Inclusion and diverse cultures in global companies – one size does not fit all

Hootsuite is respecting the different cultural needs of its global teams while fostering inclusion across them all

At Hootsuite, one of our guiding principles is ‘One Team.’ But for us, being One Team goes beyond its literal meaning; rather than promoting, thinking or acting the same, it’s about making Hootsuite a place where we all feel safe, welcomed, valued, and empowered to do our best work together, without compromising who we are. Making space for everyone’s voice to be heard is key to achieving this.

In line with this philosophy, when reopening our global offices became possible following pandemic-driven closures, we surveyed our employees about what the “return to the office” should actually look like and what environment would work best for them.

While some of our Owls – what we call our people – wanted to stay fully remote, we discovered that many of our employees said they’d like to work in the physical office a few days each week or month.

As a result, we decided to shift permanently to a distributed workplace model, with employees encouraged to choose where and how they work, whether on-site, remote or a combination of the two.

To fit this new mode of working, we based our redesign around the concept of “Nests” – office space geared toward collaboration and individual work – and took the opportunity to reimagine our spaces into flexible, accessible and inclusive ones that enable people to do their best work.

Global companies: embracing differing work culture

Our ‘Nest’ redesign started with some of our larger offices, such as our Vancouver headquarters, where we decided to consolidate three offices into one.

Instead of multiple rows of workstations, we created large communal areas built for flexibility around how people work and to foster teamwork, connection and inclusion. The space now has 280 new work points, including sit-stand desks, treadmill or bike desks, personal pods, team pods, and relaxed living areas.

But rather than replicating the same design for all of its offices across the globe, Hootsuite took the approach of finding out what each local office’s needs were – with some surprising differences.

For instance, while 89% of our Vancouver-based employees said they’d like to work in the office a few days each week or month, only 62% of our London staff said they’d like to go into the office 1-3 days a week and 30% stating they’d prefer to head in just a couple times a month.

We found that attitudes varied significantly from country to country. It became clear that we needed to reimagine each of our regional offices with local culture and preferences. Our Milan office leans strongly into collaborative work – and high-end coffee – so Hootsuite built large tables for the Milan team to work together and installed espresso machines that met their exacting standards. Coffee may seem like a small feature, but Italy wrote the book on it – turning Italian words like espresso, cappuccino and latte into globally recognised lingo. Recognising the cultural importance of coffee shows our Milan team that their cultural background and needs are respected, valued and celebrated.

In contrast, large tables aren’t a priority for the team in Paris. Instead, the French team spends more of their time working independently.

As a result, we identified a heightened need for plenty of soundproof phone booths. Video conferences and telephone calls are an even bigger part of office life now, and trying to conduct them in open-plan spaces can be difficult, if not impossible. Soundproof booths not only cut out the noise but also provide more privacy, which is important for our people who value working in silence and distraction-free.

In Mexico City – awarded the dubious title of most traffic-congested city in the world – our local team prefers to work remotely to avoid the long commutes.

The traffic in Mexico City is so congested that it takes an average of two and a half hours for 65% of the goods transported in the city to reach their destination, according to the Ministry of Transport. Taking this into account, the Mexico City office has been redesigned as less of a daily, on-site place of work and more of a meeting centre. Whilst the Mexico City team may not be in the office as often as their counterparts in other countries, it was still important to create a space for colleagues and clients to gather and connect.

Celebrating the diverse cultures of our international teams

In addition to acknowledging and being responsive to our international teams’ needs, we also provide opportunities for our people to learn about the culture, customs and viewpoints of their colleagues.

With such a diverse workforce, showing interest and learning about each other’s cultures and lived experiences helps drive connection, mitigate biases, and embrace our differences.

We recently launched Hootsuite’s ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion calendar’, an initiative designed to help create cultural, religious and local holidays awareness and represent our global workforce. Not only does the calendar explain the meaning behind global and local cultural holidays and religious observances, like Diwali and Cinco de Mayo, but it also provides inclusion tips, such as how to ask politely what pronouns and name a person identifies with or ways to remain mindful of colleagues who are fasting throughout the month of Ramadan.

The calendar also shares food recipes from across the world, and dietary do’s and don’ts, such as Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu dietary considerations. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion calendar is accessible in many languages, so our employees can read it in their preferred language.

Moving forward

It’s more important to us than ever to strengthen our inclusive culture. Whether that’s addressing the needs of our diverse global teams, learning about culture through local holidays and events, or launching new Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), truly listening to, respecting and celebrating our people’s diverse cultures and perspectives is the heart of diversity, equity and inclusion at Hootsuite.

By Gabriela Jordão, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager, and Carol Waldmann, Director Global Facilities, Hootsuite.

In this article, you learned that:

  • Since return-to-work measures began, Hootsuite has shifted to a distributed workplace model, meaning employees choose where and how they work.
  • To fit this new model, Hootsuite implemented both collaborative and individualistic designs in their global offices, allowing all staff to work how they like.
  • While 89% of their Vancouver-based employees said they’d like to work in the office a few days each week or month, only 62% of their London staff said they’d like to go into the office 1-3 days a week. Consequently, they have designed offices around individual cultural/geographical needs too.

Rate This: