Hybrid or fully distributed teams need to work even harder to find a rhythm together than teams who share an office or coworking space. Remote teams still have to meet their objectives, , find ways to collaborate as a group, and innovate in partnership with one another. In this episode, Inclusion in Progress is going to be diving into the number one thing that remote teams need to work effectively and feel included at work. As a fully remote team that is comfortable gathering data across cultures and borders, and knows the challenges and benefits of supporting teams working virtually — we share not only our experiences, but the experiences of other organizations we’re supporting to find success with their remote teams.
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.
Hi, friend, we're baaack! And we're super happy to be here with you. Thank you so much for your continued support! Even when we were off the air, as it were. If you've been following our episodes in real time, you'll remember that we decided to take a month off to take our own advice to pause to make progress, and actually take time off to recharge.
So it was a month off… and, boy, did help! Now, Team IIP is slowly working our way back into day-to-day operations client work, supporting all of our amazing colleagues around the world, and we are now able to do so from a place of having our batteries feeling fully recharged.
Now, some of us spent this time away with our families. Some of us went to concerts, some of us traveled, some of us stayed put. Some of us caught up on our favorite shows or backlog of movies, our favorite reads… however we defined rest and relaxation during this period away: Team IIP did it! And we're super grateful for clients and partners who not only understood our need for rest, they actually actively championed us for taking the time off. So we're super lucky and very grateful to all of them.
Now, yes, we've missed creating content for you. And we have missed the incredible community of people who have come to know Inclusion in Progress - from all the different countries around the world where you're listening. But we know we also didn't really leave you hanging. I mean, come on. There are plenty of other episodes to dive into while we've been away… 92 other episodes to be exact! Kind of interesting to just process how long this podcast has been going for now. So, thank you for your continued support.
As we have said countless times on the show. This really is a labor of love for all of us at Team IIP. So if you've been enjoying the podcast as a longtime listener, we would just ask you to take 5 minutes to leave us a quick review on either iTunes or Spotify. Every review helps us reach those who would gain value from the episodes from the open conversations we are trying to lead here on Inclusion in Progress around diversity, equity and inclusion, the future of work, cross-cultural teams, and all of the things in between.
Now, we know that not everyone realistically will have the chance to work with us directly. So we think of the show as our contribution to the DEI industry that we love and are incredibly proud to contribute to, as we all aim for fairer, more equitable workplaces for all. The easiest way to support us in our mission to support greater inclusion at work is to, again, take a few minutes to leave a review so that more people who see it, tune in, and can benefit. We'll leave instructions for you to do so to leave that review for us at the link in the show notes. And we thank you so much in advance!
So we are now moving into the third season of the podcast for 2022! As you know, we've been working through seasons. The first season this year we covered all things workplace wellness, mental health and burnout. The second season we just wrapped up before our break we covered psychological safety and defining it for distributed teams from our unique vantage point as a cross-cultural, fully-remote DEI firm that spans APAC, EMEA and the Americas. So this season we're going to be focusing on the more strategic side of designing for inclusive remote work based on our experience as a remote team ourselves that works with the likes of Red Hat, Instagram and more.
Now, just to be clear, as much as we are all pro-remote work, Inclusion in Progress doesn't mean that we are fully pro-remote and anti-office, okay? Far from it! If anything, we're actually planning for our first in-person meetup as a team this year, which we're super excited to share more about when we make that happen! But we know that each organization, each office region, and team requires different needs to create an inclusive equitable work environment that works for them, where everyone can do their best work, where everyone can achieve their full potential, however they define it. And that is the reason why we tailor our work based on the greatest needs of an organization rather than offering out of the box solutions. Sometimes that means working with one team at a time. Other times, it means working with one region or one function or one program at a time. Sometimes, even within the same organization. Designing for effective inclusive remote work looks completely different in practice because, [SPOILER ALERT!], humans are very different in what they need, and what they value, and where they come from. No surprises there!
So it's interesting to us that, even during our time away, there's been this very interesting debate that we've been following that we've seen happen around whether or not teams are actually more “effective” working remotely full-time, whether or not teams are likely to stay at a company if they're asked to come back full-time to a physical work environment - and how much more that supposedly benefits productivity by physically seeing each other more, whether or not companies should be rethinking making their teams work from anywhere for good. It's been really interesting for us, to say the least, to watch that unfold. Because all of the biggest companies in the world, especially in the tech and financial services, sectors that we tend to partner with most, seem to be at least reconsidering or walking back from their original promise to let their employees actually work from anywhere for good. And what's also really interesting to us is the flexible work and the DEI, or diversity, equity, and inclusion, conversations seem to be very binary for organizations, or at the very least how it's portrayed in what we read. It seems like it's very “choose flexible work,”, or “choose DEI,”... one or the other. You can't have both.
But flexible work, when it's designed intentionally, can actually support the goals of increased representation of diverse groups and perspectives. Take, for example, Spotify. Now, earlier this month, Fortune published an article about Spotify’S Work From Anywhere Policy. They wrote that one year later, Spotify says it's, “experienced a lower turnover compared to pre-pandemic levels and increased diverse representation.” It's 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.” In February 2021, Spotify rolled out its Work From Anywhere Policy for its 6,500 employees around the world, which meant that employees could choose if they wanted to work 100% remotely, 100% in the office, or some blend of both. Because, in the Spotify ethos and philosophy, they believe that work isn't a place that you go to, but rather that work is something that you do. And so what we thought was really interesting was they implemented a lot of recommendations that we make for our own clients to make work from anywhere possible for their organization.
So they researched diligently labor law, tax, and insurance readiness by country. They adjusted base salaries for local currencies and regions and recruited specific roles in those regions. With that in mind, they provided co-working space options for employees who chose not to come into the office but still didn't want to work from home. They structured intact teams to be on similar timezones - so within eight hours of one another. They synced their human resources, people ops, recruitment, and internal comms efforts to move that policy beyond lip service and made sure everything was aligned and their efforts worked.
Now, keep in mind… again, you know, we're all about nuance here: not every company is going to work like what Spotify has done. Not every company has Spotify’s DNA. I believe they have something on their website like… we function in controlled chaos. But companies like Spotify or like Airbnb, the ones that realize that work from anywhere actually just really means work from where you work best, are the ones that will stay ahead of the curve in the future of work. These are the companies that will continue to attract the best people and keep their innovative edge. Flexible work can support greater inclusion and representation, which ultimately removes barriers to access for the feature teams that we say we wish to see.
So on this episode, and for the rest of this podcast season, Inclusion in Progress is going to be diving into some of the specific ways we design for inclusion for distributed teams, starting with what remote teams really need to feel included at work.
Now, as you'll remember from last season on the podcast, we decided to deep dive into psychological safety… going beyond the standard textbook definition to encompass a more real-world, practical perspective on different lenses and ideas that organizations should be mindful of if they want to prioritize psychological safety, especially as their teams work remotely.
If you are unfamiliar with what Psychological Safety is - don't worry, we've all been there! - I highly suggest you go back to Episode IIP087, which is How Do You Create Psychological Safety on Remote Teams? We define it pretty in detail there.
At its heart, psychological safety is the foundation of all inclusion work. It's all about building trust. A team that doesn't trust one another can't share their best idea, they can't collaborate, they can't debate with one another to find the best solution or feel like they even can raise their hand to admit that they have a different idea, that they've made a mistake, that they need to ask for help. Trust is the foundation of psychological safety, which is the foundation of inclusion and innovation. You have to be vulnerable to take risks, and risks are the foundation of how we innovate. So it's also way more challenging to foster that trust when you don't see one another every day, when you don't see verbal cues, or have an existing in real-life or IRL relationship with your team members… (Millennial here!). And for fully-distributed teams across time zones, meeting one another daily simply isn't possible. So what do we do in these scenarios?
Well, what teams really need to effectively work together are very specific types of trust that all interlink and align. So let's take a look at those three different types of trusts that we measure when we're looking at how to create remote teams and a remote work environment that is more inclusive of all.
First, we measure Individual Disposition to Trust. Now, this isn't some Myers Briggs, 16 Personalities, or Enneagram type personality tests… we don’t mean that! We mean here is we're stripping it down to basics and looking at whether or not people are disposed to trusting themselves and one another. So we ask questions like, “Does someone generally have faith in humanity? Or not?”, “Are they more likely to trust people that they don't know very well?”, “Are they more likely to give others the benefit of the doubt in a situation of uncertainty or collision?”, “Are they more likely to offer trust again, when that trust is locked down?” We also look at whether or not a person trusts themselves to get their job done. Are they someone who's from a background or lived experience that could contribute to their own self-perception at work? Are they someone who's comfortable with operating independently and asking for help later? Are they someone who needs regular feedback and reassurance because they are newer in their career or at their company? Measuring each individual's disposition to trust allows us to establish some baselines for whether or not they benefit from, or are more likely to contribute, to an environment of trust and psychological safety overall while working virtually.
Then we look at Interpersonal Trust. Now, hybrid or fully distributed teams need to work even harder to find a rhythm together to take risks individually and as a group, as a collective, and, ultimately, to innovate in partnership with one another. But, surprise, surprise! They aren't going to be able to do any of those things if they can't trust one another. Now, there are two forms of Interpersonal Trust that we look at here when we assess how effective virtual workplaces are in being inclusive of everyone who's on those teams: Cognition-Based Trust and Emotion-Based Trust.
“Cognition-Based,” meaning: how do team members reason about one another's reliability and dependability? And “Emotion-Based,” meaning: Is there a sense of care, concern, or belonging? A desire for one another's welfare and well-being? We look, then, at questions that establish whether or not each of those types of trust is present on virtual teams. Is there a shared vision or purpose or mission that the team can easily understand and identify? Do they believe there's a high level of professionalism? Do they believe that there is access to developing relationships to allow them to see one another outside of their work responsibilities? Do they trust the intention of their team members to support them in getting their job done? We then cross-reference all of that data against different identities or lived experiences of team members, the geographic makeup of teams, and the different cultural lenses and job functions that might be present to allow for a better understanding of the barriers to interpersonal trust, which allows us to then inform interventions or recommendations that we provide support to partners with creating an inclusive remote work environment.
So let's take a brief pause here. Now, at Inclusion in Progress, we know the diversity, equity, and inclusion - or DEI - conversation continues to remain relevant. As identities become more nuanced and varied, as more voices come into the fold, and as more historically-excluded perspectives come to the table. Now, as an organization it's your job to understand what your people need today, to keep them long enough to continue to recruit even better people tomorrow. Trying to tackle all of these different lenses of DEI can feel overwhelming. And we know because we've been there ourselves. But rather than looking at the entire room full of options, we recommend starting in one corner and working your way outward, purposefully and intentionally. If you want someone in your corner, we can help! We partner with forward-thinking leaders (like you!) who know that the future of work will require creativity, agility, and consistency to meet the challenges of retaining your best people tomorrow. And one of the ways we can support you is through our Inclusive Virtual Work Survey.
As a fully remote team that is comfortable gathering data across cultures and borders and knows the challenges and benefits of supporting teams working virtually, we guide the likes of client partners like Red Hat, Instagram, and more with how to implement structures and systems that support your teams in achieving their best, no matter where they come from or where they choose to work so that you can increase the likelihood of retaining your best people on your team and renew your commitment to greater equity and inclusion and increase representation to attract even better people tomorrow! If you'd like to learn more about our Inclusive Virtual Work Survey and how we can start rolling it out to support your global DEI strategy, head to the link in the show notes to book a call to learn more. We are now - full transparency - finalizing bookings for client partners in Q4 and are already taking our first bookings for Q1 in 2023. So if you'd like to learn how we can support you before 2022 ends, please book a call with us or email us directly at email@example.com to learn how we can help you gather the data you need for an inclusive, flexible work strategy that allows you to retain your best people and ideas.
Finally, we look at the third type of trust for effective remote teams, which is Institutional Trust. Now, if a distributed team doesn't trust that the structures that support them - their leaders, their division, their larger organization - gives them the sense that it has their back, they're less likely to feel included. They're less likely to feel connected to the Vision and Mission of the organization. They're less likely to contribute at their best when they don't know where to go, when they have a question, when they don't know what the impact of their role is, whether or not their company aligns with their values and goals, etc. So for this level of trust, we look very broadly - briefly, but broadly. We look at whether or not a team feels connected to their organization's mission and purpose, whether or not they feel that they have the ability to take time off or feel that they, say, have easy access to resources from their employer to support their mental and physical health; whether or not there is recourse for them when they face a specific work related or personal challenge, and whether or not they can trust that their company will hold others and itself accountable if need be.
Now, when someone opts for full-time virtual or hybrid work, they want to know that they'll still be treated like they're part of the organization or the team that they are employed to work for. They want to know that they can trust the structures of their workplace, to still be felt by them beyond the confines of a physical office space; or, you know, even office swag that's delivered to their homes. Distributed teams need to trust not only in themselves and each other to get their job done but also in their organization, knowing that it will support them, especially when their own psychological safety is affected away from the grounds of the corporate office.
So there you have it, what remote teams really need to feel included at work and a few of the ways that we measure that to support our client partners in their commitment to equity and inclusion!
Now, at Inclusion in Progress, we know the DEI conversation might seem daunting for you as a leader and as an organization. Because, frankly, everything feels urgent as companies and leaders are taking on an even more broad and expansive role in defining a future workplace that works for everyone. Now, as a forward-thinking leader, it's your job to understand what your people need today, to keep them long enough to contribute their best ideas and help recruit even better people tomorrow. Trying to tackle all of the different lenses of diversity, equity and inclusion can feel like a minefield. But rather than looking at the entire room of options, again, as I said before: we recommend starting in one corner and working your way outward.
So if you want someone in your corner to tackle how to make flexible work inclusive for your teams and keep your best people… we can help!. We partner with forward-thinking leaders like you through both data-driven and qualitative strategies that center the well-being of your people, no matter where they come from or where they choose to work. And one of the ways that we can support you is through our Inclusive Virtual Work Survey. As a fully-remote team that is comfortable gathering data across cultures and borders and knows the specific challenges, as well as the benefits, of supporting teams, working virtually will guide you on how to implement the structures and systems that support your teams in contributing their best ideas and perspectives to your company. So that with this data, you can work to retain your best and live up to your desire to create inclusion for all!
So to learn more about our Inclusive Virtual Work Survey and how we can start rolling it out to support your global DEI strategy. Head to the link in the show notes to book a call to learn more. As I said before, we're finalizing bookings for client partners in Q4. So if you'd like to learn how we can support you before 2022 ends, book a call with us or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we can help you gather the data that you need for an inclusive, flexible work strategy that allows you to retain your best people and ideas.
As always, thank you so much for listening. Thank you for supporting us and our team. Thank you for sharing these episodes with others. And we'll see you next time on Inclusion in Progress!