Amgen FlexSpace: Taking Flexible Work to the Next Level
During the pandemic, many organisations learned out of necessity that remote work can be highly effective. Even after offices were able to re-open, remote work widely remained an option because it was so popular with employees. Amgen Spain & Portugal, a Certified Top Employer, had already learned this lesson well, having adopted a remote work approach in 2004, long before it was mainstream. During the pandemic, they began to offer employees even more flexibility. Sandra Vicente, HR Director for the organisation, spoke with me about their best practices during the 2023 Top Employers Inspire event. Their ideas and fresh perspectives will inspire companies looking to meet the needs of a remote workforce better.
Making the Transition
Amgen Spain & Portugal was able to swiftly adapt to a 100% remote workforce when the pandemic struck because of three factors.
- Because the organisation had offered flexible work arrangements for fifteen years, managers and teams had already honed their remote work skills and were well-prepared to continue working from home. The transition from a partial to completely remote dynamic was not difficult for the company.
- Amgen had recently provided employees with a stipend to create a functional home workspace, including screens and ergonomic chairs. As a result, virtually everyone was already equipped with a suitable home office setup by the time the pandemic hit.
- The organisation had a robust culture of trust because of their long history with remote work. This trust was critical in facilitating a smooth transition to fully remote work and the company’s confidence in everyone’s ability to thrive in that model.
What Makes Amgen’s Approach Unique?
In 2021, Amgen refined its approach to flexible work by establishing FlexSpace – a novel way of working that combines the traditional practice of face-to-face office meetings with remote work. Unlike a more conventional approach to hybrid work, where companies allocate specific days for remote work and office attendance, FlexSpace empowers employees to make that choice for themselves. “The main driver of that decision is the purpose of their activity,” Sandra explained.
Practically, this means that employees have the ability to select which work environment best aligns with their daily responsibilities. For instance, employees might opt for remote work when tackling tasks requiring intense focus, such as preparing presentations, budgets, or brand plans. Conversely, activities like strategic meetings, brainstorming sessions, or welcoming a new team member thrive on face-to-face interactions. This modern flex work model offers employees even more flexibility and autonomy in their work life.
Rethinking Office Space
As part of the FlexSpace initiative, the organisation thoughtfully designed a new open-concept office space to cater to a diverse work styles and objectives. Workstations were not assigned to specific employees. Instead, the variety of stations remained available to anyone in the office. This way, employees have an adaptable environment for whatever needs might arise.
Transitioning to an open-concept office space necessitated a mindset shift. The first step was for employees to understand the dynamic nature of this type of open space. Throughout the day, people have the freedom to reconfigure their surroundings. If someone needs a whiteboard for a brainstorming session or if working alone at a desk for a couple of hours is required, dedicated spaces that cater to those needs are available. Regardless of the task, adapting to the constant background noise of conversation in an open-concept office is essential, and employees always work from home if they need a reprieve from the frequent office activity.
Strategies for Success
Over the years, Sandra shared that they have identified three key factors for a successful flexible work environment:
- Asynchronous work,
- Intentional socialisation, and
- Maintaining a strong company culture.
Asynchronous work is a natural extension of a remote work model. Just as employees do not need to be in the same place to get work done, they often also do not have to work at the same time to get things done effectively. Using collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams helps make this asynchronous approach function.
Working at different times, however, means that colleagues will likely have fewer direct interactions with each other. This dynamic means employees need to be intentional about socialising with each other. Sandra elaborated, “When you are in the office every day, socialising happens organically. You chat with people when you get a cup of coffee or when you see each other in the hallway. So, now when people come into the office for some reason, we encourage them to take into account the importance of socialising and set aside time for that.”
The importance placed on socialising is part of the company’s culture. “Company culture needs to be a lived experience,” Sandra explained, “Our turnover is very low, only 3% in ten years, so most employees know the culture very well and embrace it.” In performance management discussions, employees frequently cite the positive culture and flexible work approach as pivotal factors influencing their choice to remain with the company. The extremely high retention and employee satisfaction rate Amgen Spain & Portugal has achieved undoubtedly has numerous positive ripple effects across their operations.