Vistaprint moves to remote-first workforce as company embraces virtual future

'What we're striving for is work/life harmony'

Vistaprint moves to remote-first workforce as company embraces virtual future

Online printing company Vistaprint has adopted a remote-first way of working as the organisation tells existing and future employees they no longer have to come into the office.

Speaking to HRD, Marcus Marchant, CEO of Vistaprint Australia, said the pandemic has presented the company with an opportunity to permanently transform their workplace, driven by their own employees.

“I think there is an important difference between work/life balance, which a lot of companies articulate, and what we're striving for which is work/life harmony,” he said.

“We’re now seeing productivity is stronger than ever, harmony is stronger than ever and our people love it, so as a result, the benefits of a remote-first approach far outweigh the downside of not physically sitting next to someone.”

Marchant said the often talked about goal of striving for a healthy work/life balance is when an employee magages their time spent at work and the time spent on other activities. But, he said, work/life harmony is the opposite. Instead of balancing the two, he said employees should be asking: How do I get work to fit around the rest of my life?

“It’s about deciding what's important to you, which is the number one thing to think about,” he said. “For me, I've got young kids, we’re building a house, I’ve got a swimwear brand as a side hustle. I’ve got all these things going in the rest of my life so it’s about how do I get the work that I want to get done, and at the speed and the capacity that it needs to be delivered, to fit around the rest of my life?”

Read more: Flexible working: Is it given or is it earned?

By taking a remote-first approach, Vistaprint is now hiring employees who are never required to come into the office – or collaboration hubs as they’re now called – if it doesn’t suit them. Vistaprint’s production plant in Melbourne still requires workers to be onsite, something that’s inherent to the role. But Marchant said taking a remote-first approach cements the company’s commitment to flexibility.

Embracing the remote mindset last year meant revisiting every aspect of the employee experience – from onboarding to how to collaborate in a virtual environment. Marchant said they started by making sure employees had the ability to work remotely, offering them money to kit-out their home set-up and an allowance for their internet and phone bills. Having been through a virtual onboarding himself at the start of the pandemic, Marchant knew the importance of a seamless and welcoming process.

The company also doubled down on collaboration tools to enable asynchronous working. By removing the assumption that employees are working the same hours, they had to rethink how to deliver important communications like company updates so that an employee working flexibly wouldn’t miss out. The other big transition has been around coaching and training leaders to focus on outcomes, rather than outputs.

Marchant said focusing on outcomes rather than outputs can be difficult, especially for younger managers in their first leadership positions who may struggle to feel in control without seeing their team in person. But coaching and training in remote leadership has been a big area of investment for Vistaprint.

While the initial work centred on how to facilitate a remote-first approach, as the pandemic progressed last year, the impact of working from home became clear. Globally, research warned that burn out rates were rising as the blurring of work and home boundaries saw employees working longer hours and struggling to switch off. To combat this trend, this year Vistaprint introduced weekly Recharge Days each Friday throughout July and August.

Employees are encouraged to take a half day off to relax, recharge and enjoy something that isn’t work – whether a hobby or time with their children.

“We said to our people after midday on Friday we don't want to see you online or with your little green button on Slack. You really need to be enjoying that time and doing what you want with it,” Marchant said.

Read more: Workplace COVID-19 vaccinations could begin in September

Beyond wellbeing, initiatives like Recharge Days tie in to fostering a fun, supportive culture – even when people are apart. As a result, Vistaprint was officially named as one of the “Best Remote-First Companies to Work For” in Built In’s 2021 report. But can Vistaprint’s culture weather a remote-first approach permanently? Marchant thinks so, but he still believes social events like after-work drinks will make a come back once Australia is living safely with COVID-19.

“We do love coming together as well and that’ll be the same being remote-first,” he said. “As we grow and find more team members are geographically dispersed it’ll be harder to get together but we’ll still have the option and say ‘hey if you come in to Sydney on a Thursday, we’ll get together and have some fun’ but it's also totally optional.”

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