30. Why is hybrid working an inclusivity issue?

In this episode we are joined by Brian Elliott, the co-founder of Future Forum, author of the bestseller How the Future Works: Leading Flexible Teams to do the Best Work of Their Lives


2/15/20245 min read

In this episode we discuss hybrid working and inclusivity with Brian Elliott, the co-founder of Future Forum, author of the bestseller How the Future Works: Leading Flexible Teams to do the Best Work of Their Lives

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We discuss the following with Brian:

  • What does the data say on return to work and the push back from employees?

  • What is the connection between inclusivity and remote working?

  • What do you do when the CEO blames missed targets on remote working?

  • Is Thursday the new Friday?

  • Why is there resistance to remote working from senior execs?

  • What are the right policies or tactics one can take?

  • How do you make Zoom-based team calls effective?

  • Do mandated days make sense for hybrid?



Brian Elliott is a seasoned executive turned leadership advisor and speaker. He's the co-founder of Future Forum, author of the bestseller How the Future Works: Leading Flexible Teams to do the Best Work of Their Lives and one of Forbes’ Future of Work 50. Brian’s work enables leaders to build a future of work that’s better for people and organizations.

Prior to Future Forum, Brian spent 25 years building and leading teams and companies as a startup CEO, and as an executive at Google and Slack. Brian got his MBA from Harvard Business School and BA at Northwestern and started his career at Boston Consulting Group, where he’s now a Senior Advisor.

Brian is also the proud dad of two young men and one middle-aged dog. You can find Brian on LinkedIn.

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  • Hybrid working and inclusion issues. 0:05

    • Bethany discusses the challenges of hybrid working versus remote working, particularly for women dealing with intersectional issues such as discrimination and microaggressions.

    • Bethany shares her personal experience of lounging in bed doing crossword puzzles while working from home, highlighting the importance of work-life balance and personal preferences.

    • Bethany believes hybrid working and remote working are inclusion issues due to the disproportionate burden of child and elder care on women.

    • Microaggressions and lack of privacy in the workplace make it difficult for women to consistently attend in-office days, despite inclusive work environments.

  • Hybrid work and its impact on gender and privacy. 6:12

    • Brandon M highlights the disproportionate impact of hybrid work policies on women, particularly in childcare and eldercare responsibilities.

    • Bethany agrees, emphasizing the need for privacy and inclusivity in addressing health issues, suggesting that employees should not be required to share personal medical information with managers.

    • Bethany and Brandon discuss the future of work with Brian Elliot, co-founder of the Future Forum and author of "How the Future Works," focusing on hybrid working and the importance of trust and connection in the new work environment.

    • Brian shares his insights on the challenges and opportunities of hybrid working, including the need for leaders to adapt and learn how to manage and lead in a new way, and the importance of making connections and meeting people outside of work.

  • Remote work and its future in the workplace. 11:45

    • Brian Elliott agrees with Bethany's hypothesis that hybrid working is here to stay, and people will choose to leave jobs that don't offer flexible work arrangements.

    • Brian provides data from various sources, including his own research with Future Forum, to support the idea that more companies are adopting flexible work policies and fewer people are returning to the office.

  • Remote work and inclusivity in the workplace. 14:21

    • Brian Elliott: Companies are now open to hiring remote workers, leading to more distributed teams and a need for new management techniques.

    • Bethany: Inclusivity is key in hybrid work environments, with flexibility desired by historically marginalized groups.

    • Brian Elliott: 59% of working moms want to work from office 2 days a week or less, strongest in US and UK.

    • Data shows that people across race and ethnic boundaries prefer working from home, with greater flexibility for neurodiversity and disability.

  • Remote work, productivity, and culture in the workplace. 19:12

    • Brian Elliott highlights the importance of focusing on outcomes rather than visual signs of activity, such as showing up to the office.

    • Brandon M. addresses concerns from a CEO perspective, suggesting that instead of attributing working from home as the culprit for missed targets, the focus should be on building systems that reward people based on outcomes.

  • Hybrid work and trust in leadership. 22:07

    • Brian Elliott suggests that CEOs should participate in digital tools and social conversations to build deeper connections with their teams and understand their emotional perspective.

    • Brian also shares that a flexible work policy can help build trust between employees and management, leading to increased motivation and productivity.

    • Bethany and Brian discuss the resistance to hybrid working, with Bethany identifying two elements: fear of control and fear of not being able to see people.

    • Brian suggests that senior leaders can use their own experiences to lead effectively in a new world, by having others around the table who live different lives.

    • In a group of chief financial officers, one member speaks up about the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities, highlighting the need for empathy and understanding.

  • Work-life balance and inclusivity in a hybrid work setup. 28:19

    • Brian Elliott emphasizes the importance of representation and coaching in a hybrid work format to unlock potential and improve communication.

    • Brian recommends policies such as flexibility, short form video, and interactive communication to encourage inclusivity and bolster message delivery.

    • Brian Elliott highlights the importance of creating a level playing field in hybrid meetings by setting rules and encouraging equal participation, such as using one laptop per person and keeping virtual meetings virtual.

    • Slack's approach to hybrid meetings involves disassembling the traditional C suite floor and giving executives offices in different locations to avoid power dynamics and create a level playing field for all participants.

  • Remote work, meetings, and communication. 32:29

    • Brian Elliott suggests using asynchronous communication tools like Slack or Teams to address immediate work-related issues instead of relying on 30-minute video calls.

    • Brian Elliott recommends blending asynchronous and synchronous communication to improve productivity in hybrid teams.

  • Effective communication strategies for distributed teams. 35:18

    • Brian Elliott suggests using pre-reads to compress presentation time and increase engagement (35:18)

    • Brandon M. notes that in a hybrid Zoom setting, leaders may struggle to maintain engagement due to multitasking or disengagement (36:37)

    • Brian Elliott emphasizes the importance of internal communications in distributed teams, citing the example of Atkins, Slack's head of internal comms, who was "amazing" at building culture and connection.

    • Brian recommends hiring an internal comms person to help ensure key messages are absorbed and understood, especially in large companies with multiple leaders and employees who may not be on the same page.

  • Hybrid work arrangements and their impact on teams and inclusivity. 40:19

    • Brian Elliott believes hybrid working agreements are more effective than top-down fixed mandates in large organizations due to the varying needs across different functions and locations.

    • Bethany agrees and adds that inclusivity is also a factor, as some employees may have medical conditions that make certain days of the week difficult to work.

    • Brian Elliott emphasizes the importance of flexibility and belonging in the workplace, and provides strategies for managers to coach and grow their team members.

    • He argues that managers need to be good coaches and help employees grow in their careers, rather than just focusing on attendance and productivity.