Do hybrid working models actually support equity and inclusion? Have companies been more successful as a result of moving to hybrid working models? Is the push to get workers back into the office warranted? There are a lot of questions coming to the surface about what organizations should be doing in regards to their work culture and shifting employee expectations.
As companies examine whether they should go fully remote or get their people face-to-face again instead, Spotify, Dropbox and Quora are examples of hybrid work models that are meeting their DEI goals and adapting to employee expectations for flexible work, while also increasing cost savings and bottom lines. Listen to this episode for case studies on hybrid workplaces that are working well, resulting in a huge benefit to organizations and to their teams who thrive when they have the flexibility they need to do their best work.
Welcome to the Inclusion in Progress podcast where we give you the ideas, actions and insights to help you build more equity at your workplace and in the world at large. I'm your host, Kay Fabella, international expert on diversity, equity and inclusion, a Filipina American living in Spain and your guide in navigating this DEI journey. Having worked with teams at companies such as Philips, the IMF, Red Hat, PepsiCo and more, I know firsthand that the work of inclusion only works when everyone has a seat at the table. Regardless of your personal entrypoint into this conversation: your race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexual orientation, country of origin, or educational background, we all have a role to play in creating inclusion for all and it starts with us having conversations we need to create the change we wish to see. So let's dive into today's episode.
Welcome back to our show! And for those of you tuning in for the first time… welcome, welcome!
I'm Kay Fabella, the host of the Inclusion in Progress podcast where you will get research backed industry insights into the future of work, and practical How To’s for Equity and Inclusion.
Now, I've said this on the podcast before, but I lead a remote team and we also work with clients across EMEA, APAC and the Americas. Which means, if you're just tuning in, you will get a truly global perspective of how the future of work culture is evolving in real time.
So, speaking of my remote team, Team IIP just got back from seeing each other in person for the first time ever in Kenya last month! We had a blast getting to explore the country with our local team members there and we're feeling very energized as we move into the final few months of 2022. And I've got to admit, it's really weird to see everyone back inside our normal Zoom rectangles on the screen after having sat with them and shared meals and conversations and languages and cultural differences and similarities in real life. But we can all agree that the in-person trip was exactly what we needed after having worked remotely for almost two years. And we even hired a new person to the team while we were in Kenya! So I'm very excited to have them on board as well.
So as Team IIP continues to grow and expand, I just wanted to take a quick opportunity to say thank you. Inclusion in Progress is coming up on its - Can you believe it? 100th episode! - and its third year as a podcast. Now, I know you're listening to my voice as the host, as a DEI practitioner that's sharing these insights with a global perspective. But our company really couldn't have grown without the support of listeners like you. We appreciate how many of you from, now, over 35 countries continue to engage with our content week after week, month after month, on how the DEI or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conversation is evolving, and how the future of work is being shaped and how cross-cultural communication is critical in a distributed world.
So if you could please do us a 5-minute favor, we would super appreciate it! If you're a long-time listener, or you've just found value in the first few episodes, we would really appreciate you leaving us a review on your favorite podcast app. Now, every review helps us reach those who would gain value from these episodes, who would be able to implement these insights into their own workplaces. Your review also helps more people leading Equity and Inclusion have access to the discussions that we are having here. Adele left us a review a few months ago that said, “I love the way this podcast discusses the sensitive subject of diversity in the workplace. I found it enlightening and love the questions and answers it poses. A thought provoking and lively conversation from the heart. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone looking to diversify their workplace.”
Now, creating accessible content to support equity-minded listeners like Adele and like you is something that we're incredibly passionate about at Inclusion in Progress and we hope it shows. The easiest way to support us in our mission to create greater inclusion at work is to take a few minutes to leave that review so that more people who need these resources and conversations can benefit and continue our mission to change workplaces for the better. We’ll be sure to leave instructions for you to leave that review for us at the link in the show notes.
Now, as I'm recording this, I'm back in Spain, in my home base of Madrid, where I've been based since 2010. And I've been preparing the team to launch our 2022 Whitepaper later this year. So we'll be sure to let you know as soon as that's available. But one of the things I like about us putting out a Whitepaper at the end of the year is that we get to look back on the year that was, summarize what we've seen from working with our client partners like Red Hat and Instagram, and share the latest industry insights and predictions with you for next year.
Now, one of the biggest things that's come up for companies over this past year as we move into this post-COVID period, is how to evolve company culture for a either fully-remote or hybrid workplace. In this post-COVID period, companies are trying to figure out what working “together” looks like… I'm doing together in air quotes, [if] you could see me in the podcast. Now that offices have opened up in some parts of the world, we've seen a couple of key trends. Some people are reluctant to come back into the office at all, having enjoyed the ability to work flexibly at home while prioritizing their home or family life, or doing so because they're more fearful of coming back into the office where they've been historically marginalized. Other team members are really keen to connect in person again, particularly at the management or senior leadership levels. Still, other teams are interested in a more hybrid model, which gives them either complete flexibility to choose if and when they come into the office, or choose coming into the office only one or two fixed days a week. Which means many organizations are now finding themselves in this Catch-22 with their RTO or Return To Office plans.
If they open the office, will people come in, and will those who actually make the time to come into the office find the connections and the people that they need to collaborate and do their jobs effectively? As we move into another recessive period globally, against the backdrop of political fluctuations, climate change, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, companies are looking at where they can increase efficiency without potentially losing their best people in the process. And we've seen plenty of organizations that have not only made hybrid workplaces thrive for their teams, but also reduce costs and boost productivity!
Now, with that in mind, we're going to walk you through three companies that are making remote working work for them, and hopefully give you some ideas for you to implement in your own organizations.
So let's dive in.
First, let's take a look at Dropbox who adopted a Virtual-First Policy in 2020. Now, they got rid of, like many Silicon Valley offices their famous in-office perks, such as catered meals, state of the art gyms with peloton bikes, converted their commercial office spaces into co-working spaces for employees, while subleasing the majority of their 700,000 square foot San Francisco office space. The work flexibility allowed Dropbox to continue to increase representation of women and underrepresented minority groups. The reduction of those in-office perks actually freed up the organization's resources to invest in successful career advancement and retention programs for those target groups. It also meant that traditionally-excluded talent could now apply for positions without sacrificing on their non-work priorities, or relocation costs, or caregiving duties.
In fact, Dropbox shared that they attracted twice as many applicants per open role since they adopted Virtual-First as their policy. They saw a 2.4x increase in gender diverse applicants per role, and a 2.8x increase of underrepresented minority diverse applicants per role as compared to 2019, just a year before. Dropbox also watched their business revenue increase by 12% in Q1 2021, less than a year after going all-in on flexible work.
Now, a key takeaway here is that Dropbox is modeling a hybrid remote model of working from the top. Dropbox’s Chief People Officer and the architect of the Virtual-First Policy, Melanie Collins, actually relocated from the West to the East Coast of the United States to be closer to her family in New York. So, if employees see the C-Suite making this model work, we know that they'll feel more comfortable to try these things out for themselves, as well as raise the possibility of remote or hybrid working with leaders work for the rest of the organization.
And if you thought that was something, let's take a look at Quora, who also went Remote-First in 2020. They too moved to their headquarters outside of Silicon Valley, which allowed Quora to hire employees in nine non-US countries and across 12 States where they'd never had offices before. This meant that they had access to a wider range of diverse perspectives from employees that would not have joined pre-pandemic due to either the high cost of living in the Bay Area, or needing to navigate immigration challenges as non-US workers. It has also meant that Quora was able to retain their current employees who are now able to relocate to more affordable areas, or to even be closer to their families. With the money saved on office rent and gains in productivity, Quora rented co-working spaces for where work clusters of their employees can meet and work. The company is also planning to reinvest the savings into international in-person meetups, so that their employees can continue to feel connected to their teams, to the organization, and to help them identify opportunities for community and advancement at Quora.
Quora is currently valued at $2 billion and grew to 950 employees in January 2021. Now, a key takeaway from Quora is that remote doesn't have to mean the end of collaborating or co-working. Renting co-working spaces means, instead of trying to strong-arm people into one office in one location, you're giving people the freedom and flexibility, but reaping the benefits of collaboration at the same time. By providing spaces for their employees to meet and work, it gives employees the flexibility and the ability to determine their own schedules, and when they need to actually meet in person to gain ideas from one another or meet their fellow team members and connect in an offline way.
Finally, let's take a look at Spotify who rolled out its Work From Anywhere Policy for its 6,500 employees around the world in February 2021. Now, Spotify believes that work isn't a place that you go to, they believe that work is something that you do. So with that philosophy in mind, they prepared to make work from anywhere possible for all of their employees so that they could continue to work comfortably, safely, and productively from a location of their choosing. So they researched labor laws and tax and insurance readiness by country. They adjusted base salaries for local currencies and regions where their employees and team members would be. They also, like Quora, provided co-working space options for employees who were all located or co-located in similar regions. They structured intact teams to be on similar time zones, and they synced to their Human Resources, People Ops, Recruitment and Internal Comms efforts before rolling out Work From Anywhere.
Now, as of August 2022, Spotify announced that it experienced lower turnover compared to their pre-pandemic levels and increased diverse representation, which means that they not only retain the best talent, but also are able to attract future candidates that prioritize diversity in their employers. Spotify has also expanded beyond New York and California, and is now registered in 42 US States. In Europe, the platform has increased its presence outside its Stockholm headquarters, to Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands.
A key takeaway from Spotify is, after implementing the Work From Anywhere Policy, Spotify’s Q2 2022 earnings showed 23% year-on-year revenue growth.
So there you have it! Those are three case studies from organizations who are making hybrid work… work for their teams. And, as these three case studies show, creating a successful hybrid remote team is all about modeling from the top, including things like in person collaboration, providing choice, where to work, when to work, etc.
At Inclusion in Progress, we know that the DEI conversation, and especially in the future of work that we have today, might seem daunting for organizations. We know that everything feels like it's in flux, and companies and leaders are taking on new roles and defining what that future workplace looks like. Now, if you're a forward-thinking leader listening to this show, you know that it's your job to understand what your people need today to keep them long enough to contribute their best ideas, and help recruit the best people tomorrow. Rather than looking at all of the different lenses of DEI, we recommend starting with one area and working your way outward.
So, if you want someone to help you make hybrid work inclusive and efficient for your distributed teams, that's where Inclusion in Progress can help! We partner with leaders like you through both data-driven and qualitative strategies that center the well-being of your people, utilizing our extensive experience with working remotely, both as a team and with clients from around the world, so that you can center the well-being of your people no matter where they come from or where they choose to work. And one of the ways we can support you is through our Inclusive Virtual Work Survey, so that you will know exactly what you need to implement first, so that you can gain not only buy-in from leaders and stakeholders, but most importantly from the people who you're trying to retain and recruit on your teams so that your organization can continue to attract the best ideas, retain top talent, and continue to innovate in an ever changing world.
So to learn more about ourInclusive Virtual Work Survey, how we can start rolling it out to support your global DEI strategy, and help you with recruitment and retention, head to the link in the show notes to book a call to learn more. We've already opened up our calendar for 2023 and I've secured a few bookings with client partners already. So if you'd like to learn how we can support you and your organization in creating an inclusive virtual work environment for your teams, book a call with us or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a call to learn how we can help you gather the data that you need for an inclusive flexible work strategy that retains your best people and ideas.
As always, thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing these episodes with others, especially other equity-minded leaders like yourselves, and we'll see you next time on Inclusion in Progress!