took steps on February 7th, within several hours of learning that an employee in Singapore was notified that someone in his family might have been exposed to the coronavirus. Out of an abundance of caution we closed our two Singapore offices and asked all Singapore-based employees to work from home until the 24th.
By March 3rd, when the coronavirus had begun to spread across the globe, we took a big step. We emailed all 10,000 employees and told them to work from home.
It was a difficult decision to make. We had no confirmed cases of Covid-19 among employees and recognised that it would be challenging to many teams and individuals who were not accustomed to working from home. It also required us to make quick yet complex decisions so that we could continue to conduct our business and support jobseekers and employers alike. Yet we believed that it was the right thing to do; the safety and health of our employees was the driving factor in all the decisions we made about Covid-19.
What have you learned about managing teams remotely?
Immediately we were faced with finding solutions to questions we had never considered before, such as how to change our IT support services from a largely in-person service to a completely virtual system overnight. How to make sure we had the infrastructure in place required to support the increase in virtual meetings. And then there were other questions of an incredibly simple but important nature, such as: who will pick up the post while we’re out?
We quickly put in place key practices to support our workforce. These include providing ongoing, open and transparent updates and supplying employees with access to our employee assistance programme should they feel anxious or isolated. We also offered reimbursable expenses for employees to help them create a comfortable work-from-home space.
The downfall of a traditional remote-working arrangement is when the employee feels isolated. Many employees report that they are actually more productive when they are able to work remotely but staying connected is key to making them feel valued and part of a team, particularly if some of the team is office-based.
What were the positives?
Our staff cannot be credited enough for their adaptability and creativity when it came to solving these new challenges. Adversity can bring out the best in people, and we certainly saw that among our own teams during this time.
One of the main positives of remote working is obviously the extra flexibility working from home gives people. Many of our staff feel just as productive – if not more – working from home. Likewise, we’ve noticed some unintended positives too, such as the reduced environmental impact from cutting commuting time and new innovation among teams.
What does the future hold for remote working?
It’s very likely that we will see more companies opting to let their staff work remotely once this crisis has passed. Remote positions may help companies having difficulty filling certain roles broaden their potential talent pool. Employers who hire remote workers also improve the diversity within their organisations by appealing to people across generations, geographies and backgrounds that may not have been amenable to relocation.
However, working from home is not for everyone: some people need social interaction to keep them motivated. It’s likely we’ll see some sort of hybrid system – people being given the option to work at home a couple of days a week.