COVID-19

Valley companies pursue pandemic-related flex work

Many organizations sticking with remote work

Posted 5/28/22

When the COVID-19 pandemic entered the U.S. in March 2020, companies closed their offices and shifted to remote work for what many thought would be a few short weeks. Two years later, many Americans are still working from home and the way companies do business has been changed forever.

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COVID-19

Valley companies pursue pandemic-related flex work

Many organizations sticking with remote work

Axon, based in Scottsdale, is building a new headquarters in the Valley with some pandemic-caused changes in mind.
Axon, based in Scottsdale, is building a new headquarters in the Valley with some pandemic-caused changes in mind.
Arianna Grainey/Independent Newsmedia
Posted

When the COVID-19 pandemic entered the U.S. in March 2020, companies closed their offices and shifted to remote work for what many thought would be a few short weeks.

Two years later, many Americans are still working from home and the way companies do business has been changed forever.

As a result, many organizations are making permanent changes to keep the workforce happy and make sure business stays booming.

A McKinsey & Co. study on post-pandemic work showed that 20% to 25% of workforces could work from home between three and five days a week without interrupting business. Recent research from Microsoft, which surveyed 31,102 workers around the world between January and February, found 52% of people are thinking of switching to a full-time remote or hybrid job this year, just as more businesses announce return-to-office requirements.

Those sentiments are alive and well in the Valley.

Honeywell, which has its aerospace business based in Northwest Phoenix, is making a permanent policy change based on a survey of its 34,000 employees. Approximately 5,700 of those employees are based in the Valley.

The result was a veer toward flex work and whatever makes sense for an individual employee. Honeywell workers can choose between a hybrid work schedule with days in the office and at home, flexible hours and even job sharing between multiple employees looking for a part-time schedule.

“We thought it was particularly important to have a menu of options available to them that will best fit their needs and of course, the needs of their part of the business,” said Cheya Dunlap, chief inclusion and diversity officer, who, like many employees, started working for Honeywell from home. “One of the things that we found is that flexibility was the key word. [Employees] wanted to have flexibility to meet their personal needs, while at the same time, obviously delivering for the company.”

The now-annual survey was introduced last year at Honeywell for he company to better be in tune to what employees were feeling as they worked from home. For now, Dunlap said the policy change is for U.S. employees only, but the company is trying to do right by all its workers, no matter where they live.

“We’re looking at doing something similar where we’re able to outside of the U.S.,” she said. “I think the other thing that we’ve been really focused on is around, you know, we’ll be in mental health programs as well. That’s been another area of obviously, the pandemic has impacted, you know, our employees and that’s across the country, right in different ways. And so just trying to make sure that we stay connected to our employees and what, what they need the most in that regard as well.

Dunlap said employees are “energized” by the new options, which will only make it easier for Honeywell to fill its open positions. The Phoenix hub is actively looking to hire 500 people.

“We absolutely think this is going to make us even more competitive for new employees coming into Honeywell and so we’re hoping that it gives us a competitive advantage,” she said. “Given that we have so many other things, I think that really rounds out the value.”

Office space?

The pandemic also shifted the thinking around corporate office space now that a large chunk of the country’s workforce doesn’t go in regularly.

A survey conducted by McKinsey of more than 270 executives in August 2020 found that the average company planned to reduce office space by 30% as a result of the pandemic.

But Scottsdale-based Axon currently is building a new headquarters in Scottsdale, undeterred by its current remote-first policy. Instead, the pandemic is encouraging Axon to rethink its design to fit the needs and wants of employees and clients.

“The rate that we’re growing, it probably makes sense to keep [the office] at this point in time specifically so that we can support those in-person engagements,” said Elizabeth Hart, senior vice president of people. “We are currently getting ready to break ground here in Scottsdale on our new headquarters and the way that we originally were thinking about that space has shifted during the pandemic. Our office setup, it’s going to be more hotel style, having no assigned seats. And then I would say the space in and of itself, because we put on a lot of these large events in general either for police management or for our clients, we’re taking an approach where we’re thinking about it as being that big event space, that attractor.”

With offices in Seattle, Charlotte and abroad in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, Vietnam and Finland, each workforce is different. But of Axon’s 2,400 full-time employees, more than 1,900 of them call Scottsdale home.

Hart said the pandemic has been a “blessing” for the company, whose mission is to make the bullet obsolete and reduce officer-involved shootings by 50%. Axon’s body cameras are used by police forces across the country.

“I think actually the pandemic was really a blessing for thinking about remote workers more,” she said. “It totally shifted our mindset to the point where we opened up hiring across all regions of geography, so now we are remote first for front office employees. That doesn’t mean that they’re not allowed to come in. They can come in. No one’s required to come in at all with the exception of those that are working in manufacturing.”

Being able to hire people no matter where they live has helped Axon grow at a remarkable pace, according to Hart, while still maintaining a connection with those working virtually. CEO Rick Smith plays Fortnite with employees and conducts “ask me anything” sessions, which she said has been “critical” to the company’s success with remote work.

That success, like Honeywell’s, will only make it easier for Axon to continue hiring and maintain the growth they’ve been seeing over the last several years.

“We have goals to hire more than 1,200 new employees this year but we’re already over 50% of that goal right now,” said Hart. “It’s a really exciting time, especially as you see a lot of tech companies being impacted by the market right now. Axon continues to blow out its revenue numbers, its earnings numbers, we have zero debt. We’re in this great place where we’re able to attract some amazing talent given what’s happening in the market.”

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