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In August 2020 Australian tech company Atlassian took a decisive step in differentiating themselves as an employer of choice by introducing TEAM Anywhere, a distributed work policy giving their employees more control over where they live and work.

A month ago, Atlassian released data showing the impact of TEAM Anywhere.

From February 2021 to February 2022 almost half of Atlassian’s new hires globally (47%) are living and working two or more hours away from an Atlassian office.

  • More than 500 Australian employees (22%) now live outside of Sydney, up from just 7% when TEAM Anywhere was launched in August 2020.
  • Of more than 400 employees who moved to a new city, the most common relocations were out of Sydney to Melbourne, Gosford, and Wollongong. Those moving interstate most frequently went to Victoria or Queensland.
  • 10% of Australian employees live outside of major Australian cities, with the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast the most popular non-capital city destinations.
  • Almost 300 employees, globally, have moved to a new country

In the US, more than 10% of Atlassian employees have moved to a different US state since August 2020. Texas to California has been the most popular interstate move, with almost as many Atlassians headed in the other direction.

A total of 176 Atlassians left California for somewhere else in the US or overseas.

Atlassian’s total global workforce when TEAM Anywhere was launched was 5,491. As of the end of March 2022 Atlassian had added around 1900 employees to reach 7,388, a 35 per cent rise in 18 months.

Annie Dean, global head of TEAM Anywhere said of the initiative’s impact “Being able to hire outside of our office locations has unlocked a way for us to scale at a speed previously impossible while continuing to bring great diverse tech talent through our doors.” 

The impact on the ability to recruit and retain critical talent remains a critical differentiator for all companies, with even more at stake for tech companies.

Last week Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky sent an email to all employees introducing Live and work anywhere in which he outlined five key features.

  1. You can work from home or the office: the small number of employees who hold roles to which this does not apply have already been told
  2. You can move anywhere in the country you work in and your compensation won’t change: permanent international moves are much more complex, so are not able to be supported this year.
  3. You have the flexibility to travel and work around the world: starting in September, employees can live and work in over 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location however a permanent address is still needed for tax and payroll purposes.
  4. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings, off-sites, and social events: instead of spending a set number of days in the office together, the priority is for meaningful in-person gatherings that will happen throughout the year. From 2023 onwards the expectation is for in-person gatherings every quarter for about a week at a time. Some roles, especially senior roles, will be expected to gather more often.
  5. We’ll continue to work in a highly coordinated way: To pull off this level of flexibility, ample structure and coordination are required. Without it, things would become a free-for-all. The backbone of how the company operates will continue to be a single company calendar with a multi-year roadmap

Chesky summarised the change by introducing the five features with, “The right solution should combine the best of the digital world and the best of the physical world. It should have the efficiency of Zoom, while providing the meaningful human connection that only happens when people come together. We have a solution that we think combines the best of both worlds.” 

Airbnb’s stock is currently trading at $159, which is 233% of its debut price of $68. In its 2021 annual report, the company said full-year revenue was up 77% on the year before and above 2019 levels, hitting $6 billion in sales. Chesky has previously said the past two years of remote work have been the company’s “most productive” time to date.

Other tech companies have announced contrasting policies for returning to the office:

  • As of later this month, Apple employees will be expected at the office Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays and will be able to work remotely for up to four weeks a year.
  • Google employees returned to the office on April 4, with three days required on-site and two remotely.
  • Microsoft re-opened its offices on the 28th of February but made it possible for employees to reach their own working arrangements with management.
  • Twitter’s offices re-opened on 15 March, but on a very flexible model in which employees can work remotely forever if they wish

As the ability to secure and retain key talent increasingly becomes a significant differentiator in organisational performance the race to find the right formula for flexible work will be the critical leadership challenge of 2022 and 2023.

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