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Work Hard, Play Hard…. Even From Home

It’s commonly known that employees’ happiness relies heavily on variables outside their role, much of which boils down to company culture. This is why Spotify prides itself on having a People Experience (Px) team as one tenant in our Culture team. Px is a global team dedicated to the experience Spotifiers have when they are not at their desks working – the ones they’re likely to share with friends and families. The strategy is to create experiences and drive employee engagement, and has mostly been driven by locally chosen tactics and delivery. Until now. 

The move to a new global WFH policy forced a reinvention of the Px strategy, which has called for a new level of creativity. Px has gone virtual.

A shift in focus

To date, the approach has focused on in-person experiences, and offerings have been centered around physically bringing people together. Activities are driven separately in each local office, and include things like fitness & health classes, gaming rooms, lunch learns, exclusive in-office artist sessions, afterwork events, and even initiatives focused on Spotifiers with children. So, under normal circumstances, the Px team faces challenges like the planning and fine details of larger events, or figuring out what topics or initiatives will be the most impactful, engaging and valuable for Spotifiers. 

Circumstances like the current social (or more correctly, physical) distancing, quarantine, and WFH are creating a sink-or-swim situation. Or for the optimists, it presents a great opportunity to get creative, innovate and thrive. 

Now, with the entire Spotify band working from home, the Px team needed to refocus and take on some different challenges. We needed to put our energy into how to bring those experiences, and more, into the homes of our Spotifiers. 

Rather than operating in our normal team structure, creating separate programming for each local office and only marketing the experiences to Spotifiers based in those specific offices, we decided this was our time to drop the local and go global – focusing on offering the same programming to all 5,000+ Spotifiers around the world.

Bringing people together – virtually

In times of such uncertainty, and even loneliness, it’s important for us to create opportunities for Spotifiers to participate, learn, listen, or even just let loose, while instilling a sense of our community. It’s been shown in various studies (Abramis, 1990 and Sörenson & Spoelestra, 2011) that creative and recreational engagement at work not only enhances job satisfaction, but also decreases stress and builds resilience to external stressors. Engagement is more important now than ever before.

Pivoting our physical offerings, making them virtual, has meant that Px can continue creating opportunities for Spotifiers to bond over shared experiences despite not physically being in the same room. Bringing together our employees in virtual games or living room concerts not only allows them to feel connected to one another but encourages engagement and maintains the bonds that exist between our bandmates. 

New plans

Similar to when we’re deciding on and planning the Px team’s ‘normal’ strategy, we took a hard look at what would have the biggest impact and be most valued by Spotifiers around the globe. 

We came up with some ideas and them categorised them as follows:  

  • Daily challenges, which can be done on any schedule, in any timezone 
  • Virtual fitness & health classes, with our normally scheduled trainers, instilling a sense of familiarity 
  • Weekly virtual lunch & learns, which take place twice in the same day to make sure we can cater to different time zones
  • Kids’ music experiences every two weeks, targeting both young kids & toddlers to older kids & pre-teens, 
  • Friday Fun, a variety of chances to be entertained or let loose, closing out the week on a high.

We started small with two daily challenges. Beginning with #Backstage, an initiative encouraging Spotifiers to share images of what their new normal looks like – including their innovative WFH setups, adorable interns, and furry four-legged assistants. A chance for Spotifiers to share what their days look like from the inside. Then, rolling out a daily 15 question music quiz challenge – encouraging teams to take a 5 minute fika break together and compete with their musical knowledge. 

This was closely followed with a reinvention of our fitness & health program. We knew Spotifiers were going to miss our in-office fitness classes so it was an easy decision to figure out how we could both create community and offer a chance to be active. We also thought it was important to commit to our in-office instructors, and gave us the chance to introduce them to the wider Spotifier community. 

Next up was our series of weekly lunch & learns. Here, we’re continuing with our objective of making music and audio a part of everyday life for Spotifiers, connecting to the roots of who we are as a company. So, our lunch & learn program is focused on learning something new in the world of audio or technology. So far, we’ve had topics such as ‘how to make a podcast’, ‘learn how to DJ’, and ‘how to create collaborative audio tracks using Soundtrap’. We offer a new topic each week, once in a timezone that works for JPAC and EMEA, and one that works well for The Americas. 

We know that some of our Spotifiers are taking on the mammoth task of balancing a full workload, with acting as their child’s source of both education and entertainment. We wanted to help them share an experience with their little ones, so we have started to roll out virtual sing-a-longs and songwriting sessions. 

Finally, as each week goes by, for many it brings thoughts of yet another week in limbo. Therefore, we wanted to establish a series of programming every Friday that offers entertainment and ends each week on an uplifting note. So far, we have had guest DJ sessions, a 7-hour virtual house party starring some of Spotify’s very own in-house DJs, and an all-star Spotify cast sharing their incredible talents on a session of “Spotify’s Got Global Talent”. 

Tearing down the barriers

The red thread through all of these experiences is the engagement from Spotifiers around the globe – eliminating the so-called barrier we typically face when programming for local offices individually. From conversations that have been created in the daily challenges, being able to join a fitness class that is not hosted by your home office base, seeing the smiling faces of Spotify kids from all different countries, collaboratively learning something new with Spotifiers possibly in a whole different timezone, and cheering on the talents of Spotifiers thousands of miles away – the sense of a global Spotify has never been stronger. A supportive and engaged community has been firmly established. One that goes far beyond office walls or international borders, and to be honest, we’ve been surprised to see the depth of impact these virtual offerings have had on that community. 

And there’s a silver lining – the increased drive from our local offices to create additional opportunities for engagement within their own teams. We’ve seen every single office find a reason to join together and create a community. And the Px team is so happy not only to be supporting the global community, but also supporting with suggestions and ideas for the local teams on the ground so that they can grow and nurture their own sense of community. 

The culture at Spotify is something that we’re proud of – it’s a collaborative, innovative, supportive, and playful culture. Driving and maintaining our culture via digital platforms can be challenging, but it’s giving us a chance to be creative. As the current climate continues, and an immediate end is nowhere in sight, new experiences and creative programming will be rolled out – from shared gaming, party band dance sessions, and more. Although forced to be physically distant from each other, it feels as if that many teams have never been closer. 

And whilst we feel confident saying that nothing truly replaces the value of in-person connections and experiences, some of these new gems may well remain a constant in our new reality – making sure we continue engaging Spotifiers in our more deeply connected global culture. And once we get the all clear, you can be sure that we’ll be ringing it in with a top-notch ‘Welcome back’ celebration.


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