The ‘’Gig Economy’’ series sheds light on the future of work and the pros and cons of hiring freelancers and gig workers.
Our guest today is Fiona Chilcott, Chief People & Culture Officer at Hotwire.
Fiona, although millennials claim that remote work is the future, some companies like IBM and Yahoo revised their work from home policies. Why did you introduce remote work/work from home policy at your company?
At Hotwire, we practice what we call “Thoughtful Working.” Thoughtful Working is so much more than a remote work, flexible work or work from home policy – it’s a philosophy our organization lives by that recognizes work is a thing you produce, not a place you go and we encourage our people to work where they will be the most effective for their clients, their colleagues and themselves.
We introduced Thoughtful Working at Hotwire in 2015 to encourage our people to work wherever and however they would be most effective and productive. Through Thoughtful Working, we show individuals that Hotwire doesn't exclude anyone from being able to work for our company because of the complexity of real-life factors such as distance, family or cost of living. We work with our people to help them grow and realize their potential at Hotwire by creating an environment that grows careers and provides the best employee experiences possible. At its core, Thoughtful Working follows a simple strategy: make our employees happier so they drive better results.
Absolutely. Employee happiness can’t be underestimated and lots of companies hire Chief Happiness Officers. However, employee happiness may come at a cost. Managing a remote team requires robust processes and can be challenging at times. In your opinion, are remote workers less loyal than in-office employees?
The great thing about allowing employees to work wherever they prefer is that it encourages people to find where they are most productive – be it in the office, at home, or wherever else their creativity and efficiency is stimulated. Many of our employees choose to come into the office every day because they prefer the setting and like collaborating with colleagues face-to-face. Others choose to work from home, a local coffee shop or a park to avoid a long commute or make it to a lunchtime dentist appointment.
Either way, we’ve found giving our people the freedom to work wherever they feel most productive and relaxed has only strengthened retention. Being able to decide for themselves when and where to work has maximized productivity and well-being and proved the trust Hotwire has in our employees to not need them to be in the office nine-to-five every day. Thoughtful Working is not a hierarchical perk – junior employees have as much flexibility as senior leadership following our philosophy that everyone needs to be able to choose how and when to do their best work.
Another huge way in which Hotwire has strengthened loyalty and retention through thoughtful working is by supporting people when life changes and, for example, a spouse’s new job or sick relative forces them to relocate. We’ve seen employees move from one of our office locations to different places around the United States, from Los Angeles to Chicago.
It's not surprising that remote working arrangements have improved the retention rate. Childcare is expensive and taking care of a sick relative may require lots of flexibility. However, in some cases, this flexibility may result in not meeting the deadlines or not joining team calls. Are remote workers more or less productive than their peers working 9 to 5?
The purpose of Thoughtful Working is to support people to work wherever they feel most productive. For some, the office isn’t always the most effective or stimulating environment, or long commutes take valuable time away from getting work done. In these cases, working remotely allows people to be more productive and, most importantly, make time for things that matter beyond work, like family and personal hobbies. When people have true work-life balance, they are more encouraged and motivated to get work done.
Managing a remote team can be challenging. I still remember how much time and effort was required to set up all the processes, tools and communication channels when we founded Transformify. For sure, it was a big step for Hotwire as well, back in 2015, when you introduced Thoughtful Working. Is it easier or harder to manage remote teams?
When we implemented Thoughtful Working, it, of course, took getting used to only seeing half of our people in the office on some days. However, collaborating with and managing remote teams or employees isn’t difficult with the right tools. With the latest technology solutions, we’ve tried to ensure connecting with people no matter where they are is as seamless as possible. Collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom have bridged the location gap between employees, allowing them to work and “meet” face-to-face just as they would if both were sitting in the same room.
At Hotwire, we also encourage face-to-face meet-ups amongst teams through programs like HotwireGO!, which allows any employee to apply to travel to an office in a different country, and our annual bootcamp when employees from every office meet in a central location for a week of networking, collaboration and, of course, fun!
Remote working arrangements are seen by many companies as a way to source qualified candidates regardless of the location. Often, rare talents can’t be found locally. Does Thoughtful Working allow you to tap into a diverse talent pool?
Thoughtful Working is exactly what allows us to hire employees based on the most important factors like skill and company-fit – without having to prioritize tactical things like whether or not they can relocate or are willing to give up at-home familial responsibilities. By allowing this kind of flexibility and removing those traditional barriers, we’re able to expand our global network and bring together the top minds from different cultures with unique ideas and expertise to operate as one team and deliver consistent client experiences. With a similarly open and flexible mindset, companies can truly focus on the talent and recruit more people with diverse backgrounds who know they’ll be supported.
About the author
Lilia Stoyanov is CEO and angel investor at Transformify. A fintech and digital transformation expert, she is also a professor at Zigurat Business School and expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission.
Trusted by recruiters from 150+ countries, Transformify offers an integrated solution comprising of HR Software, Freelance platform and billing & payments.