Can Nike ‘Just Do It’ with a hybrid work model?

Nike’s Beaverton, OR campus - Source: Nike recruitment video
May 17, 2021

Nike sent out an internal memo last week calling on U.S. employees to return to work at world headquarters (WHQ) in Beaverton, OR at least three full days a week, with the option to work up to two days remotely.

The goal is to reopen all campus locations at reduced capacity by September.

“While it’s true many of us feel productive working remotely, there’s something about spending time in the office with your team,” Nike vice president of workplace design and connectivity Jeff Nichols wrote in the memo first attained by Yahoo Finance. “WHQ is the physical representation of Nike’s heart and soul. Coming back together means the opportunity to honor our legacy and create the future together. And we’ll do it with added flexibility — because we know that work happens anywhere, not just in an office.”

He noted that Nike had a hybrid work model in the works even before the pandemic, and is expecting to continue to make adjustments.

“We are all learning and evolving the way we work together,” said Mr. Nichols. “This flexible model is new to all of us, and we’ll continue to seek your input and make adjustments as needed over time.”

The memo came a day before the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) said fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in most settings.

Many corporations are exploring “hybrid” work models as surveys show workers are favoring the flexibility and seeking to avoid the commute every day. Employers appear more concerned about losing the benefits of in-office environments, such as collaboration, mentoring and bonding.

Among major corporations, Twitter and Facebook are shifting to a remote work model permanently. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are calling their workers back to the office and Google and Microsoft are embracing hybrid set-ups.

Amazon in late March told its U.S. employees to expect to return to the office by early fall. The memo read, “Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline. We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”

DISCUSSIONS: What benefits and challenges will a hybrid workweek likely present for Nike? Have you gained any more or less confidence in the effectiveness of hybrid or remote working models over the last year?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"A hybrid model can work, but it won’t just happen by edict."
"I strongly believe that giving employees the flexibility to choose WHERE they want to get their work done from can actually boost their productivity..."
"As long as leadership is following the hybrid model, then teams will be willing to work this way."

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10 Comments on "Can Nike ‘Just Do It’ with a hybrid work model?"

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Liza Amlani

As a former merchant and product developer, being around other creatives gets the juices flowing and there is nothing like that via digital capabilities.

What we learned during the pandemic is that it is possible to collaborate via digital tools but it is no easy task, especially if you are a designer, product developer, or a merchant.

Nike’s hybrid working model will only be as good as their leaders. The campus is amazing and it is inspiring to be in a space where the greats like Jordan and Serena walked the halls. There is nothing like it.

As long as leadership is following the hybrid model, then teams will be willing to work this way. Otherwise the guilt will set in where you see your team leader in the office five days a week and you will feel inclined to do so as well.

Cathy Hotka

The participants in this month’s CXO Council meeting felt strongly that a full-on return to the office just won’t happen. There are too many issues with child care, staff who are happily remote, and the joys of a national talent pool. I’m going to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Jeff Weidauer

A hybrid model can work, but it won’t just happen by edict. Making it successful requires ongoing management and buy-in from all sides, in particular the ability to set specific “days in” for planning.

Phil Rubin
Phil Rubin
Founder, Grey Space Matters
2 years 21 days ago

If any company has a compelling reason to bring people back, and if any employee base has a similar reason, it’s Nike. Having spent time “inside the berm” at WHQ, it’s a pretty incredible campus and absolutely compelling in terms of environment. Equally or more important given the “W” in WHQ (i.e., world or global), Nike’s culture and organizational structure includes and requires lots of cross functional collaboration (think categories and geographies).

As we’ve all learned, or will learn as we get back out into the world, there is no substitute for spending time and building relationships IRL and the collaborative benefits it leads to.

Raj B. Shroff

The benefits of hybrid are many. On the WFH side, minimizing the stress of commutes, spending less on transportation, and mental and physical well-being. And on the in-person side, the energy of being around other people is definitely a benefit.

I think the challenge is that the last four + generations have worked in-person. Shifting to a new way of working, really anything, is hard. We have been conditioned to work under the 8-5 M-F in-person construct. It’s outdated.

I’ve gained more confidence in remote and hybrid models. I’ve seen clients lose weight by having more time to exercise and make better dietary choices. I’ve seen multiple family members tour the country while working remotely. And a handful of other examples of the positive impact of being remote. Work productivity has not suffered, even in innovative projects.

Hybrid and remote are the new guard. Tools will get better to enable more constructive collaboration. I think the benefit of flexibility to those who have it outweighs the downside of not always being physically together.

Jeff Sward

I think teamwork develops and evolves on a couple of different levels: Intellectual and emotional. It’s not hard to envision intellectual teamwork being able to function on a remote and hybrid model. It’s very difficult to imagine emotional teamwork operating in a similar way. And by emotional teamwork I am referring to the relationships and bonds that form over time. The relationships that create amazing synergies and the relationships that can withstand conflict. I’m guessing this point of view is highly generational and that the younger among us will have a much easier time with remote/hybrid models. I do think they can work — after a certain level of “team” is achieved. And yes, it’s tough to define exactly what that means.

Bindu Gupta

I strongly believe that giving employees the flexibility to choose WHERE they want to get their work done from can actually boost their productivity as they are less stressed about commuting/finding conference rooms and managing other duties such as picking up kids on time, etc.

Craig Sundstrom

There’s no mystery: the benefits are reduced travel and occupancy costs — even if it’s nothing more than turning off lights in unused offices. The drawbacks are fewer opportunities to work together directly. At least this is the tally from the company’s POV: lights off in the office are presumably offset by lights on in the house … so it’s a rather subtle shifting of who pays; similarly less travel means less revenue for gas stations or transit operators, and fewer days in the office means fewer lunches in restaurants near the office (but perhaps more closer to home).

Personally I’m a little skeptical, thinking all will be well until something goes badly because someone wasn’t around.

Kenneth Leung

Key is the employees being comfortable to close proximity workspace and whether those with children can get child care through school or other means during the work day. Having the physical togetherness is good for creativity and having the hybrid model does takes the stress out a bit for daily commute.

Brad Eckhart

I believe that Nike, as well as most other fashion brands and retailers, are going to be required to embrace some form of the hybrid model in order to be competitive in the workforce marketplace. Having worked in fashion retail most of my career, there is no doubt that there are certain critical milestones in any creative development calendar, where being in person with your team is more collaborative, productive, and creative than working remotely. However these milestones do not occur every day and I believe there is the opportunity to make a hybrid model work successfully, even in the most creative environments. The key is for management to ensure they are disciplined in their calendar management and that they communicate expectations effectively and in a timely fashion to their teams.

"A hybrid model can work, but it won’t just happen by edict."
"I strongly believe that giving employees the flexibility to choose WHERE they want to get their work done from can actually boost their productivity..."
"As long as leadership is following the hybrid model, then teams will be willing to work this way."

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