Article: In conversation about the future of work at Facebook

Employee Engagement

In conversation about the future of work at Facebook

In Day One’s live session at Innovation@Work Asia by The Economist, Andrew Staples Regional Head (APAC), Policy and Insights, Economist Impact had an intriguing conversation with Rachel Burton, Human Resource Director APAC, Facebook on hybrid work, effective leadership, and mental wellbeing.
In conversation about the future of work at Facebook

Singapore witnessed a return of physical conferences as The Economist unleashed its agenda on the HR enthusiasts with a plethora of interesting sessions and fireside chat panels. Among them, there was an interesting live session hosted by Andrew Staples, Regional Head (APAC), Policy and Insights, Economist Impact where he had a conversation with Facebook’s HR Director APAC, Rachel Burton on the future of work and other burning HR issues. Here are the excerpts of the sessions below: 

Facebook’s response to maintaining corporate culture in a different environment 

Collaboration is a crux to any positive company culture. Few say that one can get the most of the job done at home but for many, they are missing the connection, building relationships, and collaborations that existed in the office and are now tough to attain in a business environment. According to Rachel Burton, “ We really had to think about programs, policies and managers and the skills they have selected in that virtual context with inclusion, equity, and team-building in mind to drive forward.”

Once the hybrid environment set in, it was a challenge to maintain the culture and sustain it. The task was to figure out how to do that virtually, to create ways that would bring employers and employees alike, physically together and build relationships. So what did Facebook do?

Rachel shared an example, “We’ve created this squad bot where we put groups of employees together, who wouldn't necessarily know each other. The bot has this rhythm that encourages each person to share, connect and chat without one having to lean into finding a new relationship.” 

It was observed that through this exercise, there was an increase in sense of communities within them. With the right mix of software, technology, and skills, they were enabled to bring people together sometimes without an agenda, just to have casual conversations.

Good leadership and management to enable fair work experience 

In a virtual work environment, it is critical to hone & refine leadership and management skills. Three things are quintessential that leaders keep in mind while managing remote and in-house workers. 

  • Community - Leaders need to think about how they are going to run the organization which is flexible with hybrid work baked into it. As Rachel said,” There can be things like helping them [employees] set the time for when we will be together and collaborate in person. And then the rest is up to you to help the leaders think about their own personal narrative in this space.”
  • Social by Design - Though it’s a new skill for managers in this new world of work, leaders have to create the work in such a way that people will connect with each other. 
  • Impact - Leaders have to assess how remote work can better impact the organisation albeit not similar to the impact made when everyone was working in the office. As managers will interact with the team members through a tool for example - headphones, they need to assess the degree of intentionality with help of the resource around them. Which in this case, is a ‘headphone’ to understand what the speaker is exactly sharing with them and what impact does it make.

Rachel shared that for her as a leader and HR practitioner, one of the things that has been the most challenging in 18 months of a pandemic is raising the goalposts. The key is to keep evolving and moving forward. What works today? What kind of different information would help us? It has become really important for leaders to always keep an open mind. 

Emerging trends in SEA and updating remote work policies 

One of the major trends from South East Asia is about how to manage talent which has the necessary skills but is not adept at operating in a corporate context. The right way is to create a talent pool of programs and design the work, keeping the community in mind. It’s about how to make sure talent can plug into work and what is the right way to get it done, which would give them a bigger sense of purpose. Leaders have to engage with their workforce to find what they are passionate about and how to channel their passion in different work settings. For example, If someone is passionate about equity, get out there and find a role where they can contribute to a healthier ecosystem where there's more equity out there for all of them. 

Facebook has enabled all of its employees globally to be eligible to apply for domestic remote work. This major policy update has been done keeping in mind the company has started to experiment with cross-border remote work. So how does it go to the next sort of iteration of that? Rachel shared, “We're really keeping that eye on equity with experience. It's really important that people feel that their day-to-day work has just as much impact, regardless of where you're getting it done, but also that your career over time is growing. Hence justice is fair and equitably, regardless of where you are as well. So, we are in a place where we've embraced remote work. We see it as a big part of our potential employers that the number of employees that have applied for the remote working request is about 95% of the workforce. Additionally, we have planned to start hiring in advance too.”

Mental well-being for remote work employees

Leaders must ask their employees about their well-being like how are they doing? What is going on? Do you need anything?  Are you taking enough time off?  It's the core thing leaders should spend more time talking about and being open about. Because once people start telling stories of their own, focus on well-being will become quintessential. Backing it up with employee assistance programs and counseling support services for employees will create better wellness opportunities. 

Managers and leaders are also living through the pandemic and need help in processing themselves and actually fine-tune their own storytelling. This is because now, leaders have more responsibility to communicate in storytelling in companies than ever before and with new information spreading across the channels almost every day, storytelling is their responsibility. 

Pandemic has been like a pressure cooker for everyone. Rachel concluded, “Facebook has proven that companies around the world that have sustained their productivity, they've innovated faster. HR has really stepped up in this situation and in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion, and wellness, it seems to be exciting times for hybrid work.” 


People Matters is the exclusive media partner of the Innovate@workasia conference by TheEconomist.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Leadership, #Future of Work, #RemoteWork

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