These are unprecedented times for everyone around the world and the way we work has been turned upside down for all of us. There is no playbook for COVID-19, and this pandemic has been the ultimate test of everyone’s solidarity and resolve at Spotify. This is also the time when our company values of collaboration, playfulness, sincerity, passion, and innovation are shining more than ever.
Shortly after our decision in early March to ask our people around the world to work from home (WFH), we took a decision to further extend WFH due to the increasing spread of this global pandemic. Since day one, our policy on how to approach COVID-19 for our people has been that our peoples safety and health comes first.
From the very beginning of this outbreak in our JAPAC region, we have been constantly providing updates to our people, being transparent and staying vigilant to try to inform our people on this health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes. We believe that over-communication in crisis situations like this helps mitigate fear and anxiety. Our approach of prudence, not panic – science, not stigma – facts, not fear, has worked well for us.
However, the disruptive shift of moving our entire workforce to a remote working environment overnight did not come without its challenges. Three weeks into WFH, many of our people reached out to their managers and HR to express their difficulties with adjusting to this setup. With school closures happening and daycares shutting down, it is not difficult to understand what the additional challenges parents are facing with children at home on a full time basis now. We also empathize with everyone who is dealing with the impact that COVID-19 is having on extended family members.
That is why it was important for us to reinforce our values to all Spotifier’s around the world when it comes to work/family balance. First and foremost, FAMILY COMES FIRST. Spotify has always embodied this philosophy for our people and has been embedded within our cultural DNA. There is no reason why our philosophy would shift during this pandemic. If anything, this is when living our cultural values around work/family balance is most important.
So in true Spotify fashion, we communicated to all of our people who have kids, or any other family obligations at home (parents, grandparents, relatives at risk, etc.), that we 100% support them and their family to have the flexibility and autonomy to find a balance that works for them. This has always been our message, but given this unprecedented moment, this message is more important than ever. We trust our employees to manage their time, and we expect all of our managers globally to respect their flexibility.
We believe that by empowering our people to manage their own work/family balance, we can alleviate a lot of the stress and anxiety due to remote working. But to help everybody reading this find that balance, here are a few tips that we recommended for our people:
- Flexible working: Reassess your typical “9-5” schedule and create more flexibility by re-balancing your time so that you can take advantage of earlier mornings or later evenings to get work done. And take more time during the day instead to focus on childcare and family needs.
- Communicate with your managers and teams and let them know of your situation and set boundaries and expectations on when you need to be online and off. During this time, all managers should be supportive, empathetic and mindful of this when dealing with their teams. Also, it’s just good leadership!
- If you need a break, take the time off that you need to recharge your batteries. Feel free to leverage PTO (aka Vacation Days) if you need to fully disconnect and spend time with your family.
- Everyone needs to accept the fact that kids, pets, other partners/roommates, etc will be in the background during virtual meetings. It is the world we live in today, so everyone should just be comfortable and accept it. Plus, it can make meetings much more entertaining, so let’s embrace this and have some fun!
- Leverage your social network and unite with other parents or carers at your company to share great stories and tips as we continue to work remotely for the unforeseen future.
- Be mindful of effective time management in a WFH environment. Your daily work routine has been disrupted, but take into consideration time saved in commuting, or fika breaks, or daily distractions that took you away from your desk during a normal workday. With effective time management, you can leverage that time not utilized to spend time with kids or any other personal family obligations. In other words, take control of your calendar during this hectic time and do what it takes to make it work for you and your family.
- See the glass as half full. The silver lining here is that you get to spend more quality time with the most important people in your lives. Cherish this time to spend a few more hours with your children, parents, grandparents, etc. while we all WFH and are not required to work from our offices.
Wellbeing a top priority
It is also extremely important to take care of yourself in these very difficult times. It’s normal to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed reading news about COVID-19 on a daily basis. So, even if you are all set up for working remotely in a technical way, there are a lot of things you now all of a sudden have to do to look after your team and yourself in this precarious time. Like finding your rhythm and way of working from home that makes you feel comfortable. This for all the obvious reasons will differ from your colleagues and your wider team. Therefore it is super important to be mindful of your health and wellbeing, voice what’s working well for you and adjust what is not, since this does not seem to be a sprint, but rather a global marathon.
If you feel that the constant news, speculations, graph forecasts, and theories about COVID-19 is causing you stress, try to limit the intake. Especially before going to bed. Shortly after our decision to ask everyone to WFH, we started to deliver our People Experience (PX) offerings virtually like: daily exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga, and meditation sessions to get the message through that this is something we support, think is important, and something we know will help all our employees to cope finding a more sustainable work from home environment.
By motivating our people to stay active while using social distancing as it helps both your brain and your body to relax, our Px team did a super quick turnaround of converting all our offerings (as well as adding new ones) virtually to keep us connected, social and active. Friday Fun events like ‘”Spotify’s Got Global Talent”, encouraging Spotifiers to dust off their hidden talents, and a Virtual House Party with a line up of a dozen of our in-house Spotify DJs from around the world showing off their skills. We also have Daily Challenges like our Music Quiz Fika Break, which encourage teams to briefly embrace their competitive sides and WFH Backstage sharing daily photos from home. Our variety of Virtual Events are helping us stay connected with our colleagues, friends and family. Events during a time like this are more important than ever and are very appreciated from our people. When working from home, you can experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, low morale and energy, so we hope that events like this from our Px team will help fight those symptoms.
Also, resources that are always there for you like the Employee Assistance Program to access professional counseling on the phone and the meditation app Headspace has helped a lot of our band members throughout this pandemic. Try to keep a daily routine and make use of the resources offered to you.
In the past weeks and months, life for all of us has changed. To be honest, there is no playbook on how to address this unprecedented event, but we at Spotify are doing our best to manage this as safely as possible for our people while also learning from this experience ourselves. This is a time when strong leadership and living company values are more important than ever. Life will be a bit more uncomfortable, working conditions will not be ideal, things may get worse before they get better, but at Spotify, we believe that we can get through this together and come out stronger than ever before. Stay safe everyone and don’t forget to take a break!
#stayhome #staysafe #staystrong #stayactive #lifeatspotify
Michael is a highly accomplished global Human Resources leader with over 15 years of experience in strategizing and implementing global talent initiatives that drive business results and improves both employee and company performance. He is a trusted business partner to C-level and executive management teams with an extensive record of executing high impact global talent solutions.
Michael currently serves as Head of HR APAC at Spotify, where he is responsible for driving the overall people strategy for the region. His innovative design of Spotify’s revamped parental leave program has received global recognition for taking the #leadonleave for companies supporting families, establishing work life balance, and driving inclusivity within the workplace.
Michael has worked across a broad spectrum of industries including Technology, Investment Banking & Markets, Media, and Advertising. Prior to joining Spotify, Michael was a Vice President of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs, where he was responsible for leading strategic people initiatives across the Technology division globally.