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- The travel-comparison firm Trivago will test a “hybrid” workplace model starting in the first week of September, CEO Axel Hefer told Business Insider.
- The company will encourage staff to return to the office for “homecomings” one or twice a month, and all new staff will train on site, rather than remotely.
- This will address the problems with fully remote working, which include a lack of creativity in meetings, Hefer said.
- The German business generated nearly $1 billion in revenue in 2019, and it employs more than 1,000 people at its Düsseldorf base.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Big Tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook have embraced long-term home working — but their models will ultimately fail, according to Axel Hefer, the CEO of the German travel-comparison firm Trivago, which generated revenues just shy of $1 billion in 2019.
In an interview with Business Insider, Hefer said the company — which employees more than 1,000 people at its Düsseldorf, Germany, campus — will test a “hybrid” workplace model starting in September. People will largely work from home but are encouraged to come into the office for “homecomings” once or twice a month. Caregivers can work from home forever, he said.
In May, Twitter announced staff could work from home indefinitely, even after coronavirus lockdowns end. Google has said staff can stay away from the office until summer 2021, and Facebook predicted half its workforce may be remote by 2030.
Hefer told Business Insider that working 100% remotely is not sustainable.
“The last time companies have tried in the last big wave of, ‘OK, let’s do remote work,’ most of those concepts have failed,” he said.
Read on for details of the workplace model that Trivago, one of Europe’s biggest travel businesses, is adopting in the first week of September.
Facebook InfoSnip Employees in the office one week per month for ‘homecomings,’ complete with seating rotas
Each team at Trivago will need to find the right balance between office and remote work, depending on how much they have to meet with their team, Hefer said. Going back to the office remains voluntary, but there will be “homecomings”: Employees are encouraged to return to the Trivago campus one or two weeks a month, he said.
Trivago’s main office is in Düsseldorf. For the travel-tech company, working in one building is essential. Trivago has a distributed-leadership model — all team members take part in decision-making and are relatively independent from the top management team — and everyone being in the same space speeds up the process.
When COVID-19 hit, Trivago decided to move everybody remote over a weekend.
“We didn’t even have Zoom installed on all the computers,” Hefer said. “It has been quite a culture shock.”
Remote working has served Trivago well in most situations, but sometimes you need face-to-face meetings, according to Hefer.
“Anything that is really a bigger strategic discussion, it doesn’t really work as well,” Hefer said. In discussions where creativity is needed, or it’s unclear what the meeting is going to be about, remote video calls are inefficient, he said.
Hefer said “homecomers” would experiment with seating rotas to help with networking. The firm wants to understand whether grouping staff by teams or age cohort is more efficient for personal interaction and creativity.
Facebook InfoSnip New employees will train in person on the Trivago campus
A remote-work environment makes it “hard to assess whether someone is feeling well or something is not working,” Hefer said, especially with new recruits.
Learning on the job becomes “much more difficult” remotely, he added. It’s harder to answer questions like, “How does this work?” or “How do I do this?” And people are less inclined to ask them in the first place, he said.
Therefore, Trivago plans to train all new recruits in person, Hefer said.
Facebook InfoSnip Forever home working for caregivers
For some, home working is a necessity, and under the new policy, primary caregivers will be able to work when and how they like for up to three years. New parents will be allowed to take up to two years of parental leave — in Germany, the normal allowance is one year.
Before the pandemic, Trivago would have given caregivers flexible working hours but encouraged working predominantly from the office.
Facebook InfoSnip An extra week of holiday
Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have affected our mental well-being, and research suggests the keys to well-being are rest and recovery. Trivago’s employees will be given one week of extra vacation this year because of the accumulated stress from the pandemic, Hefer said.