How Yelp’s Remote Work Commitment Is Driving Business Success

02/05/20248 min read
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Carmen Amara
Chief People Officer
verified iconExpert in Organizational Transformation
The Chief People Officer of Yelp, Carmen Amara is a human resources executive with over 20 years of experience at Fortune 500 and Fortune 50 companies.
  • Human Resources
  • Leadership Development
  • Global Management
How Yelp’s Remote Work Commitment Is Driving Business Success

The past year has been a period of profound transformation for companies around the world, with many organizations asking employees to return to the office due to concerns about decreasing productivity and collaboration. At Yelp, we’ve taken a different approach and have continued to fully embrace remote work.

When we began reopening our offices in 2021, we never set a return-to-office date and instead gave individuals the option to use an office only if they wanted. Employees voted with their feet, with an average of 1% of employees choosing to return in person in 2021 and the first half of 2022. In response, we announced the closure of three offices in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in June 2022, and the following June announced the closures of two additional offices in Phoenix, Arizona, and Hamburg, Germany, due to underutilization.

As Yelp’s Chief People Officer, I’ve worked closely with our teams to rethink the office paradigm and create the future of work at Yelp. My role has been to ensure that our remote work environment allows our employees to create their own unique work-life fit. We aim to enable them to build rewarding careers while enjoying an enriching life outside of work—and it’s been a journey full of discoveries.

A significant majority of Yelp’s employees prefer to work remotely and find it more productive.

A Path to a Thriving Remote Workforce

Actively listening to our employees allowed us to create a workplace that supports our workforce in both their professional and personal lives. We have several touch points as part of our employee listening strategy, including a regular cadence of surveys, as well as smaller group and one-on-one meetings, that have been pivotal in helping us enhance our remote work environment.

In addition to confirming that our employees were voting with their feet, our 2022 Yelp employee survey found that 87% of our team felt favorably about working remotely, while 85% reported feeling connected to their teams and well-informed while operating in a distributed work setting. We also found that the percentage of new employees feeling connected to their teams in the initial 30 days of employment showed no notable difference between 2019 (95%) and 2022 (94%).

Gartner research has found that emotional proximity is fostered through intentional connection—just because individuals sit next to each other in an office does not mean they are emotionally connected. At Yelp, we’ve been intentional about building a workplace that allows individuals to connect deeply across time zones and even continents—and our survey data has shown that employees appreciate the work environment we’ve been building.

IT, marketing, finance, and project management offered the highest volume of remote roles.

Benefits of Remote Work for Employees

As part of our employee listening strategy, which includes a benefits survey, we ask our employees how we can better support them in our remote workplace. Data from our 2022 survey showed that 74% of participants identified “physical and mental well-being” as one of their top two crucial employee benefits in a remote work setting. This insight prompted us to enhance our wellness benefit by 33% in 2023.

Well-being takes many forms, so Yelp’s wellness benefit is purposely broad—employees can use the stipend for anything from gym classes to massages. Yelp also took additional steps in 2023 to support the well-being of its employees through the expansion of its benefits to include menopause and low T support, as well as the introduction of a new digital mental wellness platform that provides short-term personalized care.

Flexibility in terms of scheduling, location, and career options is the top benefit of remote work.

Yelp has employees across the US, and we strive to protect their physical well-being by providing consistent healthcare coverage—regardless of their location. In June 2023, Yelp announced that it had expanded the reproductive healthcare travel benefit it implemented in 2022 to provide reimbursement when employees and their covered dependents need to travel out of their home state to access any covered medical services due to state bans, restrictions, or regulations—including reproductive health and gender-affirming care.

Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leading an organization, we’ve found that our employees enjoy the autonomy and flexibility that remote work offers. HR leaders looking to significantly change their work environment should start by strengthening their employee listening strategy and ensuring that employee feedback results in action—even if that action is just to explain why the organization isn’t moving forward with a specific suggestion. Many organizations find that their employee feedback strategy is hampered by what they consider survey fatigue, which is when the percentage of survey respondents goes down significantly over time. However, much of this survey fatigue—which a number of HR professionals feel can be solved by fewer or shorter surveys—is actually inaction fatigue, which is when employees stop prioritizing surveys or feedback sessions due to the perceived lack of action taken as a result of their feedback.

People are leaving densely populated business hubs for states that provided a lower cost of living.

The Strength of a Diverse Talent Mix

Yelp’s remote work posture allows us to search for the best talent, regardless of location. In my role, I work closely with our chief diversity officer to build teams that better reflect the communities we serve. We shifted from a workforce primarily centered around eight office locations, mainly concentrated in the US, to one that spans all 50 states and five additional countries—with over half of our engineering team based outside the US.

This geographical diversity has introduced a wealth of perspectives, ideas, and problem-solving approaches. We’ve seen a real strength and increase in our candidate applications as a result of our decision to embrace remote work. From 2019 to 2022, the number of applicants per job posting surged, most notably in general and administrative (up 200%) and sales roles (up 25%). In fact, Yelp’s remote work posture was one of the aspects that attracted me to the chief people officer role.

Enhanced Productivity and Innovation

As a remote company, we’ve seen accelerated product velocity and significant growth—demonstrating that innovation is alive and well at Yelp. In April 2023, we announced Yelp Guaranteed, one of the most significant product launches in Yelp’s history. The launch included over a dozen new features, including “an enhanced search experience that leverages artificial intelligence and large language models” to help Yelp users establish meaningful connections and find the ideal business to meet their requirements.

Our increased product velocity has translated into increased revenue. In November 2023, Yelp announced its 10th consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth.

A study found that remote positions attracted 2.25 times more talent than in-office positions.

The Future of Work

Both employee feedback and our business results have shown the success of our remote work model—but we know that our journey is just beginning. As Yelp moves toward the future of work, we will continue to be intentional about using our employee listening strategy to create connections regardless of geographic location, and will keep refining our offerings to support our team members worldwide. We will also continue to enhance learning and development by piloting new opportunities that feature senior leadership and provide employees with the ability to learn asynchronously and discuss their learnings with their peers. This forward-looking mindset is not just about adapting—it’s about leading the way in the remote work revolution, setting a standard for what a dynamic, distributed workforce can achieve.

A study found that 71% of employees prefer fully remote positions. 1% prefer permanent office work.

Tips for Remote Work Success

Because of Yelp’s success in embracing remote work, I’d like to summarize some of my points and share actionable tips that I believe can help other companies. Here are some proven strategies that focus on nurturing a productive, satisfied, and connected remote workforce:

  • Engage in active listening: Regularly connect with your team through surveys and meetings to understand their needs and preferences. It’s crucial to show that you’re not just collecting feedback but are committed to acting on it. Demonstrating that employee input can drive real change fosters a more inclusive and responsive work environment.
  • Leverage flexibility: The flexibility offered by remote work is a game-changer for employee satisfaction. Customize your work policies to empower your team with greater control over their work-life integration. This could mean flexible hours or the option to work asynchronously, depending on the role and project needs.
  • Broaden your talent pool: Step outside geographical limits when hiring. This approach does more than widen your talent pool; it brings diverse perspectives and innovative ideas into your organization, enriching your business approach and company culture.
  • Invest in well-being: Tailor your benefits to the unique demands of remote work. This could involve extending mental health support, offering fitness stipends, or even providing home office equipment. It’s about addressing the all-around wellness of your team, which is critical in a remote setting.
  • Deploy the right tech tools: Ensure your team members have the technology they need for seamless remote collaboration and ongoing innovation. This might mean investing in better communication tools, project management software, or advanced data security systems to support their work-from-home setup.
  • Lead by example: Model the adaptability and openness you wish to see in your team. This leadership style can cultivate a culture of trust and innovation, which is essential in a remote work environment.

As we reflect on these insights, let us collectively embark on a journey to redefine the future of work, one in which companies prioritize the well-being and satisfaction of their remote teams and cultivate an atmosphere of innovation, trust, and success. The remote work revolution is not just about adapting; it’s about shaping a new standard for the workplace of tomorrow.

Carmen Amara
Chief People Officer
verified iconExpert in Organizational Transformation
The Chief People Officer of Yelp, Carmen Amara is a human resources executive with over 20 years of experience at Fortune 500 and Fortune 50 companies.