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The past few years have transformed how we think about work. Our "new normal" presents unique challenges for companies thinking seriously about the future of work. At Red Hat, we’ve come to believe that the future of work is driven by one concept: flexibility.

As the world’s leading open source software company, Red Hat shares its products and what we’ve learned for free. In that spirit, I’d like to share three things we’ve learned about our new normal.

1. The future of work is flexibility

Flexibility has always been key to our culture. Red Hat came out of the open source software movement, where a community of developers worked remotely and asynchronously. Prior to the pandemic, more than 30% of Red Hatters worked remotely.

We’ve expanded the flexibility by offering the majority of our associates the freedom to be "office-flex," where they can come to the office as much as they need to, or not at all if they choose. With COVID-19 still a concern for associates caring for immunocompromised loved ones, no Red Hatter is required to be in an office if they do not wish to return. While some of our tech peers are pulling employees back to the office, we don't think our workforce needs to be in an office to be successful—we've seen the value in providing flexibility.

As the parent of a special-needs child, I was very fortunate to have flexibility when I needed it because I worked from home for more than a decade before joining Red Hat. Our approach not only expands associate flexibility, but extends trust, gives back time and provides freedom to adapt each day to work and family needs. The benefits of expanding flexibility also don’t just accrue to associates–our approach allows us to unlock a wider talent pool and create a lasting employer-value proposition. Not being limited by location when hiring provides a much broader opportunity to attract and retain great associates, especially when it comes to diverse talent.

Like the open source development community, we are trying to think differently about how and where work gets done–whether we are working together or asynchronously around the world. A boundaryless approach to work requires a greater emphasis on enabling digital collaboration and psychological safety because inclusion and trust power effective distributed teams.

2. Listen, drive action, create trust

In our open culture, we believe that the best ideas can come from anywhere. As a result of listening to our associates during the pandemic, we created a work from home stipend to help defray the cost of remote work and introduced quarterly "recharge" days to address burnout by creating days where we all take time off together. As we think about the future, we’ve been focused on scaling our listening to and engaging associates in decision-making to power how we want to work together. 

We recently launched what we call the Open Decision Hub, which is a central place for Red Hatters to participate in active decisions, voice opinions, take part in surveys and trace the history of how and why decisions were made. Looking at the Open Decision Hub, associates can see which leaders are driving an issue, what is open for feedback (and what’s not) and where we are in the decision process

The Open Decision Hub has been invaluable. While our implementation of policies or strategies may not be up for debate, HOW we do so often is. Time after time, associates help us find the bugs, iterate and ultimately become more efficient and effective. The Open Decision Hub allows Red Hat leaders to be incredibly transparent. Most importantly, by engaging associates in decisions that affect their work and experience and showing that their engagement has tangible results, we create an incredible amount of trust and commitment to our mission. At Red Hat, all associates really do have a voice.

3. The office is a vibe

The office is where we used to work, but as we thought about our future of work we realized it must be more. With the majority of our associates having the flexibility to decide when they would like to use the office, we realized it needed to be a place where associates can connect to Red Hat’s culture, collaborate and engage more fully. Simply put, if associates are not going to the office all of the time, it’s even more important that it’s fun, functional and enjoyable when they do.

We’ve focused on evolving our office spaces to support how we are working. Associates coming to the office book their work stations online. Coming to an office, they are greeted by "neighborhoods" where teams gather to work. In our neighborhoods, you’ll see far fewer desks and more booths, couches and small collaboration spaces. This is a concept that we’ve had for years even prior to the pandemic, but we’ve expanded this approach post-pandemic. We’ve also overhauled our technology and collaboration tools, providing associates the ability to connect with colleagues and customers around the world from almost any room. 

As we move forward, we are focused on listening to our associates for additional insights into why they come to an office. We’re encouraging senior leaders to work from our offices to interact and learn more–I myself am planning to host Q&A sessions at our Raleigh headquarters with our Chief Marketing Officer. I’m aware of some associates that come to the Raleigh office just for the free yogurt-covered pretzels–and that’s ok! Others come to the office to collaborate and when they need deeper connection with the people they work with. We’ve spent time exploring what makes coming to the office enjoyable and fun. That’s the question to ask if you want to give your office a vibe that facilitates work and connection to one another and your company, and still brings along those who choose not to come back. 

Red Hat has always supported both remote-first and hybrid work and we’ll continue to do so as part of our future of work. Iterating on our working norms, the support we provide associates and our open culture is critical to achieving our goals. We haven’t solved everything. We’ve made mistakes along this journey, but I for one believe we’re headed in the right direction. We’re going to keep adapting the Red Hat way: offering flexibility, listening to Red Hatters and iterating toward better together.

 

About the author

Jennifer Dudeck is Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at Red Hat. In this role, she leads the team responsible for global human resources. She has more than 25 years of human resources experience, including leading enterprise learning and leadership development efforts.

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