Rite Aid is going remote-first with its corporate workforce

Photo: Rite Aid
Sep 15, 2021

A lot has changed about the nature of work and what is required to successfully run businesses since the pandemic took hold. New evidence of these shifts is the announcement yesterday by Rite Aid that it is taking a remote-first approach when it comes to corporate associates. To support the workers, Rite Aid is building a network of collaboration centers in markets where the drugstore chain operates to meet and collaborate in-person as needed.

Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan explained the transformation in a video to the enterprise-wide corporate team this morning. Among the news shared was that the company’s new corporate headquarters will be located in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard district to conduct meetings with clients and partners and help to establish and build relationships with remote staff. The space has been designed with in-person collaboration in mind and for company gatherings rather than office space. The planned regional collaboration centers will provide teams with the opportunity to meet in-person as well as training and development.

The number three U.S. drugstore chain has been operating with a remote workforce since the early days of the pandemic. Results from this unplanned experiment gave Rite Aid the confidence to move forward with its remote-first approach.

An internal survey of corporate associates found that a vast majority preferred working from home rather than traveling to an office. Associates pointed to increased productivity as a result of the greater flexibility and a higher degree of control over how they managed their work/life balance. Rite Aid is striving to align its corporate staff of 2,800 under a shared mission and an understanding of their responsibilities working remotely.

“We’re changing our business from the inside out, and our reimagined workplace is the latest exciting step toward the future of this company,” said Ms. Donigan in a statement. “We believe in remote work, and as we lean into it for the long term, we are investing in a physical footprint that will facilitate its best version.”

“We can recruit the best talent regardless of their location, and we can give our corporate associates the freedom and flexibility that today’s workers crave,” said Rite Aid COO Jim Peters.

“I think it’s especially meaningful that these changes were shaped by our associates, whose input we solicited along the way — this approach aligns with one of our core values: get there together,” he added.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Rite Aid is on the right track with its remote-first approach to its corporate workforce and its use of collaboration centers? How do you expect other large retail organizations to approach corporate functions going forward?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"This thoughtful approach by Rite Aid demonstrates forward thinking and builds a new model of cooperation, trust, and shared goals. "
"We aren’t working from home any longer; we’re living from work."
"Will we see a future where employees are required to live with in X miles of a collaboration center, but able to work for home?"

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12 Comments on "Rite Aid is going remote-first with its corporate workforce"

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Mark Ryski

Rite Aid’s approach seems like a thoughtful approach, and creating collaboration centers makes good sense. There are so many factors to consider that I doubt you will find a single approach that will work for everyone. Ultimately, every business is having to adjust to the new work realities created by the pandemic and I expect to see this continue to evolve as we move forward.

Martin Whitmore

I think that Rite Aid is way ahead of the curve with this approach. As other big companies strive to get workers back to the office and struggle with vaccination policies it is becoming more clear that this is our immediate future. With this policy they will become a leader in the recruitment of corporate candidates and a desired landing spot.

Cathy Hotka

Completely agree. Rite Aid is run by very smart people. This approach will help them retain valued staff and compete successfully in a very competitive segment.

Dave Wendland

The shape of tomorrow’s workforce is changing before our eyes. And one of the most crucial questions facing any organization is how to attract and retain talent.

This thoughtful approach by Rite Aid demonstrates forward thinking and builds a new model of cooperation, trust, and shared goals. I applaud the move and feel that others will likely take similar paths.

Jenn McMillen

We aren’t working from home any longer; we’re living from work. Rite Aid will be among the first to embrace it, but I expect it to swing back to in-office at some point.

Georganne Bender
In the ’90s it was thought that workplaces needed community spaces with ping pong tables and basketball courts; places where people could come together and release their creativity. Now the pandemic has everyone is working from home. Even if you want to bring your workplace back to the office full-time it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. I’ve read articles where employers say that remote work is the best thing in the world, and other articles that say remote work isn’t that great for business. I personally know several people who live alone; the isolation is barely tolerable and non-stop Zoom meetings are exhausting. Perhaps Rite Aid will find a happy medium with its collaboration centers. But I have been a retailer buyer and I can’t imagine doing that job without a dedicated space to sort through samples, meet with suppliers, put together collections, create planograms, build sales plans, etc. I needed to be able to walk down the hall and interact with people who helped make each line a success. Zoom… Read more »
Evan Snively

Georganne, you made two important callouts for this “debate” (which clearly there is no universal answer for).

  1. There are certain jobs and industries (like a retail buyer) that are naturally going to lend themselves to a more productive result when there is a dedicated collaboration space employees can go.
  2. Personality type and stage of life are going to influence the effectiveness of each environment (home vs. office) to a greater degree than we probably gave them credit for prior to the pandemic. I am an extrovert, but luckily my wife was also working from home, so at-home work wasn’t so bad. If I was alone, I think it would have been really draining on me to be so isolated. The reverse is true for others.

All in all – if your business allows for it, some type of mixed model is probably best for now in my opinion.

Georganne Bender

Thanks, Evan! My company has an office and I have a beautiful office in my home. I used to love working from home, now I prefer to go to the office. It’s not as isolating and I am tired of my home doubling as a work space. It’s my company so it’s doable, but I can’t imagine allowing a corporation to invade my home for an unlimited amount of time. At least while not being compensated for the imposition. How many people do you know that have had to compromise space in their homes to work comfortably? I know a lot.

Venky Ramesh

I think it’s a smart approach that allows employees the flexibility to work at their productive best. A remote-first approach also provides them wider access to talent without any boundaries.

Gary Sankary

I’m impressed. Traditionally, retailers haven’t been as forward thinking when it comes to workforce management as other industries. I like this approach because it allows for in a reasonable hybrid approach.

Longevity wise? Am curious to see how this matures and develops as people start realizing that they can start moving across the country. Will we see a future where employees are required to live with in X miles of a collaboration center, but able to work for home? Time will tell if more companies go this route or continue to push to get teams back in office.

Personally I’ve been loving working at home. Related, Mrs S is pushing for returning to the office, especially for my company.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

Rite Aid deserves kudos for this strategic move. While other companies struggle with reopening office dates and related Covid policies, Rite Aide’s remote first initiative make the #3 drug store #1 in innovation. Plus, the collaboration centers make terrific sense as vendors “hit the road” enroute to retailers. Finally, the new Philly corporate office and collaboration center is a stone’s throw (less than 10 minutes) from Philadelphia International Airport. How convenient is that?

Brandon Rael

As Rite Aid is driving the customer-first retail transformation, a remote first approach to their corporate operations is a very progressive step in the right direction. The corporate world operating model has shifted to where working remotely has become more of the norm. More regionalized collaboration centers, based on worker population density and the need to meet in person, are the way to go in our current pandemic climate.

While nothing beats the excitement, and the adrenaline rush of working in a corporate office, the corporate operating model of today/tomorrow of being remote-first, will enable companies to attract outstanding talent without the need to relocate permanently. For this progressive model to work, it requires companies such as Rite Aid and others to foster an environment built around trust and transparency.

"This thoughtful approach by Rite Aid demonstrates forward thinking and builds a new model of cooperation, trust, and shared goals. "
"We aren’t working from home any longer; we’re living from work."
"Will we see a future where employees are required to live with in X miles of a collaboration center, but able to work for home?"

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