Small business tech platform Xero is following in the footsteps of Silicon Valley tech companies, offering employees the option of working from home, returning to the office, or a mixture of both.
The new flexible work policy will apply to the product and tech teams, and comes in as Xero embarks on a huge hiring drive.
For chief people officer Nicole Reid, it’s a “vital” tool for staying competitive and attracting the best tech talent.
A statement from Xero says the new policy is designed to allow employees to work in a way that best suits them, and allows them to produce their best work.
It has been designed in partnership with employees, including during the pandemic, when the business transitioned fully to remote working. Lessons learnt through activities and incentives throughout the pandemic have also helped shape the guidelines.
A spokesperson confirmed that while employees will have to be located in a country or province where Xero has a presence and is registered for payroll, they are welcome to relocate to anywhere within that. For those who opt for permanent remote work, Xero will fund up to four visits to an office each year.
“We know that when we give people the flexibility to work where they perform best — at home, in the office, or a combination of both — they thrive,” Xero chief people officer Nicole Reid tells SmartCompany.
The new policies are not squarely designed to improve employee mental health and wellbeing, or entirely to improve productivity. The two are connected, she says.
Giving people the flexibility to choose the way in which they work “naturally benefits their wellbeing, while also improving productivity,” she adds.
A survey of Xero employees in 2020 found Xero workers reported feeling more productive than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reid notes.
“This … gives us confidence that this is what’s best for our people as well as our business.”
Based on research and employee feedback, the new policies have been designed to be clear and easy to understand, Reid stressed. The intention is to be clear and upfront as to what workers can expect, without having to wade through reams of fine print.
Initially, the scheme is rolling out in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK, for the tech and product teams. The idea is to test and refine the policies in the teams with the greatest hiring need.
This will lead up to a broader rollout across the US and other departments.
Not the first, not the last
Xero isn’t the first tech company to reassess its remote working playbook following COVID-19. In fact, this news follows similar announcements from some of the giants of Silicon Valley, and arguably goes further.
Back in May, Google and Alphabet chief Sundar Pichai announced a hybrid return-to-work plan. In a string of tweets, Pichai said Google will require most employees to spend three days per week in an office, and two ‘wherever they work best’.
While some roles will require more time in the office, Pichai said, some workers would be able to apply to work remotely on a permanent basis. Others may choose to transfer to a different office.
Googlers are also able to work from somewhere different entirely for a period of up to four weeks, once a year, allowing for added flexibility during holiday seasons.
However, at Google, this approach comes with a catch.
“Whether you choose to transfer to a different office or opt for completely remote work, your compensation will be adjusted according to your new location,” Pichai said.
Social media giant Twitter was way ahead of the curve on this, with chief executive Jack Dorsey announcing in May 2020 that employees could work from home “forever” if they so wished.
He later extended this offer to employees at his fintech company Square.
“We’ve learned a lot about what it takes for people to effectively perform roles outside of an office, and we will continue to learn as we go,” Dorsey reportedly said.
Facebook has said employees will be able to continue to work remotely post-pandemic, but salaries may be adjusted if they relocate to areas with lower cost-of-living expenses.
Salesforce has also unveiled its ‘work from anywhere’ plans.
However, not all the big-tech companies are 100% on board. Netflix co-chief Reed Hastings reportedly said he doesn’t see any upside at all to remote work.
“Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative,” he said.
A “vital” shift
For Reid, flexible work policies are vital to remaining competitive as a global tech company, and — crucially — to attracting tech talent, regardless of where they live.
“Our new policy means they don’t need to live in Silicon Valley or global tech hubs to enjoy a successful tech career, which gives us access to a more diverse range of tech talent around the world,” she explains.
“I believe it’s vital that tech companies in Australia and New Zealand offer policies like this, to ensure
they’re attracting talent from a range of backgrounds, cultures, skills and abilities,” she adds.
“We need a diverse workforce to solve complex problems for all of our customers around the world.”
Where do you stand? Should employers embrace remote and flexible work arrangements permanently, or is the best work done in the office? Let us know.