Working Remote is the DNA of Direct Selling

Young Living COO Jared Turner isn’t going back to the way things were.

It was 2 p.m. on a Friday, and Jared Turner was judging his employees. Flanked by his company’s head of finance and its chief legal counselor, the president and COO wandered amongst the cubicles at Young Living’s headquarters, taking note of which departments had cut out for the weekend.

He assumed the worst.

“Look at these people,” Turner recalls thinking to himself. “They’ve left early. We’re losing productivity. They’re not giving us their best… It bugged me.”

That was then, and this is now. Since the office culture paradigm shift in the spring of 2020, when virtually all companies shifted to an all-virtual, remote structure, Turner has experienced something of a personal awakening. Gone are his notions, held over from a background practicing law, that productive collaboration, strategic thinking, and innovation can only best be accomplished by a 9-to-5, in-office work environment.

Trumpeting Work-From-Home Benefits

Instead, he’s become a leading evangelist for the growing work-from-home movement. Turner is trumpeting the benefits of remote work to any and all who will listen, in spite of the fact that Young Living’s pristine Lehi, Utah offices, which opened in 2019 with some 150 meeting spaces meant to foster teamwork and collegiality, now sits mostly dark. A subset of employees, deemed essential for in-person work, continues to report each day.

Turner didn’t anticipate this change of heart. As the new standard of social distancing began to unfold in March, he feared that the essential oils leader would slowly “disintegrate.” That hasn’t been the case at all, he says. In an article Turner penned for the Salt Lake Tribune in May, he cited productivity increases of 25 percent in the IT department and 13 percent in sales. He refers to easily trackable metrics that prove call center employees are getting more done, and reports that the majority of employees are feeling not only more productive, but happier.

“I’ve heard countless stories of staff members who, for the first time, were able to eat lunch with their kids, or early dinner with their kids,” Turner says. “Between Zoom calls, they’ve been able to go about and play in the backyard, or they’re connecting with their spouse more. And it’s created a whole new work-life balance that we had all only dreamed of.”

“As long as we’re productive, as long as we’re connecting, as long as we’re getting business results, I don’t know why we would change the model.”

Looking Long Term

Young Living has given permission for employees to work remotely through the end of 2020, but Turner is truly looking in the longer term. By allowing staffers to telecommute, he expects that retention will be improved as employees appreciate the perks of working from the comforts of their home, or anywhere. Turner imagines hiring even more skilled employees, the best of the best living in San Francisco, New York or London, as opposed to picking from the talent pool of Salt Lake City or from applicants willing to relocate.

He admits that his prior assumptions about why employees might leave early on a Friday didn’t take into account that every worker is different. Some may have come in early that day, or worked later Monday through Thursday, or had a family obligation that couldn’t be missed. Likewise, he is aware that not every employee now prefers to work from home. Single people, in particular, were likely to report missing the in-person connection with their Young Living coworkers.

Authenticity Rules

In an effort to maintain the company’s culture, Turner has made a concerted effort to be more authentic and vulnerable with his team on bi-weekly town hall videoconferences. Young Living’s HR team has created weekly happy hour calls, and groups can still gather at the basketball court behind company headquarters for socially distanced games of H-O-R-S-E. The company offered employees a $500 stipend for home office spending.

Generally, Turner says, the “rockstar” employees have maintained their production following the pivot, and many people who like to work remotely have gone “above and beyond the call of duty” to prove that the new model works. But other helpful insights have emerged as well.

“You can see the people who fade away, whom you don’t hear from for a couple weeks, and who don’t have a lot to do,” Turner says. “In-person work can camouflage that. People can come in and fake hustle all day long. We’re waking up to that reality and creating new management frameworks to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

Improving the Quality of Life

A long-term shift to a remote work structure will come with other changes, Turner acknowledges, but he is overwhelmingly positive about the potential for positive results those can bring—not only for Young Living and its employees but for the community and society as a whole.

“Imagine the improved happiness of a single mom who no longer needs to commute an hour to work and back every day,” Turner says. “Imagine how much more present she can be for her kids and the long-term effects of extra time spent with them. Imagine the environmental improvements in a new world where she and millions of other people take their cars off the highway.”

Turner describes Young Living as “a farming company,” which has green values at its foundation. Young Living’s estimates show that by allowing 95 percent of its headquarters workforce to stay home, it eliminates 20,175 pounds of carbon emissions per day. When it extended remote work through the end of the year, the company effectively produced the same amount of environmental carbon dioxide removal as 64,700 mature trees.

And then there is a part of all this that is harder for Turner to quantify: the impact on his own quality of life. A father of three, he has grown accustomed to having his kids drop in on Zoom meetings and has taken up daily walks with them to visit a neighbor’s pet zebra.

Young Living’s members—its field—have of course, always been spread across the country and the world, operating independently. As Turner sees it, remote work is in the DNA of direct selling, which gives the industry leadership credibility in the economy of the future.

Having experienced what he has in 2020, Turner can’t see a return to business as usual: “I don’t know how the world can go back to the way things were.” DSN