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Rethinking the Future of Work At Chewy
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A Note From Our CEO, Sumit Singh to Team Members

Hi Team, 

Since my last note about our Return to Office (RTO) plans, we have been monitoring the state of affairs to gather the best and most up-to-date information. Concurrently within Chewy, many cross-functional leaders, including myself, have been having a ton of great dialogue about how we should think about RTO, within the guardrails and context of: (a) Chewy being a young and fast-growing company where building an inclusive, innovation-forward and high-performance culture is of utmost importance, and (b) recognizing that “flexibility” is important to us Chewtopians. 

So, with that in mind, I would like to share my current thinking on our plans. To be candid, we are continuing to learn and have not figured this out fully yet. But we are getting closer, and I believe that by having such transparent dialogue with each other, we will arrive at a state which is “uniquely Chewy” and meets the two guardrails that I highlighted above.   

Before I begin, I wish to thank each of you for your continued hard work and commitment to each other and our customers over the past two years.

During this time, we have persevered through challenges that have impacted all of us, both, personally and professionally, and in response we’ve innovated robustly to deliver results and earn trust of our customers and shareholders alike. I remain inspired by your efforts and contributions throughout this time. Thank You!  


Now, let’s begin… 

 

As of March 2022, we have been “working from home” for two long years. During this time, we have grown our top line approximately 85% on a two-year stacked basis; launched five new fulfillment centers and a new corporate office in Bellevue, WA; launched several customer-facing innovations (including tele-health, insurance, and personalization); and increased the strength of Chewy nearly two- fold, to roughly 21,000 team members across the country, with 2,400 of them present in our four Corporate locations. And while we have not been totally immune from industry meta-trends of increased attrition, our company-wide engagement (as reflected via listening sessions and the engagement score in June 2021), indicates that overall team member satisfaction with Chewy remains high.  

To summarize, it would be accurate to state that we have proven that Chewtopians can remain effective and deliver results even when not working from the office.   

At the same time…. 

 

We are a growing company with a vibrant, and still-forming, culture. We are still operationalizing our Operating Principles (OPs) and other practices across talent attraction, development, and general management effectiveness. As leaders, we are just beginning to learn how this can happen effectively when not being in office. Moreover, given our rapid growth rate, over 30%, or nearly 800 Chewtopians across various corporate departments have joined Chewy during the last two years. A majority have never stepped foot into Chewy’s offices. Several hundred have never met their fellow team members in-person, and this is not too dissimilar for those who are not new to Chewy.

This has led to a kind of “relationship asymmetry” across Chewy, where in many instances, team members with prior relationships that were formed over an in-office set up, claim to enjoy deeper trust or comfort with each other, and/or observe a higher effectiveness in collaboration and innovation, compared to where these relationships have been completely virtual. I do not believe such a relationship asymmetry to be healthy over the long term for Chewy and for Chewtopians. It’s important that we consider this in choosing the best way of working going forward.  


Not surprisingly, when we do meet each other in person now, jokes of endearment such as “oh wow – you’re really tall but I could never tell over zoom” are common to hear.  It is also common (and heartening) to observe the number of times phrases such as “it is so good to see you – let’s do this again soon,” are mentioned. When teams across Chewy are brought together for staff meetings, or brainstorming sessions, or other such purpose, they have reported a sense of re-connectedness to the workplace, and to their fellow co-workers.  

In (formal and informal) surveys conducted within teams at Chewy, many Chewtopians have clearly stated a desire to stay connected to the workplace and not an outright desire to be “fully remote”.

For example, in a survey conducted across a sub-set of the Chewy Tech org, 68% of Tech Chewtopians responded with a desire to work flexibly – “flexible” defined as between 0-5 days in office, with over 50% choosing at least one day in office.  

To summarize, we believe that there is tremendous value in in-person collaboration and connectivity to maintain our culture of innovation and to build strong relationships and trust between teams and team members.  As such, I believe it is important to maintain a connective tissue to in-office work. 

So, what does all this mean and how do we create a balance between these two states?  
 

"To me personally, it has become increasingly clear that, as we continue to navigate an ongoing global pandemic, we are being presented with a valuable opportunity to rethink the future of work at Chewy. It is an opportunity to design and improve our systems, processes and cultural frameworks in a manner that will allow our team members to do their best work; balancing their desire for flexibility while maintaining the culture, collaboration and engagement that makes Chewy such a special place. To fully figure out this state of the future, it will take us the better part of 2022, and some openness to experimenting." 


Here is where we will start:  

 
  1. If you are not located in or near the same city as a Chewy hub, we do not expect you to relocate or commute regularly to an office, in the near future. If this guidance changes, we will provide ample notice for you to appropriately adjust and transition.  
  2. If you are a People Leader at Chewy, in addition to maintaining your and your team’s flexible schedule, we strongly encourage, and will expect you to bring your teams together in person periodically, at some reasonable frequency. Specifically, we recommend that you establish recurring meeting and collaboration mechanisms, for example, business reviews, all-hands meetings, town halls, and strategic planning sessions, which will provide the opportunity for your teams to connect in-person at some recurring frequency, over the course of a month, quarter and the year.  
  3. If you are an individual contributor, or a manager, then, starting in April 2022, I urge you to identify the best routine for you to visit and work out of our Chewy offices. You can continue maintaining your flexibility and at the same time, find moments for in-person connection with your fellow Chewtopians by working out of the office one day a week, or a few times a month. To my point above, your Senior leaders will help in setting a tone and direction. 
  4. To further assist with this structure, we will establish and share both formal and informal mechanisms and best practices (including virtual) for engaging leaders and team members at Chewy and enabling them to work effectively. Our HR team will be sharing more information with leaders in the coming weeks on how to manage in-person meetings safely and effectively with your teams.  


Additionally, we are commencing a few “firsts” / new pilots in 2022, captured below: 

  1. Flex-Tech Pilot: Starting with our Tech Organization, in March 2022, we will commence a nationwide pilot, which will include several hundred Chewtopians across the Technology department. This model called the Tech-Flex model, is a 45-60 day pilot and is being spearheaded by senior leadership spanning Tech, HR and Facilities.  Under this model, a cohort of Tech team members work with our leadership flexibly, through specifically designed engagement tenets, centered around flexible work, from one of our four corporate offices. The model will be evaluated across dimensions of team member experience, productivity and overall scalability, which will help inform our decisions for how we launch the long-term model that will lead us into the future. If successful, we expect to broadly roll it out across our Technology, Data Science and Operations Research Organizations in Q2, 2022.  
  2. Virtual-CS Site Launch: In 2022, we will launch up to two customer service sites (in two new markets) which will have Flex-work – not tied to an in-office set up as our primary objective. This model will produce an engagement model where CS agents enjoy in-home flexibility while at the same time showing strong connectivity to Chewy’s customer service fundamentals. In addition to agents in these new markets, we will also extend this program to CS agents in our existing markets in the future. Our current plan is to launch the first virtual-Market in Q2, 2022.  
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There are likely some unanswered questions which weren’t covered to a sufficient degree in this update. If so, please feel free to jot your questions down and share with your leader, and your HRBP partner. We are all trying to figure this out, so let’s please remain patient, and solutions-oriented with each other, as we undertake this journey.  

We will continue to share updates on the progress of our new flexible work pilots and work structure evolution as we advance our journey of reshaping the future of work at Chewy.  


Thank you again for your continued commitment and agility, and for everything you do that makes Chewy such a special place.  

Regards, 

-Sumit