This month, we’re hosting a mini-series on “Hybrid Work & Company Culture” where we’ll be sharing what we’ve learned from speaking to tech companies like HP and HubSpot on whether or not hybrid work is killing company culture.
In this second episode of the series, we will be discussing the importance of equity in a hybrid workplace, how to equip leaders for remote-first or hybrid teams, and how flexible working and company culture strategies go hand-in-hand with DEI, plus actionable ideas we’ve been sharing with our client partners to support employees in a remote or hybrid work environment
If you want to follow along with the Hybrid Work & Company Culture mini-series on the podcast this month — and get access to inclusive insights from our team in your inbox — head to the link in the show notes or go to https://inclusioninprogress.com/podcast-miniseries-2023 to sign up.
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.
Hey hey hey and welcome back to the show!
So this is the second episode of our “Hybrid Work & Company Culture” mini-series, where we're going to be sharing what we've learned from speaking to tech companies like HP and HubSpot on how they're supporting distributed teams and building company culture in a hybrid world in 2023.
We'll be discussing the importance of equity in a hybrid workplace, how to equip leaders for remote-first or hybrid teams, and how flexible working in company culture strategies go hand-in-hand with DEI work. Plus, actionable ideas that we've been sharing with our client partners to support employees in a remote or hybrid work environment.
So let's dive in!
I'm Kay Fabella and I'm a DEI consultant for remote teams. I'm also your 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” use for leading equity and inclusion in your workplace. I also lead a remote team and work with clients across EMEA, APAC, and the Americas, which means you'll always get a global perspective on how companies are supporting their distributed teams, building workplaces that work for everyone.
During this three episode mini-series, we're taking everything that we learned from an April 2023 Roundtable, speaking to DEI, People, and HR leaders at tech firms that we've made available in the hopes of helping support you and others in leading equity and inclusion in our post-pandemic world.
If you want to follow along with this “Hybrid Work & Company Culture” mini-series on the podcast this month and get access to exclusive insights from our team in your inbox, head to the link in the show notes or go to https://inclusioninprogress.com/podcast-miniseries-2023 to sign up.
So let's dive into the second episode of this mini-series: how flexible working and company culture strategies go hand-in-hand with DEI.
Now, it's no secret that company culture has shifted dramatically over the last three years. Yet, we've only really just scratched the surface of asking ourselves what the future of work will be and could look like, while at the same time trying to adapt very quickly to the changing needs of our workforce. Our team's work interactions moved out of those physical office environments to fully virtual, remote-first, or hybrid ones. Employees, leaders and organizations were all asked to reiterate and reimagine the future of tech organizations together within the span of months, if not days. That's kind of… kind of wild to think about — how quickly all of us had to adjust and adapt to that new style of work, right
It should be noted that, in the roundtable that we hosted back in April 2023, talking to tech firms from all over the globe; the terms remote work and hybrid work, flexible work, and distributed work were all used interchangeably in our discussion. And so for clarity for everybody, here's how we define each of these things:
First, let's look at remote work. It's a type of flexible working arrangement that allows an employee to work from a remote location outside of a designated corporate office or headquarters. Some organizations that we spoke with during this roundtable have encouraged remote work for years prior to the pandemic while others were, basically, forced into a remote work experiment.
Now, let's look at hybrid work. Hybrid work is when people are working in-office or in the location of their choice. Mixing in-office and remote work to offer flexibility and support to employees.
Next, flexible work. So flexible work is when employees are given the option to work from different locations. A situation in which an employer allows people to choose the time that they work so that they can do other things, or rather work in their work hours around their non-work responsibilities and priorities. We found that when employees had the autonomy to choose day-to-day or week-to-week where they want to work from, rather than being assigned a hybrid or flexible work mandatory two to three days in the office scenario, teams responded better with higher morale and productivity.
And, finally, let's look at distributed work. Now, the definition of this for us refers to when employees not only have the flexibility to choose where they work, but also refers to the way that our teams have already been globally distributed for years. This is how we refer to so-called flexible work or hybrid work, because for us it's all encompassing. Now distributed teams can hail from different geographies, or cultural contexts, or countries, or locations, they could work remotely from a co-working space or a home office, they could work in-office or in the field, or in some type of hybrid environment. To us distributed teams are not only a part of the future of work, it really is just our workplaces catching up to where our teams already were and wanted to be.
Regardless of how the tech companies we spoke to labeled it — whether it was remote work, hybrid work, flexible work, or distributed work — each of our roundtable participants were intentionally listening to and designing their strategies around employees’ desire for flexibility. As People Leaders, they also expressed that they were looking and strategizing more purposefully around equity and how that could affect teams choosing not to come into the office full-time.
Lastly, all of our roundtable participants shared that flexible work continued to be a top desire for teams as well as recruits and showed no signs of disappearing in the future. In fact, this is a trend that we observed back in an October 2022 Harvard Business Review survey of 500 tech employees and 230 enterprise tech organizations globally. Roughly 2/3 of employees in that survey said that they want to keep a mix of remote and in-office work. 46% said that they would consider leaving a company that stopped offering the flexibility to work remotely.
In a post pandemic world, tech firms aren't the only companies offering flexible remote work, and that's something that our participants in our roundtable were very mindful of as they were continuing to strategize for DEI.
Next, let's look at DEI and psychological safety. Now encouragingly, all of our roundtable participants found that flexible work, when designed with intention and regular iteration, can encourage greater diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as innovation for their companies. There was also a consensus during our roundtable that the definition of DEI had brought in more to center psychological safety, particularly when it came to supporting remote employees well-being and strengthening company culture. Because, with so many threats to teams outside of the workplace, from economic uncertainty to legislation targeting specific underrepresented groups, the tech companies that we spoke to shared how their teams now look to their employers even more to provide that sense of security and stability — which also directly affected their employees ability to perform and contribute at their best.
Now, it should be noted that some of our participants internally were also referred to DEI as DEIB work, with the B for Belonging highlighted to center employees psychological safety in the workplace.
As our organizations have navigated remote and hybrid workforces over the last few years, this flexible work model has also revealed new opportunities for tech firms to redesign and reimagine strategies that support psychological safety at work when teams are not co-located, and expanding the definition of DEI in the process. Despite us entering a challenging economic period, the tech organizations we spoke with during the roundtable in April 2023 demonstrated that they're not shying away from, but rather doubling down, on DEI and company culture initiatives that center their team's psychological safety.
Finally, let's look at the redefinition of company culture as was discussed during our roundtable. Pre-pandemic company culture strategies were aimed at enabling co-located teams to feel respected and empowered to contribute their best work in a shared physical work environment. This definition of company culture centered organizational culture, talent development, team building, well-being, and career advancement strategies around this shared gathering in a shared space. But almost three years on, we all know the lived experience and lasting impact of our shift to distributed work — we're all experiencing it currently. And our participants in the roundtable shared that flexibility, in addition to well-being, are now top of mind and non-negotiable for their employees from diverse backgrounds and generations… and tech companies can't afford to ignore that.
Whereas company culture used to depend heavily on those in-person interactions before, as well as shifts in leadership and even physical proximity to office spaces, the shift to flexible work provided opportunities for many of the groups that tech companies often struggled to attract and retain, specifically those who were originally historically excluded in teams. Our participants shared that they were carefully considering how their employees could choose where they wanted to work from while prioritizing time for life outside of work that would support their productivity and engagement.
One of our roundtable participants shared that their primarily in-office work culture was up ended completely by the pandemic, and use their new distributed work model to attract talent from both within the US and globally.
All of the companies we spoke to share that flexibility and well-being are not just non-negotiable, it's an important trend that tech companies can't afford to ignore as people from diverse backgrounds, abilities, locations, and lived experiences continue to reshape how our post-pandemic workforce looks like.
Our roundtable discussion also focused on DEI and the psychological safety it provides all team members and the importance of the full buy-in of tech leaders. Until it becomes embedded in every core aspect of the business in a data driven and measurable way, and it until it turns into the standard of behavior supported by an inclusive company culture where everyone contributes, lone DEI, HR, or People Leaders or teams will continue to be seen as the be-all and end-all to solve for every marginalized experience in the workplace, which is far from reasonable or sustainable. In fact, our roundtable discussion centered around the importance of regular investment of time and resources and company culture building.
During our discussion, HubSpot shared with us their DEI and culture strategy. They said:
“Our DEIB, Culture, and ERG teams are all under the same umbrella at HubSpot. So we share insights on everything with one another. Since we have a broad team, we're not putting the burden of company culture and DEIB onto individual employees, because we have people who are specifically dedicated to those jobs. We're trying to position [company culture initiatives] that our team does as ERGs or DEIB or culture is supplemental to employees’ day-to-day without putting pressure on employees. We always share the notes from our live events after the fact so that folks can still get involved and feel included. Also, we’ve integrated DEIB and culture into how [Hubspot] measures overall performance. That really allows our managers to support their people going to company culture, community or live events for, say, a program for Pride Month. Because they see it as part of their team member’s role and professional development. ”
For a team to be able to innovate and face today's challenges, they have to be able to solve problems. But problem solving also means being comfortable with taking risks, including being able to share your ideas without fear of being dismissed or not being taken seriously.
The essence of a company culture that's effective and supports team psychological safety is this: Creating a work environment where people feel comfortable showing up as a not perfect version of themselves, regardless of if it's in-office, remote, or somewhere in between. We know from experience that this can be more challenging when you're working across different time zones, languages, generations and cultures, which is why it means that you need to continually invest in this to be able to support your teams more broadly.
From our April 2023 Roundtable conversation, we concluded that there is still continues to be a substantial need for tech companies of all sizes to prioritize company culture initiatives that support their hybrid or remote teams effective and engaged flexible work, especially during turbulent times. In the next episode of our mini-series we’ll look more into how we've witnessed organizations support psychological safety and create healthy work cultures starting from the top.
So there you have it, the second episode of our “Hybrid Work & Company Culture'' mini-series, all about how company culture and flexible work strategies go hand-in-hand with achieving DEI objectives for an organization!
At Inclusion in Progress, we've learned that discussing strategizing for equity, company culture and DEI in a hybrid workplace is going to continue to be a struggle for People and HR leaders, particularly when teams are globally distributed and our expectations of how we live and work continue to change. And that's why we see a unique opportunity to continue to support you in leading Equity and Inclusion at work by showcasing and highlighting what other organizations are doing in real-time.
And to that end, we're pleased to announce the release of our latest whitepaper, “Is hybrid work killing company culture?” You can download a copy on our website at inclusioninprogress.com/learn or head to the link in the show notes to grab your copy.
Stay tuned to the final episode of our July podcast mini-series, where we'll discuss how to equip leaders for remote-first or hybrid teams.
Thank you so much for listening. Thank you for sharing this mini-series and the episodes of this Inclusion in Progress podcast with others. And we'll see you in our next episode!