J.M. Smucker, the company best known for its fruity jams and brands like Jif and Folgers, has adopted an uncommon return-to-office approach that employees seem to actually like.
At the company’s Orrville, Ohio, campus, Smucker’s has implemented a strategy where about 1,300 corporate workers are expected to be on-site during 22 “core weeks” annually, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Employees can live anywhere in the U.S. as long as they make their way to Orrville at least 25% of the time or six days a month, which the company encourages during these core weeks.
Mark Smucker, chief executive officer of J.M. Smucker. Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg | Getty Images.
The unique approach comes in stark contrast to the many companies pushing for more in-person presence, some initiatives of which have caused employee outcry. Tech giants like Meta, Google, Amazon, and even remote-work facilitator Zoom, have all called workers back into the office in recent months, emphasizing the importance of in-person collaboration and productivity.
In some cases, these initiatives have rubbed workers the wrong way, mostly due to the strict enforcement of new rules. In June, over one hundred employees at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington staged a protest and walked out in retaliation to the return-to-office mandate. Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings said that there are no “positives” to remote work and that it is a “pure negative.”
The tech exception so far has been Airbnb, which allows workers to be remote and live anywhere.
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Smucker’s approach, which does away with the “all-or-nothing” mentality, is being followed by employees with limited resistance, Smucker’s executives told the WSJ. The policy incentivizes pivotal blocks of time for the company to be together, rather than adopting a year-round model.
“We kind of take advantage of the time when we know we’re going to be here,” Nicole Massey, a Smucker employee who lives in San Francisco but commutes to Orrville once a year, told the WSJ.
The company also believes that the model has helped with recruiting, as some prospective employees may not be overall interested in a position located in Ohio, but could buy into an annual company-wide event, executives told the outlet.
“Core weeks are crazy here,” Jarod Shamp, a manager at Smucker’s, said to the WSJ.
But core weeks aren’t necessarily “crazy” busy or packed with to-do’s. John Nicholas, a company vice president, told the outlet that many managers (as well as himself) keep their schedules open or flexible during the core weeks to factor in impromptu catch-ups with co-workers and “spontaneous hallway conversations.”
“We’re not limited by geography. We’re limited by the fact that we’re going to want you here. You need to have a presence,” he said.
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