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How 6 CEOs are building inclusive hybrid workplaces

As companies settle into a remote-first or hybrid model of work, it’s crucial to create a workplace that puts in-office employees and their far-flung counterparts on equal footing.

How 6 CEOs are building inclusive hybrid workplaces
[Photo: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels]
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The pandemic cemented a trend that was already underway—that employees want flexibility in how and where they work. Many companies have responded by embracing a hybrid model that allows employees to split their time between working from home and being in the office. While a flexible, hybrid structure can benefit both employers and workers, one concern is that it might create a tiered workforce that favors employees who opt to work in person, putting those who choose to stay home—say, caregivers or disabled workers—at a disadvantage.

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We talked to six CEOs at companies that are either remote-first or are emerging from the pandemic with a hybrid workforce. Here’s how they plan to approach this challenge at their own companies and ensure that remote workers are given equal opportunities for promotions and career advancement.

Sarahjane Sacchetti, CEO of Cleo:

“We’re a remote-first, flexible company with employees located across 33 states and are committed to granting the same opportunities to every person on our team. It’s crucial for all employers (including Cleo) to approach the next six months as an experiment—watch, listen, and learn so we can make the necessary changes to ensure we’re supporting all employees equally in this phase of transition across our personal and professional lives. It’s important to me to watch closely and shift our processes and programs accordingly to ensure we continue giving equal opportunities for advancement, collaboration, and work/life balance to everyone.”

Carolyn Childers, CEO and cofounder of Chief:

“Remote flexibility is a key component to the future of work, providing new entry points and opportunities for those with caregiving responsibilities, homes outside of commuting distance, and a preference for working in silence. That said, we know how important it is to create equal opportunities for remote workers to establish authentic connection and camaraderie. This fall, we are hosting a three-day company-wide off-site. We’re bringing in every Chief team member from across the country to meet one another, brainstorm around business challenges, and get inspired for the year ahead.”

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Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy

“With our hybrid model, our goal is to make sure that Etsy’s culture is grounded in inclusive working practices and norms. We’re committed to ensuring that all employees— regardless of remote status or location—have a consistent Etsy experience by investing in innovative technology and implementing new collaboration tools.

We will be training managers on how to run remote and distributed teams, with a focus on effective collaboration and bringing out the best in our people in a blended work environment. Say, for instance, half of a team is huddled in our global headquarters in Brooklyn and the other half is dispersed around the world remotely, they’ll have the tools to work together seamlessly—as if they were all in the same meeting room together.”

Sara Mauskopf, CEO and cofounder of Winnie:

“Our leadership team is distributed, so that helps ensure we don’t have an implicit bias for people who are in the office. We now view our office as an optional collaboration space and make sure that any team or company-wide meetings are video calls so that everyone is on equal footing.”

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Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs:

“Equity and inclusion are part of Owl Labs’ company values. As our team grows, we’ve instilled quarterly anonymous pulse surveys to gather employee feedback and sentiment. We’ve created and implemented a 360-degree feedback and review process to ensure more transparency for all employees, and quarterly manager 1-1s to discuss trajectory at the company and support employees on the paths they want to take in their careers. A big part of ensuring remote employees can advance is making sure they are included in every meeting and have a chance to speak up. Our technology enables remote employees to be fully part of the conversation. Our remote employees lead meetings equally as often as in-person employees.”

Kasey Edwards, founder and CEO of Helpr

“Our work specifically addresses gender equity in the workplace by helping employers provide care during breakdowns in access (say, when schools are closed, or the typical childcare provider is sick). As a company, by the nature of our work, it’s a daily practice to talk about the inequities in America around caregiving because our team is living various aspects of this reality. We discuss the latest news and policies so that we can design our work to be responsive and innovative.

The whole team is going to stay remote, so we have to cultivate intentional opportunities for advancement. We’re starting by standardizing performance reviews, working to build a strong virtual culture, carving out regular facetime with managers, and offering trainings and team-building events virtually. The ability to hire employees from anywhere in the country will give us the opportunity to continue to ensure we are meeting our goals around equity and inclusion. We also do what we can to work with vendors that are women-owned and BIPOC-owned.”

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is a staff writer for Fast Company.

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