It is not an understatement to say that the world of work will never return to the way it was in 2019. The future of work is one where flexibility and employee choice reigns supreme.
Flexible working is more than just working from home, it is the ability to choose not just your working location, but also your working hours. It also embraces employee choice around other benefits, like parental leave or holiday allowances.
The ‘Great Resignation’ has only emphasized this – multiple studies show that workers across the world are prepared to quit if their employer tries to over-control where and when they work.
46% of 31,000 workers in 31 countries told Microsoft they would consider leaving their current job because of a lack of remote working options. While Topia’s 2022 survey found that 95% saw flexible working as an important factor in looking for a new job.
One company that has been applauded for its flexible workplace approach, even before COVID-19, is luxury fashion retailer Farfetch.
“Farfetch’s mission is to be the global platform for luxury”, CPO Sian Keane tells UNLEASH. It aims to revolutionize the luxury fashion sector by acting as an e-commerce retail marketplace for luxury boutiques globally.
Flexa Careers has listed Farfetch second on its top 100 most flexible large companies to work for in 2022; it was pipped to the top spot by artificial intelligence company TELUS International. Farfetch also came in at 66 among the top 100 flexible companies of any size.
Keane is incredibly proud that Farfetch has been recognized for its flexible workplace; she sees it as a testament “of our commitment to providing a flexible environment where our people can thrive and succeed”.
Inside Farfetch’s flexible workplace
“I truly believe this a result of listening to our people, and taking action where people need flexibility the most – as it comes in many forms”, notes Keane. Flexa Career’s ranking – Farfetch was given 80% – is based on parameters like working from home, flexibility around ours, benefits, and frequency of travel.
Farfetch has been offering flexible working since 2013, and it has been offering flexible benefits since 2014 when the fashion brand relaxed its fixed working hours – the core working hours differ between the different offices globally.
Then in 2015, Farfetch reviewed holiday allowances and parental leave – the company offers enhanced and shared parental leave, adoption leave, as well as 32 days of holiday.
Four years later, the brand went even further and launched ‘Boomerang’ – a sabbatical program – as well as two GiveBack days annually for its employees – known as Farfetchers.
For Farfetch and Keane, flexible working “is about providing people both choice and autonomy to balance both work and home life”. The company tries to create fair and equitable policies for its 6,000 employees across 19 countries. “What works in one country, may not in another”, but the aims are the same globally, explains Keane.
COVID-19 and the world of work
While Farfetch was more on board with flexible working than many other businesses globally, it was still impacted by the pandemic.
Although Farfetch’s diverse workforce spread across offices, warehouses and retail stores also experienced the pandemic differently, the company focused on “caring for our Farfetchers in line with our values”.
The brand’s core values are ‘Todos Juntos’ (or the spirit of togetherness) – where Farfetchers help not only each other, but also customers and partners, many of whom were hit hard by the pandemic.
Linked to this is ‘Be Human’ where Farfetchers are respectful and kind to their colleagues and welcome mistakes as learning opportunities.
In addition, Keane’s HR team “increased our visibility via communication, technology, and team support”.
“What served us well through the weight of the pandemic – and continues to do so now – is the open dialogue we have with our Farfetchers through group-wide communication channels”.
Keane notes that Farfetch was very aware that a big challenge while working from home during COVID-19 for office-based staff was “the ongoing time spent at home in front of screens, with limited human contact with colleagues”.
To tackle this, Farfetch dialed up its employee listening to gain “critical data and insights” on areas of success or areas where people were struggling. Keane is clear that “listening to our people and taking action on areas that will drive the most value for our people” is a core people priority for Farfetch.
Tech tool Humu was on hand to help. It showed Farfetch it needed to scale up wellbeing initiatives – including the launch of its Positive Living strategy, additional time off, as well as transforming GiveBack days (which were hard to take during the pandemic) into caring days so employees could focus on themselves and their wellbeing.
Humu will continue to help the company in figuring out its future of work model.
“We are combining keeping a close eye on trends, continuing to listen to our people and taking action, as well as trialing new ideas” – for instance, ‘Furfetchers’ where UK workers bring their dogs to the office.
But “one thing is for certain, flexibility is here to stay,” emphasizes Keane.
Helping everyone thrive at work
Keane is particularly pleased that Humu’s latest happiness survey found 86% of Farfetchers felt a sense of belonging to the brand – aka they feel included and are able to be their true selves at work. In addition, 82% were happy at work and 88% would recommend Farfetch as a great place to work.
This leads us onto another core tenet of the world of work at Farfetch – diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Our people priorities are deep-rooted in creating the conditions for our Farfetchers to develop their career and thrive” – this is achieved by “building a consciously inclusive culture and investing in our wellbeing strategy”.
Being “positively inclusive” is core to Farfetch, and it extends beyond the company. It wants to see change in the fashion community as a whole. While things are improving in the fashion sector, there is still work to be done to ensure that recruitment and promotions are based on merit, not other factors.
As well as being a conscious inclusion leader, Farfetch’s 2030 ESG goals also include making fashion more sustainable – such as through a more efficient packaging supply chain, making deliveries and returns carbon neutral, and informing customers which are the most sustainable brands on the marketplace.
Currently, 53% of employees and 35% of the leadership team are women, the fashion retailer wants to do better – starting by collecting employed data about ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion. This is another example of when data and information is power for Farfetch.
Farfetch not only investing in de-biasing its recruitment process, but also ensuring there is diverse representation at all levels of the organization. For this reason, it has set up virtual manager development training and is highly focused on career development.
The employer relies on Workday’s learning platform – as well as Coursera and Udemy – to provide a range of learning and upskilling opportunities for all workers.
Given Farfetch’s prioritization of flexible working and career development – key causes of the ‘Great Resignation’ – it is no surprise that the retailer is not seeing a mass exodus of talent.
“Our attrition rates are still below pre-pandemic levels,” explains Keane. But Farfetch is not resting on its laurels; “this is something we do not take lightly, and we continue to be laser focused on what we need to do to maintain, and improve, the people experience of Farfetchers”.
“Our ‘do what’s never been done’ approach provides an incredible opportunity for people to accelerate their career, while revolutionizing the [fashion] industry for good”, concludes Keane.