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“Remote Work” is Dead: Why a Flexible Work Model is the Future

From returning to work to forever working from home, these days, companies — and their employees — are all over the map. Times are changing quickly and the past year has taught us that flexibility is more important than ever. 

Now, employers across the country are continuing to grapple with enacting return to office policies, only to be derailed by new variants of the virus and lackluster responses from employees. But many of these challenges could be nipped in the bud by simply offering a more flexible work model.

Full stop. 

We saw the pandemic as an opportunity to reevaluate how to attract and retain the best talent, ensure employee satisfaction and effectiveness, all while enhancing our connectedness to our customers and supporting our explosive growth. We quickly realized the monolithic office is dead and as a result, introduced — and fully committed to — a distributed, flexible workforce model called “The Grid,” with no plans to require a return to an office, ever.

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Getting Employees on “The Grid”

The Grid removes the traditional expectations of employees working from a single, central office location and instead empowers them to work from wherever they are most effective. Rather than being “in an office” or “out of office”, employees are “on The Grid” or “off The Grid.” Being “on The Grid” means that an employee is actively working, be that at home, in a cabin, on the beach, an Olive workplace, or elsewhere across the country. Being “off The Grid” means they are not actively working, be it off-hours or vacation time. 

While Olive’s headquarters — referred to as The Hub — will remain in Columbus, Ohio, our employees are now scattered across the United States. Today, 21% of Olive’s employees are local to The Hub and 79% work either at substations (smaller worksites in cities where 10 or more employees reside) or wherever else they may choose.

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This new model has enabled us to hire the most qualified employees, regardless of where they choose to live or work. Since launching The Grid in May 2020, our workforce has grown from 230 in less than 20 states to over 1,000 employees across 47 states and the District of Columbia– with 87% of all hires since launch non-local to Columbus. Recently, we made a commitment to hire an additional 300 employees, which we call “Olivians”, before the end of 2021.

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Flexibility & Turning Challenges Into Opportunities with Remote Work

From strengthening the health of both the company and its employees to enhancing connectedness to customers, the advantages of a flexible and distributed workforce are abundant. While Olive is fortunate to have quadrupled our headcount since spring 2020, this substantial increase in employee count over a short amount of time has created a few challenges. 

The biggest challenge we’ve faced so far is being able to scale up our processes to handle the volume of people coming into the company. Organizational changes and shifts in roles and teams were inevitable to keep up with the influx of new people.  Additionally, with more people coming into the company virtually, we also had to rethink our onboarding process and ensure that new employees felt connected to the company. 

For example, we found that our first two days of orientation provided a great, consistent experience for new employees, but the experience on day three varied widely depending on which team you joined. Since then, we’ve launched a divisional onboarding program to identify a baseline template for a more tailored onboarding experience depending on your team or division. And since we’ve hired across several different time zones, we’re instituting new policies for when meetings can occur. We don’t want our people to have to roll out of bed directly into a Zoom or miss dinner with their family to jump on a call, so we’re doing away with meetings before 8:00am or after 6:00pm local time for any participants. 

We’ve also found ways to continuously innovate and create new ways to engage, motivate and reward our employees. This includes a program — Olive Getaways powered by Marriott Bonvoy — which offers up to 200,000 Marriott Bonvoy reward points to all Olivians to encourage them to get away from work to recharge, explore or try something new – while Olive foots the bill. We give unlimited PTO and quarterly minimums so Olivians can redeem the points for free nights at any Marriott property, airfare, travel experiences, gift cards, events and more whenever they want. 

We recognize that our workforce is unique — different people have different needs and preferences. With The Grid, we are proud to provide our employees with the flexibility and freedom to choose their work environment — while giving us the stability to be prepared for whatever comes next. 

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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