One of our mantras here at AMP is “Question Everything” - we’re practiced at examining our deeply held assumptions and asking - is there a better way? Still, in 2019, even with a relatively flexible work environment, we assumed that “work” meant the 9-5 in-office grind. We never stopped to ask ourselves… “why? And is this really the best model?”
Then 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and out of necessity we realized there could be a different way to work. Sometimes it takes this level of disruption to jolt us out of our most deeply held assumptions.
But the jolt was effective. As other companies assumed a “return to normal” and continuously planned and pushed back office re-opening dates, AMP exited our four national office location leases. Instead of rushing back to “normal” we wanted to ask ourselves: was the old normal actually working for us anyway? And - what could a better way look like?
For us it was a design question, and the brief was to redesign the way we work. Like any design question, there were a wealth of exciting possibilities and major challenges to overcome. And we needed to start with the humans at the center. What did our clients need from us, and what did our employees need to deliver their best work to them?
The answer was not the status quo. Our people told us loud and clear that they did not want to head back into the office full time. Our employees, our clients, and loads of new research were telling us the benefits of the flexibility of remote work (No commuting! Better work/life integration! Higher productivity!). And as our pandemic-induced remote state chugged along, we also discovered some more surprising insights:
Virtual environments can make collaboration better
Before 2020, workers were wasting an average of 9 minutes per meeting just setting up tech - that’s 30% of a half hour meeting, wasted. 40% of workers were wasting up to 30 minutes just searching for an open conference room. Conference calls with a mix of remote and in-person attendees left the people dialing in outside of the office at a disadvantage. At AMP, we were facing these types of pain points all the time, collaborating across four offices with clients all over the country. In this model, the tools meant to help us communicate like we were in person were actually making us feel farther away.
But something interesting happened when suddenly everyone was remote. Conference calls died out in favor of video, and these remote meetings acted as a great equalizer. We could all clearly see each other’s faces, no matter where we were zooming in from. Disembodied voices we’d been working across offices with for years became - perhaps paradoxically - more tangible humans. We met their kids, their pets, their roommates. Clients who we previously talked to on the phone and saw in person every few months became regular face-to-face virtual collaborators.
This new type of collaboration unlocked huge benefits. Employees felt more connected to their coworkers in other locations, and the work was thriving. Our client satisfaction metrics went up year over year. We took on global clients and expanded our teams outside of the US. Our business saw growth amidst a period of economic uncertainty. We saw that elements of remote work would be good for our people, our clients, and our business.
Virtual environments have higher intensity
Our creativity and collaboration had been unlocked, but we also found the zoom fatigue was real. In the pre-pandemic days, we assumed burnout was directly related to long hours. But a look at our employee’s time-tracking told us that may no longer be the case - even employees not working overtime were feeling the fatigue. It turns out that without those built-in breaks chatting while troubleshooting tech and making coffee in the office kitchen, people’s days working remotely aren’t just more productive, they’re more intensive. With all remote all the time, a 40 hour workweek can start to feel like 50. If the future of work had remote elements, our new model would need mechanisms in place to prevent burnout.
Career and life phase inform employee needs
When the pandemic abated and parents were better able to get reliable school and childcare, AMP parents often preferred remote work. They could have breakfast with their kids without fear of missing the commuter rail. They could pop out to pick up a sick kid without sacrificing hours of their work day. Many, in the middle of their careers, had already built the skills and confidence that could transfer to a new environment. They were thriving in the remote workplace.
But employees at the beginning of their careers were disoriented. They were missing out on the mentorship and guidance you get from observing and interacting with more seasoned co-workers day-to-day, not to mention the camaraderie that comes from early office friendships.
We discovered that people were living in a multitude of personal situations that demanded different work environments in order to thrive. We needed a model that could provide options for multiple ways of working depending on what employees needed to grow and do their best work.
Our Innovative Approach to Work: AMP Anywhere
With these insights, we set out to design a new model based on radical flexibility. We concepted and pressure tested multiple models. And here’s what we’ve launched: a working model we call AMP Anywhere with three core tenets:
- You can work from anywhere, including from home or in an office – whatever works best for you.
- Compensation does not depend on or change based on where you live.
- Even if you’re not near an office location, you’ll have opportunities to collaborate in person on an ongoing basis.
Two years after we exited our office leases, our workforce spans across 30+ markets internationally, and we’re reopening smaller flexible spaces in places with high employee concentration - Boston and New York. This month we rolled out extensive guidelines for communication norms, travel policies, and collaboration opportunities built for a positive, equitable employee experience no matter how you work best, including deep-work focused “Flex Fridays” and events for AMPers to connect in-person with their co-workers across the globe.
Up next: Prototype. Test. Iterate.
We’re not done. We believe this is what the future of work looks like. But we also know that there will be a whole new set of assumptions we develop that we’ll need to break down. Unlike our old working model, the future of work is not static. It’s pliable. It’s evolving. As AMPers, we have a commitment to Question Everything. That means a commitment to continually innovate and improve around the ways we work to make our lives and work truly sing.
Welcome to the future of work. This is our first prototype.
– Greer Pearce, SVP, Brand & Innovation