Chief People Officer Forum I The New Science of Stress - Part 2

Chief People Officer Forum | The Future of Work

"The genie is not going back in the bottle. Winning companies are the ones being intentional about the future of work for them and their people."

The 13th and most recent gathering of the FK CPO Forum brought together two pioneering leaders of flexible working together with 40+ People leaders representing a diverse range of businesses but all grappling with the same question: What does the future of work look like and what is the right approach for our own businesses?

Moving the conversation on from crisis-induced working from home to intentionally structured remote working, Darren Murph of GitLab and Marina Farthouat of Elastic led a discussion of the topic, framed as a tremendous strategic opportunity for business leaders everywhere to build their companies for the future.

"When you empower people to be mobile, to optimize their lives for living, to live in a place that means something to them...inevitably they’ll pour that back into the company and the culture."

"Define your values and culture will happen naturally."

  • If the decor of your office or the neighbourhood around it is your culture, and that changes: what is left?
  • Failing to define your values means that as people come and go your culture can shift. It is a business risk if your culture can oscillate depending on who is in the office or whether the office is open.
  • When hiring in alignment with your company's values, your people bring all of themselves to your company and that raises the bar of your culture.
  • By defining your values in visceral detail and hiring in alignment to them, your people step into your company's values, live them and grow them.
  • If everyone is aligned on values, your people build your culture throughout their lives and bring it to work with them. That level of trust and autonomy is not instinctive and is rooted in the belief that it is possible to bring people together by allowing them to be further apart.

"The most innovative companies have been the most resilient in 2020, through their readiness to adapt. That doesn’t come from non-people related things, it comes from people. It comes from diversity, inclusion and flexibility."

  • A commonly asked question is how can we be as innovative if the whole team is not in the same location? Try asking that in reverse: how can a team solely based in one location possibly be as innovative as a globally diverse and distributed team?
  • For leaders that understand the value of communicating the company's vision clearly and consistently to the whole team, the transition to virtual all-hands meetings is a fantastic opportunity to ensure everyone is included in benefitting from that.
  • Remote-first is very egalitarian and distributed firms where offices are needed or wanted just have to be deliberate about being inclusive.
  • It is possible to benefit from the perspectives of many more people in a more deliberate way if we are not relying on ideas being floated in serendipitous meetings at the water cooler, but you first have to have created a culture with a very low level of shame.
  • Brainstorming started by a sentence shared in a Slack channel carries the potential for ideas to be incubated by the whole company.
  • Managers have more responsibility to unlock innovation and determine how free people feel to be able to express ideas.

"We are seeing a change in the fabric of companies for the better. They will become more genuinely and authentically diverse because they have to."

  • Covid-19 has emboldened everyone to walk into an interview and legitimately ask: what is your stance on workplace flexibility? Every company has to have a great answer to that because if you don’t, the best talent will look instead to a company that does.
  • This will benefit people traditionally ostracized in the workforce, those that have most needed to ask for flexibility in the past but have not been empowered to do so.

"2020 has brought into focus some of the major pressures being exerted on people in our society and forced a level of reflection on company culture that focuses on how much empathy our people believe we have as employers, how much freedom & flexibility are they given to thrive and to what extent do they feel safe at work."

  • There are changes in leadership mindset required for the future.
  • An executive team has to provide tail winds not head winds.
  • Are you a leader that allows remote working or supports remote working? Where your company falls on that is the difference between a business risk and a business opportunity.
  • When it comes to compensation and reward don’t make rash decisions, play the long game. GitLab have hired an entire team for this.
  • You have to be the model that you want the rest of your organization to follow, because everything will gravitate back to whatever your executive team is doing.

"Leaders have to be intentional because apathy is sabotage."


Sim Lamb is a Partner at Founders Keepers and the facilitator of the FK CPO Forum, a diverse global community for world leading executive people leaders.

If you would like to join the CPO forum or learn more, please contact Sim on or +44 7415 146 917.