To retain talent, companies are formalizing remote work programs

WorkSpaces by Hilton blends remote desks with hotel amenities for a day that may start with coffee in the lobby and video conferences in a distraction-free office then end with a dip in the rooftop pool.
Courtesy of Hilton

When a prospective candidate interviews at Shopify for a job role, they hear about the company’s work culture, employment benefits, and a pandemic-inspired offering: the chance to work anywhere in the world for 90 days, remotely.

Dubbed Destination90, the program allows employees to work from any location—Shopify office or not—on any time zone, for 90 consecutive days. The company launched the program in August 2020, after permanently shifting to being a digital-first organization just a few months before, in May 2020. The idea was to give employees an opportunity to spend the high-point of the pandemic where they felt most comfortable. It remained so popular that it’s now a standard benefit for employees.

“We do most of our work remotely by optimizing for digital collaboration, communication, and connection,” says Kimberley Mullins, Shopify’s director of talent development. “This has allowed us to create a universal experience for our employees to decide where and how they work.”

Mullins says that Destination90 benefits employees of all ages and stages of life. She has seen team members explore their home countries, experiment with living in a foreign destination before potentially moving there full-time, spend time with elderly parents and grandparents, including acting as caregivers, and generally live the digital nomad lifestyle.

Employees have traveled all of the world, including destinations such as Turkey, Brazil, France, Finland, and Uruguay. The company shares employees’ stories about their experiences on LinkedIn and through an internal documentary series, Digital by Design.

Mullins calls Shopify’s embracement of remote work “forward-thinking,” and the company is certainly on-trend. Not only is TikTok full of videos of people showcasing how they work from anywhere, but a recent study by Microsoft found that 80% of employees said they were just as or even more productive since going remote.

That same study noted that as people experience the upsides of flexible work, companies must meet employees where they are. It includes hybrid work models, too—a framework that is up 7%, year-over-year, according to Microsoft’s research.

If people are not currently a part of a flexible work environment, more often than not, they are considering changing to a job that offers it. The study showed that 52% of people are thinking of switching to a full-time remote or hybrid job this year, opening the doors for an influx of resumes to companies like Spotify, Lyft, Twitter, Hubspot, and Coinbase, all of which have announced permanent remote and hybrid work options. In fact, CNBC reported that Spotify has offered to pay for a local coworking membership if an employee relocates to an area with no Spotify office and, of course, wants an office space.

The remote and hybrid work setup has another benefit that today’s employees crave: balance when it comes to mental health and wellness. Employees can more easily pop to their gym in the middle of the day, noting a swimming emoji on Slack, or take time to celebrate a child’s last day of school with a pizza lunch before heading back to a desk.

WorkSpaces by Hilton blends remote desks with hotel amenities for a day that may start with coffee in the lobby and video conferences in a distraction-free office then end with a dip in the rooftop pool.
Courtesy of Hilton

Employees are also finding that vacations are more manageable with digital-only work, and hospitality companies like Hilton have responded by enticing people to log in from their hotels and resorts. Matt Schuyler, chief brand officer at Hilton, says that Hilton saw a 30% increase in guests booking extended stay rooms in 2021.

“[People] realized they could jet to a beach during the winter and maintain the same virtual background,” Schuyler says. “This strengthened a segment of customer travel beyond the traditional corporate travel schedule, blending weekdays and weekends into what’s more widely known today as a ‘workcation.’”

Schuyler explains that the work-plus-vacation setup was reinforced by their global travel survey, which found that 40% of Americans would consider their summer a success if they spent a workday in a beach chair instead of an office chair, and 81% wanted a successful workday to end by the pool or beach. As guests look to integrate fun into the 9-to-5, Hilton rolled out creative, on-property solutions and experiences.

Hilton now offers a variety of amenities to what Schuyler called “bleisure” guests: beach palapas outfitted with charging stations and laptop cooling pads; dedicated office spaces with standing desks so guests don’t have to see their work in their suites; Wi-Fi-blocking jackets for guests who want to unplug completely; digital detox morning routines that help guests disconnect and focus on health and wellness before the workday begins; zero-proof cocktail menus for sips while on Zoom meetings; and extended stay deals that include up to a week free.

Schuyler says that Hilton has also responded in more subtle ways, by incorporating design details that promote relaxation, renewed energy, and focus. For example, a property’s private office space may include a terrace for natural light during breaks from a computer screen and many properties are incorporating healthier food options, including the use of local and seasonal ingredients, on restaurant menus.

Travelers are looking for experiences that cater to their holistic well-being in more ways than one,” Schuyler says, noting the company’s offering for non-guests too: WorkSpaces by Hilton.

WorkSpaces by Hilton, launched in 2020, is a work-from-hotel day-rate for individuals seeking private office space near their home or other extended stay. It blends remote desks with hotel amenities for a day that may start with coffee in the lobby and video conferences in a distraction-free office then end with a dip in the rooftop pool and beers from the in-house brewery.

According to Schuyler, the offering brings in entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even employees of larger companies, some of which work from home and want to get out of the house for a day. (Say, possibly those with children.) As more companies have reevaluated hybrid and remote work options, he has seen a broader scope of travelers using WorkSpaces.

A recent Microsoft study found that 80% of employees said they were just as or even more productive since going remote.
Courtesy of Hilton

The personal benefit could be great for employees who take advantage of the ability to work from anywhere. Mullins says that the different work environments encourage employees to “get energized and show up to work with that inspiration,” and Schuyler notes that workcations also allow individuals to get to know local communities and engage in volunteer opportunities. This leads to more well-rounded and diverse perspectives.

It offers room for employees to partake in organizations like Venture With Impact, a four-week co-working retreat that incorporates time for remote work at a current job with skills-based volunteer projects in destinations such as Chiang Mai, Thailand; Medellin, Colombia; and New Orleans, La.; or Remote Year, a work-and-travel platform that facilitates trips around the world from one week to one year, with a strong give-back component.

As Mullins says of travel for her colleagues at Shopify: “We want people to broaden their horizons in all ways and this includes exploring different corners of the globe. We believe these opportunities are important for our people to gain fresh perspectives, stay engaged, and do their best work.”

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