For most Big Tech companies eager to welcome staff back into the office, the concept of hybrid working just might be the antidote to the productivity hurdles of the pandemic. Yet not all tech firms are following the same game plan.
Global business software group Atlassian is making a radical move: for the team, remote working isn’t just a stop-gap solution that aims to stem COVID-19 infections in the workplace. Instead, employees’ freedom to work from anywhere in the world is integrated into the Atlassian culture.
It’s what makes the firm global, said CEO Scott Farquhar. So, while the likes of Google and Apple are still seeking to centralise much of their operations on campuses in Silicon Valley, Atlassian in Sydney is enabling its workforce of 5,700 to work in any country where Atlassian has a corporate footprint. The new policy is called ‘Team Anywhere’.
“We’ve had a belief that talent exists everywhere in the world, not just in Silicon Valley,” Farquhar, an advocate of remote working, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. “We’ve built a great company, tapping into a global talent base and so the idea of ‘Team Anywhere’ is that talent still exists anywhere. It just doesn’t happen to need to exist within 50 kilometres of an existing office.”
Hybrid working typically entails working on site on certain days of the week and working from home on other days. But Atlassian employees will only need to come in about four times a year – and, in those instances, the visits wouldn’t even be about staff reporting to work.
Farquhar likens the face-to-face interactions to professional networking events such as conferences and summits. “It’s a lot of learning, it’s a lot of building social networks and connections, and we think that the office will be dedicated more towards those activities versus ‘Let’s come together to do the work,’” he said.
The tech leader believes the common notion of splitting the work week between locations – work versus home – only creates deeper inequalities between employees who can come to work in the office more frequently and those who must stay home for the most part. Often, women and minorities are at a disadvantage, he said.
“I think a lot of companies that are just doing it two days a week, they’re going to really struggle because they are not going to attract or retain talent, and I think they’ll end up going back to the old way because it’s inertia,” Farquhar said. “It’s pretty bold what we’re trying to do, there’ll be some missteps along the way, no doubt, but we really want to do that because we have got to bake it into our product, in our practices, into the way that work happens.”