Reimagining the Workplace

Lindsey Sanford

3m read

December 18

Palo Alto Networks CEO, Nikesh Arora, launches the FLEXWORK initiative setting out an approach for the year.

This article is reproduced from the Palo Alto Network’s blog — read the original.

Reimagining the Workplace – From Employer Choice to Employee Choice

It’s been a little over two months since we introduced mandatory work from home for Palo Alto Networks employees. Our mission is enabling our customers to work securely no matter where they are, and we are well equipped with the tools, technology and security to make this work.

Now, as localities weigh reopening and, as importantly, as we listen to the feedback and concerns of our employees, we recognize that the next phase cannot be “one size fits all.” We believe that various permutations of work from home will become the new normal, with not every employee reporting to the office every day and a much broader degree of choice for employees.

So, we’re addressing this proactively.

FLEXWORK: A New Way of Working for Palo Alto Networks

We have established a new program we are calling FLEXWORK, a new way of working for Palo Alto Networks. Initially valid through the end of this calendar year as we monitor adoption, here’s how we’ll approach our workplaces:

Reopening offices as regulations allow and making them COVID SAFE+: We will continue to open offices around the world as local regulations allow, prioritizing the well-being of our employees as we do so. We are going the extra mile in ensuring that our teams have a fully socially distanced opportunity to return to work: rethinking meetings, food service, introducing signs, plus enhanced and more frequent cleaning of common spaces, etc.

From Employer choice – to Employee choice: Under FLEXWORK, a few essential employees will be encouraged to work from the office, while others will be able to tell us how often they plan to work from the office. This could be coming to work 1-3 days a week for functional and cross-functional meetings, and collaborative projects, or working from home during that time.

We will introduce team days and team spaces: these will be days when teams can come to the office – be in a large socially distanced space to collaborate and celebrate together. This will be the new norm in creating a sense of togetherness, purpose and social bonding.

From presence to productivity: We will focus on communication, upskilling, remote people management and program management skills. We will work with our teams to keep them up to date on our business and introduce non-technical training ladders which focus on helping our employees stay productive in this remote work environment.

Make home more comfortable to work from: With more time being spent in home workspaces, we’ll make resources available for key items, such as office chairs and external monitors.

Reimagining Workplaces and Perks: We’re conscious that the gyms, cafes and micro-kitchens that have become the norm for many companies now provide reasons for our employees to be cautious – some of these perks will have to be rethought. We’ll follow how our teams experience and utilize this new policy, and rethink our workspaces and benefits accordingly.

FLEXWORK will be initially valid until the end of 2020. We plan to consult, observe and continue to enhance the FLEXWORK experience. We are inviting companies to join our FLEXWORK experiment. If interested, please email with your suggestions, or have your Chief People Officer join our discussion forums.

There is a migration afoot. Employees are voting with their feet and fleeing urban areas in droves due to the COVID pandemic.

Workers have a variety of reasons for relocating—they may want to move to an area with lower cost-of-living expenses, be closer to parents or extended family, or live in an area with a different climate or better access to activities or hobbies, such as outdoor pursuits. Of course, most of these things were true before the pandemic pushed many companies into embracing telecommuting. The difference is that now employees feel they can leave a geographic area without leaving their job, and they have the productivity to prove it.

The difference is that now employees feel they can leave a geographic area without leaving their job, and they have the productivity to prove it.

Employee choice and flexibility

In fact, flexible work arrangements have already been in the hearts and minds of our employees for years, if not, decades. In a pre-COVID LinkedIn article, 82% of employees expressed interest in working from home at least one day per month and 57% wanted to work 3 or more days from their home. In Deloitte’s February 2020 pre-COVID survey, 94% of employees indicated that they would benefit from flexible working options. The pandemic is causing greater urgency for employees to work remotely, especially those living in big cities and other high cost-of-living areas.

82% of employees expressed interest in working from home at least one day per month.

Winning the war on talent

In a recent study by Just Capital, 89% of employees expected their companies to rethink work as a result of the pandemic. Are employers prepared to deal with this new employee-driven paradigm?

Do we understand what our employees really want and need from us? I am not sure we do and, at the moment, the stakes are higher than they have ever been. What is at risk for companies is a quality relationship with our talent – current and future.

Companies that take the time to rethink “what work could be” with an employee-centric lens
will be the winners in the “war on talent.” We must use this moment to break from the inertia of the past by tossing out biased mindsets, habits and systems. This kind of change will require transformational thinking, grounded in data, with a focus on the employee. And re-thinking physical space is just the tip of the iceberg – yet the decisions we make there will impact a new way of thinking about every aspect of the employee life cycle.

Re-thinking physical space is just the tip of the iceberg.

Bringing it all together

Whether people are working remotely, or in some form of hybrid (part-time in the office) we
must reimagine about how to keep our culture alive, how best we equip our leaders to lead
distributed teams, how we deliver employee development and training, how we promote
equitably with no bigger weight to ‘face time” (in a hybrid work environment) and how we
measure productivity. Perhaps most importantly, though, is how do we outfit our companies
with systems to allow everyone the ability to work and collaborate optimally.

I don’t think we have many of these answers yet, but our environments have accelerated the
need to get working on them. That’s why Palo Alto Networks, Splunk, Box, Uber and Zoom have joined forces to form FLEXWORK, a consortium that has made a commitment to collaborate to accelerate the development and implementation of employee-centric work practices.