Reflecting on 13 months of working from home
It has been 13 months since Indeed’s leadership made the decision to move the entire workforce to a work-from-home model in order to protect employees from the spread of COVID-19.
In this episode of Here to Help, Chris was joined for a discussion by Indeed’s SVP of HR, Paul Wolfe, to reflect on the past year.
Chris and Paul, discuss the ways in which Indeed has adapted to change as a result of the pandemic and how this has affected Indeed’s employee benefits & the future of our office environment. Paul also shares his thoughts on leadership & vulnerability.
- Hi everyone, I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. And welcome to the next installment of Here to Help. This is our look at how indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID 19. Today is April 12th. We are on day 405 of global work from home. Today I am delighted to be joined by Paul Wolfe, Indeed's SVP of HR. Here to Help start a just over a year ago on April 3rd, 2020 when Paul and I sat down to have a conversation about COVID, it's potential impact and how Indeed was adapting to the unfolding crisis. Our aim at the time was to share what we had learned with other companies facing the same challenges in the hopes that it might be helpful to them. Just a month prior on March 3rd of 2020, we made the decision to move all 10,000 Indeed employees to remote work. We didn't know much at that stage. We didn't know it would lead to this ongoing series. And we certainly could not have imagined at the time that would be talking a year later and still working from home. So today for episode 46 of Here to Help, Paul and I will be looking back at 13 plus months of working together while staying apart. What Indeed is doing right now at this stage of the pandemic and what a return to office might look like. Paul, thank you so much for joining me.
- Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
- So before we dive in one quick caveat in a twist that I suppose is emblematic of working from home during quarantine. We have a new challenge today with Here to Help the next door neighbor which is right outside my window here. The home was demolished this weekend and today they're actually Jack hammering the slab foundation. So my apologies in advance if there's some extra noise today. So Paul, let's start off with the first question that I ever asked on Here to Help. When I asked you last year, how are you doing right now?
- Yeah, I went back and watched my answer last year, last night. I'm doing okay. Like, yeah, I didn't expect similarly to you. I didn't expect to be here at 13 plus months from now or from our last meeting. You know, I've settled into this is kind of this temporary holding space. You know, this isn't necessarily work from home. It's, we're still dealing with the pandemic. In some countries, vaccine rollout is going much more effectively than other countries. There's still fourth waves and surging in cases and deaths we're seeing across the US and certainly across the globe. And so, yeah, kind of still feel like we're hunkered down a bit. I miss seeing people, I made this comment to somebody a week or two ago, I meet with the same, and this is probably very similar for you, the same 20 or 30 people every single week. So for the last 50, 60 weeks, whatever it's been, I've seen the same people, which is great. It's good to see people, but I've started and I think you've done the same, I've started to do these random meetings with other employees. 'Cause I would see them in an office and being an introvert, I think everybody assumes this is like utopia, it's not. I like the random hallway conversation and the person who I haven't seen for three or four years if I'm in a different office than New York or even when I'm in New York and people are traveling. And so I think that's the, just figuring out a way to tap into that in this virtual way. But you know, it's good. We adopted a new puppy a week ago. So the dogs and the puppy are all getting along. That's keeping us very busy right now but you know, I have not gotten COVID. I got my J and J vaccine almost four weeks ago. So there was a big feeling of relief when that shot one in my arm. I am ready to get on a plane for a vacation, not necessarily for work travel right now, but someplace warm. But you know you can't... You take it as it comes and it's been a fine 13 months.
- Well, we have a lot that we could cover today but before we dive into to really what we're doing right now and looking to the future, we met last week to talk about this and given how much has happened since the last time, it feels helpful. It's almost as if this is the, you know the kickoff of season two of the Netflix show. And we'll start with the last season on Here to Help. Give a quick summary just of the last year to catch folks up of of all the things that have happened as briefly as possible.
- Yeah, absolutely. You know, in February of last year is when we went into crisis mode 'cause it started in impact our employees in APAC. And then we quickly realized it was a snowball. We made the decision March 3rd, as you said to have everybody work from home. We were one of the first big companies to do that. I think that was the right thing to do. I still on taking a very cautious approach to how we deal with this. I think we then moved out of crisis mode into, okay, we're going to be here for a bit. We didn't know how long. And so like what, you know, logistically, how do we work? How do we make this work? How do we care for our employees in the right way? So we made some benefits changes and things like that. And then we moved into, okay, we're going to be in you know, probably the summer of last year. It's like we're going to be in this for awhile the long haul. What are other things we need to do? How do we need to think about this from a management perspective, an HR perspective, a health perspective? And we've kind of settled in, we've done some work from home stipends. We've checked in with people. The simple question you asked me, how are you doing right now, or how are you doing today, is a very powerful question now, when you sit and you've listened to somebody's response I start all of my syncs off with that to hear how my team is doing. And sometimes we take the hour and just talk about what's going on. And sometimes we take 10 or 15 minutes and then we get into kind of business stuff. I think leaders have changed, we've certainly changed as a company. We turned the corner into last year coming up to 2021. And we told her employees about in-office and Flex which is our hybrid model and remote and how we categorize jobs into those to give them a sense of how we were thinking. And then in, you know, two and a half weeks we'll talk about the clear definitions of those. So they can start to think about what they're going to want to choose once they come back to offices. And then I think if you think longer term I think people are going to make choices and there, you and I have talked about this, probably change their choices once they settle in truly to the next normal that groove. And I don't think that probably happens till mid 2022. So we still have a decent runway of dealing with some maybe not the pandemic per se, but this new kind of the next normal way of working.
- Yeah, I think it's an interesting observation and note about asking how people are. It's the most common thing that we've probably said walking into an office for, you know, decades of, hey, how are you today? How are you? Oh, I'm fine, is usually the answer. And it's so interesting that that has become a real meaningful conversation. And of all the things that I hope we carry over, I hope the, how are you doing today, actually carries a little more weight in the future when we get back together and it doesn't just become a, oh, everything's fine. I think we've learned a lot more about each other during this process.
- Absolutely, it used to be like you said, this perfunctory thing. Okay, so the nicety that you did on a Monday morning and you asked about the weekend, or whatever the case would be. And now I think the thing it's taught me is, and this is a little bit you know, work in life is now all one thing now there's not really a line. And you've got to stop and appreciate the conversations you have and appreciate the people around you. And you stop, and you ask the question and you... And not that we were being rude or inhumane or anything by any stretch, but you know, you just got into this paradigm of working and it just became like a nicety. You stop and you listen. And if somebody does have something going on, you can sit and have a conversation about it. Which is what we should have been doing all along. And there's this, I don't know, I think about like, there's more of this humanness in the world, empathy in the world to some extent. And then you know, in the US we've got an extreme because there's still, you know, divide from a political perspective. But I do think this pandemic has brought some of this just treating each other like human beings to understand that we're all very, you know, complex, fragile beings that are very different and sitting and just asking a simple question can be a really meaningful conversation on both sides of that question.
- Yeah, it is ironic that separation is somehow creating more meaningful connections in some ways. And certainly the view of a whole person, I think, you know, we have this window, your dogs run in and out of your Zooms and people have kids running in and out of rooms and you see dirty laundry and houses next door getting knocked down. And so, yeah, it has actually been an interest. So I think this leads into the next question for me. You have spent your entire career as an HR leader. How in the last year has your understanding of what that job looks like and what it means? How has that changed over the course of the pandemic? I'd imagine there hasn't been another time that you could look at in your career where you've had as much of an opportunity to think about that role and the perspective on it.
- Yeah, absolutely. I think it's, you know, there are parts of that are still very much the same that the tactical pieces of it, but there's this whole new world for me. And I think way of thinking. And it's funny, I think it was, it may have been before the first Here to Help, you and I had a sync. And it may have been even before we went to work from home and you know, health and safety has always been part of my job, but you asked the question like, how are you feeling now that you've got responsibility for 10,000 employees, health and safety? And that's when I think it really like, that hit me. And it's not that it wasn't important before, but you saying it out loud kind of hit me and I'm like, oh, crap. But then you really think about it, it's like everybody is different. And, you know, we've spent a year now working with a medical advisor who, I think that was one of the best decisions we made you know, none of us here are doctors. There is so much, you know, we're a data driven, you know being data driven is one of our company values. And there's so little data in some cases here in making a decision, especially early on, even now there's still big lacks of good data that can get you to kind of a decent end result. And just spending time with him and not reacting to what you see in the press and a public setting or public forums but listening to somebody who has, you know, been through maybe not this type of pandemic before but then through health crisis before, and having him help us navigate how we make decisions and how we think about it and kind of what our thresholds should be for different things, has been extraordinarily possible. I, you know, honestly in the last 21 years that I've been doing this, I've never spent time with a medical director before. So that's, and you just think about it differently. And you think about things as simple as in the US, we have a self-insured medical plan. So luckily we can make whatever changes we want. Early on, we had some employees in the US who are about to give birth. This is right after we went to work from home and they didn't feel comfortable going to hospitals which I completely understand. And so we made some subtle changes to allow certified midwives to be covered under our plan to allow them to give birth at home with somebody who was certified to help them through that process. They didn't have the additional anxiety and stress having to go in a hospital and be concerned about their health, their baby, the newborn's health, and things like that. And so I just think it probably deepens, for me it's deepened the look at the job that I have before. Benefits were part of the job, thinking about health and safety as part of the job. And I just think, you know, it goes back to, and not that I didn't think employees were human, but I kind of changed the way I think about them. You know, used to be employees and yes, they're all humans. Now the approach for me has been, we're all human beings. We all happen to be employees of this amazing company. And that's what connects us. We're all here for the same reason. But we've all got, and this gets a little bit into intersectionality. And we usually talk about that in the DIB, the diversity inclusion and belonging space, but they're all, you mentioned it, my dogs will pop up here. My puppy was just on camera a few minutes ago before we went live, 'cause people want to see her. You've got the house next door being, you know, the slab being torn up. We've had the leaf blower in the background. We've had kids, I met a grandfather a couple of weeks ago of an Indian who I was talking to. And so, you know, we all have... The Zoom windows have given us a look into people's lives. And I think that's been reaffirming for me. And I think it sounds weird sometimes, or at least I need to get past the fact that it sounds weird, as an HR leader, I'm talking about everyone as a human being 'cause you would think that that's how we were in it. You know, we were, but it's a different, I think it's like I've put a different set of glasses on and that's how I look at my job and the world in general now. Yeah, there are plenty of things that I've, you know, had to do in the last 13 plus months that I'd never done before my career, hopefully never do again. Tracking who has COVID as employees told us, making sure that we were, you know, checking in on them and letting them understand all the resources that we have that can help support them. Luckily, we did not lose an employee because of COVID. We had employees that got sick, but nobody, you know, thankful Lord, no one passed away from COVID. So that's great. But I just think it's, I look at it now as I just have a different set of glasses on and I just think differently about my role. Yeah, I think that's my answer to that question.
- No, and yeah, and I think it's really interesting you know, first of all, to note that a lot of these things that we're dealing with right now the tech industry, and a lot of businesses dealing with for the first time, but it's not new to business. So anyone who works in factory or warehouse business or the medical field, those leaders are thinking about the health and safety of their employees every single day and have been forever. So I think it's been an interesting awakening for the rest of us because so we all through medical benefits and through supporting employees through challenging times, we've always been there for them. But what you mentioned, I had never... I think the conversation I had with you was probably the day after I spent a night in a curled up in a fetal position on the couch myself, you know, when people have asked, what's the most difficult, that's the single most challenging part of all of this for me. And honestly, at any moment in my career was in February. When we saw this thing unfolding, we saw how quickly from the travel data that, you know before anyone knew the phrase contact tracing, we were doing our own contact tracing with WiFi data and badge swipes to see where people had gone. And it just felt like it was out of our control. And the idea that we weren't just responsible for helping employees in their lives through health insurance and giving them the flexibility they needed to deal with their personal lives, but that we were responsible for and could be in a position to actually hurt them from a health perspective. That was a completely new experience for me and I have a new found respect for those people who've worked in fields where that's their day to day job. I have a friend who's a spine surgeon who, you know, I talk to him and I have a bad day and, you know it looks one way, and he has a bad day and someone's life is impacted. And it's a very different situation I think, that we've all found ourselves in.
- Yeah, absolutely. I also think that there's more community feel to me in this company and you don't, you know, it's about support there's the support system here. You know, everybody, you know has friends at work and you rely on them. And I think we've relied on people in different ways this year, which I think to your point earlier, like we're separated, but I think in some ways we've become closer and know more about each other because of this pandemic. Which again I hope all of that stuff we pull through to the other side once this is all over. Because yeah, it'll be a better world, certainly a better world within the four, you know, proverbial walls of Indeed.
- So you mentioned briefly in the question before about benefits, can you talk a little bit about, I know that's one of the big areas that we've been doing a lot of thinking and what are some of the changes that we've made and how do you think that the idea of benefits evolves over time as a result of this?
- Yeah, absolutely. You know mental health is probably the biggest thing that we've done and we saw it's been a conversation for the last few years in general. You hear from employees in the HR space. And I think the pandemic like shone a big spotlight or shined a big spotlight on it. It's tough you know, and again, early on it's, there's a pandemic, there's economic uncertainty in the US. We had racial unrest and there are all these things coming at you while you're trying to work from home during all of this. So it's not a normal, I didn't choose this, I was forced into this. And there's a difference there. And so I think, you know, early on we made some changes and pivoted money from other places in our benefits line to enhance mental health and give people virtual connections to therapist and psychiatrist and psychologist, and just people that can help them deal with whatever is going on. And we always had our employee EAP program. And, you know, I make the comment, it's a relatively inexpensive benefit that you don't know about until you really need it. Like God forbid something awful happens in your life, or you know, you just need to get a course correction. You go to somebody in HR and they point you to this, the employee assistance program. I probably am a bigger advocate than most people because my mom was killed 28 years ago in a car accident. I worked for American Express at the time, and my boss said you need to like talk to HR. My HR business partner connected me. And I saw a psychologist for two years after that to help me through that, I was 25 years old. So it is, you know, a little bit of a post-trauma and I talk to people about it all the time. So we really took that and like, let's enhance the heck out of it so that globally we can support our employees while we're all being virtual. Like, you don't want to wait til you can do something in person. And we found a great vendor that can support all the languages we need and has a nice global footprint. I think that's the most meaningful thing that we've done. And I think that would have come anyway. There are a couple of things in the HR space, in the employee experience space that I think the pandemic kind of put an urgency around, which I think are good. I think, you know, supporting people, you've got to support the whole person not just the employee. You know, we talk about financial health and financial well-being with 401k and budgeting and classes through fidelity or whatever vendor you may have. This is really about like, let's support everything. You know, you can still go to the doctor and get your physical every year. Or if you're sick you can go to the doctor, but you can also check in with a therapist and make sure you're being the best person you can be from all perspectives. I made a comment earlier about the midwife benefit we added to, or the midwife allowance we added to our US benefits for pregnancy, you know, just things like that, and now we're talking to our global benefits broker about vaccines and what that looks like. We're not at the stage where we can procure them ourselves 'cause we still have countries that are working through that procurement process. But we're hoping over time, especially where we've got big employee populations, Austin, Dublin, New York, and Stanford, Tokyo that we could host vaccine clinics if we need to. And certainly thinking about that longer term I do think if you dial forward two or three years, this becomes something like a flu shot and we already do that for our employees globally. And so that'll just be part of our offering. Thinking about what governments and health departments are doing for countries, and we've been more tapped into that just looking at what's going on. It's interesting how differently countries have dealt with it, even now, where we got, you know Singapore and Australia who have been for us in a very low category for a long time and how their governments are reacting differently at what restrictions one has the other, one doesn't and how those change weekly. So just being more tapped into that as well. And then thinking about, you know sometimes would benefit to you as the 80-20 rule. Like how can I make changes that impact the biggest population? And I think that's important. But then you think about how can I make simple changes that impact a small population that are really meaningful to them. And there's the, you know this midwife benefit hopefully is one of those. You know at the beginning of 2020 we made a change to our transgender benefits in the US that was very impactful to that population. And so I think more holistically now about benefits. It's not just about, you know, what's going to get the biggest bang for the buck, and that's important because we want to spend our money wisely but everybody is different. And I keep coming back to that. And I think my answers will all have some sense of this statement in everyone is different. Even though we may, you know, you and I look the same on camera, we're two white guys. I won't say, what age range we're in to protect us all that we are two months apart. But your childhood was very different than mine. And you know, how you got to where you are and how I got to where I am and you take anybody, and you've got that even if they don't look alike. And so I think that's the thing that sticks with me is, we are never going to be able to do everything for everybody at least from an HR perspective. But how do we create transparency? 'Cause I think that, I was a believer in transparency before, but a bigger believer in it now. You know, here's the data or lack of data. Here's, you know, that helped me get to this decision. Here's why I made this decision. And I think even though people may not agree with it they're going to have a better understanding certainly for it and maybe a deeper acceptance of it. And I think that's how I think about benefits now is, what do we need to be doing? And I do think it is, you know, I pop into Slack channels every once in a while if I see a benefits question I'm usually not the best person to answer it because I will, you know, misquote something. But I always ping somebody on the benefits team and say, "Here's a link to this Slack conversations going on "I think if we fill in some information "there are going to be okay. "Can you jump in there?" And the benefits team has been great about doing that. So it's more about education, and benefits education has always been a challenging thing because you don't know about them until you need them or you don't ask about them until you need them usually. That's how benefits work. And so how do we better do a better job of helping people understand that there are all these things out there and really just reach out and ask the question rather than trying to find information on their own, I think is another way we're starting to think and act differently.
- Yeah, I think that's a really meaningful observation about the things that are simple to do that impacts smaller populations. 'Cause we have as a business, you know I'll say we do focus on what are the levers that are going to have the biggest impact on the most people but the collection of small things. This just came up last week so we do these weekly all hands Q and A's with the entire company over Zoom. And someone asked a question about the recent announcement in New Zealand where they signed into law bereavement benefits for people who had suffered a miscarriage. And it turned out that that was something that we could do. And we might've even come up before, and just while we were slacking each other in the middle of the Q and A, the benefits team decided to go ahead and make sure to put that into writing that our bereavement benefits would cover a miscarriage. That was such an easy thing to just clarify. And, you know, God forbid for anyone that might need that that actually would be a really meaningful thing. And so I do think that that's a big shift in terms of really focusing on the things that are most meaningful to people. Something that you had said earlier, and I think maybe even in the intro about the line between work and home blurring. I remember someone saying pretty early on in the pandemic that it didn't feel like we were working from home, it felt more like living at work. And so there is this sort of change to how we think about our relationship with work. And so can you talk a little bit about collectively what that relationship looks like?
- Yeah, it's a great question. You know, I've in the past I think, I've talked about technology blurring the line between work and life for a long time now. And I think I said earlier, the line's gone now. Like, you know, my bedroom is probably 60 feet from my office and I have the luxury of having a room in my house where I can close the door. Occasionally I'll leave it open cause the dogs pop in but you know, and not everybody has that. So I think thinking about it like that, the equalizer is we're all zooming in. We all look like the Brady bunch boxes here on screen but that's where kind of the equality stops. And I think you have to think about it differently. And so this is where, especially with leaders thinking about an employee's body of work versus daily tasks, you know, there's a change there understanding that, you know, parents has been a big challenge for us. We've had some schools that have gone virtual. Early on day cares and schools were closed, now we've got a random mix depending on what city or State or country you're in about hybrid school at home, virtual school or, you know some schools have been back full-time for awhile now. And just thinking about how even, you know you can say, okay, parents are all the same but they're really not 'cause I may be parents of a one-year-old or parents of an eight year old or parents of the 13 year old, or parents of a 21 year old. And all of those needs are very different. And so, you know, that goes back to managers thinking about the body of work. If I've got a five or six year old, you know, they may be you good on Zoom in a class for 30 minutes and I've got to check in on them and make sure things are going well. So I made the, you know, more breaks during my day to keep them on track and check in with them or check homework or whatever the case may be, versus, you know, somebody who's got a teenager who I'm going to check in with you at the end of the day maybe and take a couple hours out to spend some time and wrap up the day and then you'll see me online later. So I think there's that that is different and will be different especially with a more distributed workforce. I know that, you know, pre pandemic 95% of our employees came into an office every year, most, every single day. And you know, if I was a leader lucky enough to have my team all in one place in front of me it's very easy to see what was going on and you got lulled into, you know butts in seats equals productivity and good work. And, you know, I think when you step back from that that's not necessarily the case. And it's, I think flexibility is a key and being mindful about what each employee's needs are is really going to get the best productivity and the best engagement and the best loyalty out of that. And I think that's not new information, but I think again, the pandemic has like put a bright spotlight on that. And I think it's a slight pivot in how we think about employees. I think for employees and I've said with this, and I've said it in Q and A's and I've said it, my weekly emails, like I put breaks in my calendar to make sure that I can get up from this desk and stop looking at this camera for some period during the day, try and get outside. It's getting better now in New York to get outside 'cause it's getting a little bit warmer. Winter is officially over, I think hopefully now that I've said that we're going to have snow next week or something but, spend time with the dogs spend, you know, I have lunch every day with my husband. I have dinner every night with my husband even though I may be jumping back online for an APAC meeting or a Q and A that's in the evening. And so I just manage, you know I make sure that even though the day work may happen at different points of the day that it didn't necessarily used to that I've also taking breaks and making sure that I'm not working 16 or 18 hours a day. That I'm still doing good work and making sure I'm smart about what I do and when I work and then I'm tapping into it but I'm also taking breaks during the day. I took a 20 minute nap the other day because as the week goes on, I get tired or I'm tired or I think it's just a fact of age. I think it was last Thursday. I had an hour break. I had lunch quickly and I took a 20 minute nap. And like for me, a 20 minute nap is very helpful. I powered through the afternoon. I guess I could have done that in the office but I think it would be weird if I like went in the wellness room and told my team I was taking a 20 minute nap. So I think there are things that are just more acceptable now and we have to get comfortable as we move into truly the next normal that people need. You know, I have philosophically said this all along in my HR career is, I believe in treating people like adults. And so if you're clear with okay hours and objectives and timelines and what needs to happen, I'm going to manage those. And if a 20 minute nap in the middle of the day is going to help you be more productive and engaged that afternoon, more power to you. And that works for me. You know, I report to you, I don't know if I told you that before but there are days where I take a 20 minute nap. Full disclosure now in front of all these people. But I think that's the important thing from the employee side is, you've got to build some boundaries around it 'cause I can see this being a really bad thing where it's like, you know, you're in front of the screen all day and you're still working. The other thing I've noticed that I've asked people is everything right now is a meeting, whereas before it would have been a hallway conversation or somebody would have popped over my desk. And I'm very mindful about that. And I ask people like, do we need to do this 30 minute meeting or is this an email? Can we handle these questions in email? Or could you throw them in a word doc and I'll go in and put my answers to not later tonight and then, you know trying to get off camera 'cause Zoom fatigue is a real thing. Like playing to this camera is tiring. And you know if you get a bunch of back-to-back meetings for me it saps the energy out of me. And so trying to break that up as well, but I've gotten better over the last 13 months about putting some boundaries around things. And I think we all as human beings need to do that. And I think managers need to understand that that's okay as long as the work is still getting done in the right way and thinking about it from an OKR goal and objective perspective, versus what happens each day.
- The experience over the last year, you talked about very upfront has been not just adapting to working from home or not just adapting to work from home during a global pandemic and a global recession. There's also been incredible societal challenges and in particular, one of the things that we've seen very clearly through the pandemic is the inequities that exist and the people that are in the most vulnerable positions and at the margins have been the hardest hit. And issues that many people have been aware of suddenly have come to the forefront and it's very difficult to, to not see much more clearly, I think for a lot of people, the different outcomes from a health perspective for black and Latin X folks compared to white Americans. Or the economic differences, the amount of job losses that have happened for black and Latin X community. How has your thinking, you know, obviously inclusion and belonging has been an important part of HR and certainly has been something that you've really focused on at Indeed over the last several years. How has this experience changed? How you think about inclusion and belonging and the role of what a company can do to help support?
- Yeah, I think, you know, it's been important for a long time and there's still a ton of work to do. And I think it just this whole pandemic has reaffirmed why it's important and you look at it. And I think sometimes we gloss over these things and you don't really dig into them. And you've seen, you know, kind of Wall Street Journal articles and New York Times articles and Harvard Business Review cases and research on the inequities just in vaccine rollout. You know, in the States you've seen you know, governors and mayors play to wealthier zip codes and set up specific vaccine locations for them. That's no, you got to think about equality and being equitable here. This is, you know, somebody's life could depend on the vaccine and how do you work to do that? And that's why we partnered with our global benefits broker to think about this longer term. Just like we bring in flu vaccines to our employees around the globe every year, we want to do that if this is an ongoing booster shot like let's do that and take some of that equality or that inequality out of things. The thing that's been remarkable to me is and maybe that's not a fair way, but I hadn't seen our inclusion resource groups were amazing before this. How they have leaned in to support each other has been truly amazing and emotional at times to watch these groups come together. And I think if you think about that, that includes allies. It's not just folks that are that identify with Ipride or our Black Inclusion Group Big, or a Latin X group, but it is people that support and want to, you know deal with, have the uncomfortable conversations and deal with the inequities. And these groups that have come together to support each other. I just look at, you know, the I Pride hosted Steven Canals, who's the Creator and Executive Producer of Pose on FX that focuses on transgender and in the 80s and 90s. The transgender population and the AIDS epidemic, which I was a teenager for and the groups how they came together and supported that. And they listened to it. And I think that gets to education and understanding. And I always say, if you ask questions to seek to understand that may change your perspective on things. And I think that is the beauty of all of this, but we've got to, again, this is one of these amazing things that's come out of this that we now need to take in. Okay, how do we put this into regular practice so that we're thinking about this and supporting underrepresented groups or marginalized groups all the time in the right way. And I was talking with LeFon, who's our group Vice President of ESG a couple of weeks ago about a situation. And I said, you know, there were allies in that meeting and none of them acted like allies in that meeting because said anything. And it's uncomfortable but I think part of this is coming together in realizing that it's going to be uncomfortable but we're all here to support each other in the right way and help educate each other. And we need to do, you know, some of our education on our own, but then asking questions from an educated perspective are really important. Certainly we saw a lot of that with, you know unfortunately the George Floyd murder back at the end of May of last year in the US, and now we've got the Derrick Shovan trial going on and there are still conversations happening around that. And I see people, you know, doing their homework and becoming, trying to educate themselves as much as possible before going in and asking a group that's already taxed from an emotional perspective questions where they haven't done the research themselves and now you see more meaningful conversations happen. And I think that's, you know, continuing that this you know, cocoon that that's all started and how we keep that at the forefront of everything that we do going forward is to me, one of the most meaningful things that could come out of all of this and supporting each other on the right way. And you know, having uncomfortable conversations there were some of those that happened. You know we have a contentious presidential election last fall here in the US that divided the country greatly. I still think there's a fair amount of division, divided families greatly, divided friends greatly. And, you know, it's interesting to me how people have labeled oh, you're a Democrat, or you're a Republican but that doesn't make you a bad person. You may just have different philosophical beliefs. And I think, you know, some of this is just having those conversations and getting people comfortable with the uncomfortable which I've seen some glimmers of light and hope that we need to figure out how to nurture and continue through once the pandemic is over.
- We could talk about this all day long. I do want to get a little bit to looking ahead to the future and really maybe just talk a little bit about how we're planning as an organization for returning to the office and what we think that might look like.
- Yeah, there's a lot of work that's going on, I mentioned back in October, we talked about or we told our employees about in-office roles, flex roles, the hybrid model and then remote. We're finalizing those definitions, and we'll get that information out at the end of April. And we're starting to think about what perks or perks allowance may look like by category, which I think is important. Again, this goes back to one of the driving principles or overarching principles of this is flexibility. And I think, you know, this whole last 13 months has proven the fact that flexibility is really important. Everybody is different, at least for me, that's how I think about it. So we're trying to weave that into all these decisions that we make and providing people the ability to make choices for themselves. You know, the in-office experience, I think there's a lot still to learn, you and I have talked about this in some weekly syncs where we're going to come back and we've used September the seventh as a global date. I think that date is going to potentially change by country depending on what's going on with vaccine roll-outs, what's going on with infrastructure. Where their numbers are from a COVID perspective hopefully by then, you know, vaccine roll outs will be on the way. But we have some countries where we have employees where the governments are just starting to procure vaccines. Some countries where it's still age 75 and older. The US has made some headway in the last few months with, I think over the weekend we had four and a half million people vaccinated in one day. And think I heard this morning, half the population that has wanted a vaccine has at least one there. If it's a two dose vaccine has at least one vaccine that's been injected and they're on the path to get their second vaccine. And so I think we're going to start to look at it country by country and monitor it by country and look at vaccine rollout. Our medical advisory has been great about giving us a great dashboard that shows us vaccine rollout and some of the challenges and what's working and what's not by country that we have employees in. So that's been helpful. We'll lay that into the data that we have. We're going to go into, you know working in the office again with a more not everyone is going to have an assigned desk. They're probably going to be neighborhoods and groups of functions together to get work done. You know, we've allowed managers and employees basically to determine for flex or the hybrid of in-office and at home, you know are there a minimum number of days? What does that look like? Are there required days in the office? And again that goes to flexibility for each function and each leader to help determine that with their team. I do think we're going to see people choose remote out of the gate that may want to make changes early on. I don't think we get into this new normal or the next normal groove probably until mid next year. And I think they may make a change because they're going to see, oh, this chunk of my team decided to be flex. I do think as human beings we miss this social like, you know, we can be social on Zoom but it's different than being social in person or grabbing lunch together, grabbing lunch together or grabbing dinner together or just a random coffee together that you wouldn't normally get on Zoom unless you've kind of planned it that way. So I think we're going to go into coming back to work and trying to support our employees in the right way, see how they use the offices. You know, it's interesting. And I think it's a great thing now as we moved real estate out of finance, into the world of HR at the beginning of the year. And there were already a lot of kind of close touch points because we've had employee experience and facilities and HR for a long time in real estate and finance. So if we were building a new office there had to be a seamless handoff and we wanted to build the office in the way that we were going to use it. So there was already a strong connection, but now that it's all in one world, like that partnership is deeper and we're going to look at how employees use the space and then make some changes to how we think about office design, certainly with newer offices. So B and D tower in Austin, we had signed a lease pre-pandemic. It had been put on hold during the pandemic. We're going to pick that project back up now. And that may be one of our tests offices to look at, you know different configurations by floor and what works best. We'll do some heat mapping and grab some data from that and that help inform our decision. So I think from a true design and furniture and usage perspective, I think, that probably the next 18 to 24 months are going to be the most telling, what I don't want to do is run out and make a bunch of changes to the way the offices were set up not knowing how people are going to use them or what populations are going to choose in-office, you know, flex and remote. You know, I may be surprised I have, you know, the HR leadership team has some bets about percentages in those three categories. And we may be very wrong. Like there may be a big group that wants in-office and that will change our thinking about desks and how our offices are set up. So I think that's one where we want to use data because that's going to be the most meaningful information to us. Certainly we'll survey employees as we get back and, you know, maybe big conference rooms have seen their last days and maybe you know, we start to do something differently. The one really interesting thing that the real estate team has started to work on and they started this with their real estate incubator project they did at the beginning of the year is just modular building. And so being able to easily construct a neighborhood with conference rooms and communal space and desks in a short period of time, and then, you know, six months or 12 months down the road, or even two or three years down the road, if that doesn't work for us anymore, we can deconstruct that quickly. And we don't have to worry about, you know, the flooring and the carpet and electrical and things like that. I think this modular design is really interesting. Some of our furniture vendors and some of our, kind of general contractor vendors have started to think about this as well. And that'll be really interesting if that takes off. I think that makes flexibility for space much easier than it has been for a long time. And so I think there's a lot still to see as people fall into their new grooves in the next normal about what our space, how our space evolves over time. We're going to start doing some tests early on. I think it's exciting. I think it's, you know, we used to pre COVID, it was how do we keep up with growth and we still need to do that, but it was, you know, we'd get done building out a floor or two, leasing a couple of floors and then we'd have to go lease some more and it's kind of this vicious cycle. And I think it's also interesting that our construction team on the real estate team quickly pivoted to how do we think about our space and how do we reach out to vendors about, can we influence the way they're thinking about what they're going to... What products they are going to put into application down the road, which has been great as well. So there are a lot of great minds around this, certainly better and better than mine from a real estate perspective thinking about space and how we use it. But I think there's still a lot of data to collect there.
- Yeah, I think it's really interesting coming back again to that point about people are different and how can we support different needs and different styles. And one of the things that we have seen clearly throughout this experience is that for, you know take away the pandemic and the recession and all of the challenges that people are facing outside of just working from home and, you know, we've seen a couple of things. One thing is it actually is possible to be extremely productive as a 10,000 person global organization. We've had an incredibly productive year in the middle of all of this. A big part of it we've talked a lot about is we have a mission that's aligned with helping what people need right now so much. People need vaccines and they need jobs. And so we've all been oriented around being useful and being helpful. But I think the other thing that's really clear is that the remote work actually is great for some people and it's terrible for others. So for people who don't have a quiet and comfortable space to work at home, it's been a huge challenge just to, you know manage their kids running around or people still working at a kitchen table a year in, and being on Zoom meetings all day long. And for people who really thrive on interactions with people in this hallway conversations. And then there's other people, you know we've had for years who just want some peace and quiet to get some work done. And so I think there's a promise in here somewhere that we can actually create the best working environment for a much bigger group of people by embracing both. So I'm not one of those people who believes that the office is dead. I think the office is going to be... I think people are going to be just thrilled out of their minds to go back to being around people and to having lunch and to playing basketball or doing a yoga class together. And for other people, they're going to be really thrilled to be able to just work in an environment that's comfortable for them and to choose when they want to opt in and out. And so it's almost the same as that broader issue that we can create a better environment for more people by embracing the sort of the hybrid nature. We just don't know what that's going to look like until we dive into it.
- Well, I think that goes back to this focus of flexibility. You know, there's been a lot of press with large tech companies and what they're doing, and some of them have changed course a little bit. Some of them have gone virtual first, which I think is interesting as well but I don't know how, you know, for us we've got 10,000 people we're growing, you know, recruiting is back to kind of where it was pre-pandemic days. And, you know, you just don't know. And I think as much flexibility and everybody's different. Like, I love the fact that I don't have, a two hour round trip commute any longer. And then I can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Drew. I mean, he's not been traveling either. And so, you know, he'll go back to traveling at some point but at least I'm around more. But I do miss, you know... I'm happy to do the two hours because I miss the interaction. And so I'll figure out there that the hybrid model works for me. And I think everybody is going to make their own choice. I think your point about, you know, not everybody has the luxury of having a private space and they may be working at the dining room table or a kitchen counter, or there might be multi-generation... It may be in a multi-generational household or have roommates, and that's really tough. And so going into the office is going to be better for them. And maybe they can figure out, three days a week works and I can do these two days a week as my roommates are doing the same thing. I think companies are grappling with this. I do like our approach of let's get our offices open. Like I think that's important and let people make choices. And then let's figure out how we best support those choices and support them in the way that they want to work. I think that works best for us with our employee population rather than rushing. It's interesting in Q and A every week, you know a question comes up about flex, in-office or remote. And, you know I know people want the information to make their decisions and I respect that and we're going to give them that. But I also, we've said a lot of times, you've said this and I've said this, is we're not going to rush out, you know, three weeks into this and make a bunch of changes. We're going to collect data. We're going to ask for feedback. And then we're going to make really mindful choices that best support the way our employees want to work in the future.
- We're just out of time here. And I guess I'll wrap up the same way that I started by asking you the same last question that I asked in the last conversation, which is, on a personal level, what has happened over the last year that leaves you optimistic for the future? And in particular, is there anything different that you would say now than how you answered this last year?
- Yeah, I think my answer is different. I think humanity is something that, you know, I don't know that was lost in the world, but I think got maybe lost in the shuffle a little bit. I think there's still a humanity out there. I think empathy and humanity and vulnerability are things that I've seen over the last 12 or 13 months in ways that I've not seen, I had not seen before that. And I think that's important. I think the thing vulnerabilities is an interesting one that I've talked about this a fair amount with folks leaders at Indeed, and then just my group of HR leaders that we've got this group chat and we all pick on each other about like, have you had to deal with this yet? Or do you this and can I steal it from you? It's a good community of people that we share ideas a lot. And I don't know that, I think because we're all getting a glimpse into people's lives, I think it hopefully makes people a little bit more comfortable being vulnerable. But I think a vulnerable leader or a vulnerable person, and it's about transparency, it's not about disclosing something that you're not comfortable disclosing. But it's the transparency I just think, you know, we talk about transparency at work but if I have transparency as a human with friends hopefully that relationship is better and more meaningful. And I think that's one thing I hope that we can again, figure out how to nurture and grow throughout all of us. It's okay to be vulnerable because the end of the day and I've said this a couple of times now, we're all humans first. We're all very different people. Even though on the surface we may look the same or seem the same, or we've gone to the same school or whatever the sameness is, we're all very different when you start to peel away the layers of the onion or I always talk about chapters of a book. And all those chapters that what makes me, me and you, you and, you know, Joe Joe, or, you know LeFon, LeFon. And I think that's important. And I hope, you know, I've seen a lot of that from a lot of different people and that's been amazing. And I don't know that vulnerability is something I saw a lot, especially from leaders, a lot pre-pandemic, and you've seen it. There've been news reports about it. I've seen it personally. And I think that is amazing. And what in the world be a much better place if everybody started to think about empathy and humanity and vulnerability on a regular basis. And assuming positive intent before you judge somebody about a comment they make, or the fact that they may have their camera off. Access Indeed one of our IRGs did this great basically screensaver, like photo that says, I'm here, I just need a break from the camera. It's got some line on it. And I'm like, that's amazing, because then you're not asking, "Oh, hey Paul, are you there, because your camera's off?" 'Cause it's so natural for everyone to automatically turn their camera on. But there are days where I've used that or at meetings I've used that because I just like you know, I'm a head down I'm listening. I'm probably more intently listening to that conversation than I am when I'm on camera sometimes. And I think just subtle things like that are really powerful to people in different ways. And so I think, you know, I think that's what I'll leave it. Humanity, empathy and vulnerability are really important. They've always been really important. And I've seen acts of all of those through the last year and I hope they continue.
- Well, thank you so much for sharing all of that today. And thank you for your leadership and your partnership over the last 13 months. It's a remarkable experience to get to go through this with you. And I am incredibly proud of everything that we've done through this time and looking forward to seeing what happens with the next chapter. And certainly looking forward to the world getting to a place where everyone is and feels a little more safer and more secure. And thanks for everything that you do for everyone around the world, helping people get jobs.
- I appreciate being here. Thank you for the support. We couldn't have done it without you as our leader in getting through this. And so my team and I appreciate that as well.
- Thanks everyone for joining us today. We'll see you all next week.