Gusto reopens its offices by assigning each employee a work character


  • Gusto is an HR technology company valued at $ 9.5 billion. Danielle Brown is its director of human resources.
  • Team leaders assign a work “persona” to each role: remote, flexible or in the office.
  • Brown said it was important for Gusto to give employees some choice, even within limits.

Gusto’s director of human resources, Danielle Brown, describes the company’s reopening plan as follows: “Good advice and meeting people where they are.

A $ 9.5 billion human resources technology company, Gusto provides software for onboarding, payroll and benefits. Brown joined the group in 2019, after a stint as Google’s vice president for employee engagement and head of diversity and inclusion. Lately, she’s figured out how to get Gusto’s employees back to the office.

Brown and his team finally came up with a strategy involving three “characters”, who are distant, flexible, or in the office. Team and department leaders reviewed each role and determined what arrangements it was eligible for, Brown told Insider.

Strategy is a way to ensure that each employee has a choice in how they work while ensuring that their work setup allows them to meet the needs of the business. It’s a difficult balance to strike at a time when many employers are trying to bring employees back to the office – with the feeling that in-person collaboration can’t be replicated – and many employees would prefer a hybrid arrangement.

“We wanted to make sure we had an option that worked for people, their lives, their work preferences and our business needs,” Brown said.

Each role at Gusto will correspond to at least one working configuration: remote, flexible or in the office

Gusto plans to reopen its offices no earlier than mid-October. Management is still discussing the schedule. In July, more and more employees “walked into” the office every day, Brown said.

Gusto’s reopening planning process began with collecting employee feedback. Some Gusties, like Gusto refers to his employees, want to return to the office, Brown said.

“We have Gusties who never intended to set foot in the office,” she added. “They thrive in outer space. And we have people like me who want the in-between.”

Based on this feedback, Gusto designed his three working characters. Brown’s team considered factors like, “Is your role mostly downward? Is your role collaborative with internal or external clients? What time zone should you work in for optimal productivity? “

“It was like a huge Tetris game trying to figure that out,” Brown said. “Lots of brightly colored charts and graphs.”

Some employees will adapt to one character, Brown said, while others will adapt to two or all or three, in which case they can make their own decision in conjunction with their manager. For example, an engineer on a product team could probably work remotely, flexibly, or in the office. A facility maintenance worker is likely to work full time in the office.

Gusto also leaves room for flexibility. “We know that life changes,” Brown said. “What works for you now might not work in six months. So there is room to change and learn.”

Gusto’s initial reopening will be an opportunity to learn

One thing Brown and his team wanted to avoid at all costs: “People come at random.” That’s why each department has chosen the days when flexible employees will work together in the office. For example, the people team, led by Brown, will be coming Tuesday and Wednesday. Most of the team will split their time between remote work and the office, in part so they can see first-hand whether remote and on-site workers “are having a fair experience,” Brown said.

Brown is eagerly awaiting the reopening as a sort of trial period. “As much as we try to plan ahead and as much as we try to figure it out,” she said, “we are going to learn so much.” She added, “I want to have enough flexibility in our system and agility in our system to learn and adapt.”


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