Zillow's CPO: Flexible Work Policy Won Over Employees

In July 2020, Zillow told its employees that the company was introducing a flexible work-from-home policy. Effective immediately, the online real estate marketplace (recently named to the TIME 100 Most Influential Companies list) would offer about 90% of its ~6,000 employees the flexibility to work from home as an ongoing option, at least part-time, allowing them the ability to work where they are most productive, whether that is in the office, their home, or a combination of both.

A bold move for a company–according to Dan Spaulding (Zillow’s chief people officer)–whose growth and culture were defined by in-person collaboration.

On the May 13, 2021 i4cp Next Practice Monthly call for senior HR executives, Spaulding shared what went into that decision, what challenges they needed to overcome, and the actions they’ve taken–and continue to refine. According to Spaulding, the reception from employees has been very positive and the impact on the business has as well. The firm reported 22% consolidated revenue growth in 2020 and enjoys a $35B market capitalization.   

So much was discussed with Spaulding and you can listen to the entire conversation above (stay for the lively Q&A). A few highlights include Zillow’s:  

Approach to ensure its people leaders embraced the new work models and didn’t fight to revert back to pre-pandemic ways of work.

  • They shifted all executive level positions to remote to help negate any pressure employees would feel to need to return to the office.
  • They’ve also put in place structure to create more workforce flexibility. For example, the company expects all of its workers (all employees are based in the United States) to be online collaborating to get work done Monday – Friday from 10am PT / 1pm ET and 2pm PT / 5pm ET. Otherwise, employees can work with their managers to determine the flexible work hours in a given day that it’s best for each person to get their own work done.

Decision to mandate COVID vaccinations for any employee who travels on business or uses a Zillow office.

According to data i4cp collected at the end of April 2021, only 5% of firms with at least 1,000 employees were either currently or planning to mandate all employees who return to the office to get a COVID-19 vaccination. But Zillow is one of those 5% who are.

  • To validate/track vaccination status, employees will upload a photo of their vaccination record in to their Workday system. Once the company confirms receipt and communicates the status, it will then delete that image from their system.

Communication strategy related to its flexible work strategy and policies.

  • It’s really critical to get data on your employee’s experience and sentiment, says Spaulding. So is clarity and transparency, both of which – according to Spaulding – are key to decrease chaos.
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