Spotify Announces 'Work From Anywhere': How Does It Work?

Pim
Written by in Practices
- 3 min read

Spotify does it again! Once again, the music streaming service challenges conventional wisdom by allowing employees to work from anywhere. They are pro-actively turning the lessons of the pandemic into new ways of working. Here's how.

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Spotify recently announced big changes in their policies on working mode and location. They heeded lessons learned during the pandemic.

Now employees have even more freedom in deciding where to work.

How does it work?

Spotify's 6,500+ employees will be able to work from wherever they want. They can work from home, the office, a café, or anywhere they wish—or any combination of these.

There's just one guardrail: "The exact mix of home and office mode is a decision made jointly by each employee and their manager."

If employees want to move to another city or country, they can do that too. If there is no Spotify office in the vicinity, the company supplies membership of a co-working space.

And there's more.

They will continue to pay New York and San Francisco-level salaries (based on the job) to employees working remotely. That's significantly different to other tech giants who have talked about allowing remote work, but reduce salaries when employees move to locations with a lower cost of living.

“Most of our offices are in large cities like New York, London and Stockholm, but we know that moving to or staying in these cities isn’t always realistic for—or attractive to—potential employees,” said Travis Robinson, Spotify's head of diversity, inclusion and belonging.

“This is an opportunity to scrap the idea that big cities are the only places where meaningful work can happen, because we know first-hand that isn’t true. We want employees to come as they are, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances are” he said.

Cheers to that!

Beliefs

While this approach to increased flexibility is something to celebrate, what's even more beautiful than the practice itself are the beliefs and principles behind it. As Spotify states on its blog:

"Our beliefs are:

  • Work isn’t something you come to the office for, it’s something you do
  • Effectiveness can’t be measured by the number of hours people spend in an office – instead, giving people the freedom to choose where they work will boost effectiveness
  • Giving our people more flexibility will support better work-life balance and help tap into new talent pools while keeping our existing band members
  • Operating as a distributed organisation will produce better and more efficient ways of working through more intentional use of communication and collaboration practices, processes and tools."

A lesson in doing business in 2021.

Controlled chaos

Spotify has for years set itself apart by how they run their organization. In our visits some years ago, we got an exciting peak into their way of working, then.

It's great, now, to see how things are evolving, based on listening to employee needs.

"We also realise it’s likely to have an impact on our in-office culture, of which we’re proud. But listening to employees, embracing the need for change, and finding our way of making adaptations is definitely the way to continue to evolve our culture for the long-term."

"Part of our DNA has always been controlled chaos. So, in the spirit of this, we’re trying this out knowing that there are likely to be some adjustments to make along the way."

This experimentation based on the needs of employees is what Spotify does—and what sets them apart.

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Replies (11)

Blanka Bellak

Blanka Bellak

Controlled Chaos - that sounds great, but could somebody explain to me what is meant by a "controlled chaos"? Otherwise I may continue thinking that is is just a fashionable name and nothing more.

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Ali Sturgess-Durden

Ali Sturgess-Durden

Sounds great, but I think requires a little digging beyond Spotify’s headline... That guardrail covers a multitude of corporate sins! After getting over why it has to be a manager that decides with you (why not your team, those most affected by your physical presence or absence?), what criteria will guide the decision with your manager? How will it be equitable across different employees’ circumstances and different managers? Ultimately, because of the power gradient between employee and manager, isn’t that guardrail saying your manager will decide, so what progress is this really? It actually sounds a lot like the UK’s statutory approach to flexible working - put in a request to your manager and they approve or reject your request after a discussion with you. Is this really the progress it looks like? Don’t get me wrong - I’m all for greater flexibility on this issue going forwards but the detail of quite how much freedom people will have will be interesting to see play out. Thanks for another thought provoking piece :)

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Tracey Williams

Tracey Williams

I love the approach and flexibility. Would love to learn more about the practicalities of it though - how to manage payroll and insurances for example in a work anywhere workforce.

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Kimberley Pledger

Kimberley Pledger

This is very exciting and precisely the kind of progressive thinking that promotes inclusivity and a human-centric workplace. Even if the places of work are many and varied, the Spotify ethos is embodied in their employees and how the work is done, which contributes to a sense of team and belonging.

I am a bit of a pedant, but not so much so as to normally comment on a typo, but on this occasion the meaning is changed so worth mentioning. “An exciting peak” versus “An exciting peek”. This made me smile.

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Pim

Pim

Haha, thanks for that ;). Adjusted it. Our Dutch is still coming through here and there.

I am a bit of a pedant, but not so much so as to normally comment on a typo, but on this occasion the meaning is changed so worth mentioning. “An exciting peak” versus “An exciting peek”. This made me smile.

Kimberley Pledger

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Pim

Pim

I understand your reservations. I agree it would be much more powerful (and maybe a next step in refining their approach?) by allowing teams to make such decisions themselves.

Knowing Spotify a bit I feel as if the hierarchy isn't as strict as you picture. It's not like you put in a request and wait for your manager to decide, but more about a conversation. But I agree it has the potential problem of being too much dependent on the manager's leadership style.

Sounds great, but I think requires a little digging beyond Spotify’s headline... That guardrail covers a multitude of corporate sins!

Ali Sturgess-Durden

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Ali Sturgess-Durden

Ali Sturgess-Durden

You're so right, Pim! the culture within which this process happens makes all the difference. It's so important for organisation wanting to learn and adopt these progressive practices to understand the context of these radical policies. Makes me think about other high profile policies like 'unlimited annual leave' and 'set your own salary'. Context is key!

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Novartian

Novartian

That's exciting for Spotify, but Novartis, a global pharma with 100K employees, has implemented this already last year, a program called "choice". There's no more expectation to work permanently from the office, and importantly manager is "informed", but the decision is aligned with the rest of the team to keep the collaboration flowing. Tech is shiny, but some "traditional" companies do really cool things too.

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Sebastian Bueno

Sebastian Bueno

Thanks a lot Pim for this great article!

Do you know how Spotify is managing the legal element of hiring people anywhere in the world?

In other words, I understand how they could offer legal employment and relocation to their people in countries/cities in which Spotify has an office around the world.

However, I am not so sure which type of contract they use to hire people where they dont have an Spotify office or legal entity. Are they hiring everyone as freelancers for example? Are they using external agencies to "act as local employer on behalf of Spotify"? Something else?

I would really appreciate if you could share any insights or ideas you might have on this Pim :) We are currently experiencing similar challenges in the company I work, and have been exploring ways of hiring people abroad but havent found anything clear yet.

Thanks a lot in advance for your help!

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Stephan

Stephan

Great advert for employer branding. However, in the detail lays the devil. I would be very much interested how spotify ensures the following labor topics:
- where will the employee be taxed?
- where will the employee be insured (accident, healt insurance)

As far as I understand this is not aligned yet between countries and cooperations. Thanks!

| | 1 | Flag
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