COVID-19 has hit us hard – and forced us to move remote

August 26, 2020 | Category: Corporate Insights

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We’ve been speaking a lot about how the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on travel represents a once-in-a-generation (we hope) opportunity to press the pause button on business strategy. With international travel at a nadir not seen since World War II, we have seized this time to rethink the priority work we are doing to position ourselves to be even more successful in the “next normal.”

As a company we believe in empowerment and informal exchange – have not been keen on remote, however that changed when we had to move to 1200 offices, instead of four. The process to move to an all remote office was not without its initial hiccups, but after five months in we have learned a few things. Personally, we are amazed by the ways our employees have been handling the remote set up. We realized as an organization that remote works for work. Our productivity levels increased and the feedback from the employees and managers is that everyone felt the set up allowed them to focus on getting the work done, and technology, such as Zoom and Slack, allowed us to stay engaged with our teams.

However, the more time is passing in our remote setup the clearer it becomes that there is also something missing. As we are social beings, there is a lot more to work than just the immediate output. In-person allows for better feedback, creative brainstorms, development of strategies, building relationships across teams, personal mentoring and growth.

Finding the right balance

Now, in the spirit of innovation that lives at the heart of trivago, it’s time for something new.

While some high-profile organizations have told their employees that they can work remotely for as long as the next 12 months or even indefinitely, we are committed to doing things differently.

We know that remote work has its advantages. A flexible work setup can offer more time to focus, no commuting and more engagement with family and friends — all with the same or even greater level of productivity than office work. We are looking at this as a new way to work that is best for both the employees and company, and not just a financial decision. Our culture is built on personal interaction and collaboration, it’s important that we find the right balance. As we go through the process, here are the aspects we are taking into account:

  1. How much time is needed in the office? We are looking at how we can structure the time spent in person on-site so that personal interaction is most effective, limiting the necessary time in the office.
  2. How well can learning on the job be organized in a hybrid setup? Young colleagues benefit greatly from informal interactions with their more experienced peers. Onboard and ramping up new colleagues is currently one of the biggest challenges in the remote setup.
  3. How can you make sure that the office does not feel empty to keep up a good working vibe for those who chose to work on site?
  4. Every team is structured differently and has different needs. Teams need flexibility to organize themselves and find the right balance of in person time. Given this, what guidance is needed to allow team leads to continue to structure the work set up of their own teams as they seem fit?
  5. How do we make sure that everyone is treated the same – remote or in-person? Colleagues that choose to work home need to have the same chance to get active facetime and interaction as those in the office during meetings and discussions.
  6. How do you ensure that promotions are given fairly and team leads are not favoring those that are more visible by being onsite?
  7. Do we need to adjust our employee benefits? Most benefits such as fancy drinks in the fridges, our gym, sport classes, on-site academies and other gatherings were introduced with the idea of having all our employees working on-site – not remotely.

How we will get to our future work setup:

We are a testing culture and like with everything, we will test our approaches and get feedback from our employees and managers. With every feedback, we will iterate and improve on our approaches. Our new work set-up will develop as a natural evolution instead of a wholesale revolution.

We have already opened our headquarters in Dusseldorf and beginning in September we will welcome talents back for one “homecoming” week each month – under strict health and hygiene guidelines, of course. This will enable everyone to interact in person, especially for important collaborative events. This week will be filled with company Q&A’s and team all-hands, events and in-person 1 to 1’s  to ensure that our talents can have enough personal interaction to continue to learn from each other, build their network and relationships. Even our kitchens are opening again, and we will have food trucks to provide hot lunches.

We will test different seating arrangements, keeping teams together vs. trying different seating versions depending on the amount of employees that do come to the office. We will test how much in-person meetings and events we can run within this one “homecoming” week and assess the level of personal interaction necessary to keep our spirit, energy and culture alive. We will collect feedback and iterate the approach with the objective to have a solid starting point for our work setup whenever things will normalize. Our headquarters will remain open for anyone who wants to work in the office every day. However, any person who does not feel comfortable returning to the office can remain remote. For talents working offsite, we will continue to fully support them and integrate them into all we do on a daily basis. We have learned a tremendous amount about how to collaborate remotely, and we will continue to use that intelligence to become even more effective.

Our focus lies on getting the best out of both worlds – not on saving extra money by optimizing office space and onsite benefits.

We are extremely excited to be launching this new future, this hybrid approach to opening our office. With testing and learning in our DNA, we will continually evaluate the effectiveness of our strategy and proactively adapt as needed. Finding the right balance between on-site and remote work to shape trivago’s new working environment is a top priority for us as a company, and we look forward to taking this journey together.

It’s a start! Let’s see how this works.

 

Authors
Axel Hefer
, Managing Director, CEO, trivago
Anja Honnefelder, Chief People Officer & General Counsel, trivago


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