FLEX Episode 1: Introducing the FLEX Podcast
In the inaugural episode of FLEX, a podcast by Fuze, we talk with Lisa Walker, Fuze’s VP of Brand & Workforce Futurist. Lisa discusses the history of the FLEX brand, Fuze’s longstanding commitment to the future of flexible work, and what this year’s momentous shift in remote work culture means for the workforce going forward.
Alex Campanelli: Welcome to FLEX, a podcast by Fuze. As a leader in the cloud communication space, we've been passionate about the future of work for over a decade. Join us as we discuss the future of flexible work with industry leaders and subject matter experts. Thanks for tuning in and let's get started. Hi everyone, and welcome to the inaugural episode of FLEX. I'm your host, Alex Campanelli. Today. I'm speaking with Lisa Walker, Fuze's VP of Brand and Workforce Futurist. Lisa, thanks for joining me. I'm so happy to be talking with you.
Lisa Walker: Thanks Alex, I'm so excited to be here.
Alex Campanelli: So Lisa, this is the first episode we're doing of our new podcast, FLEX. Can you tell us a little bit about the event we've hosted in the past, FLEX summit? Why did we choose to continue using the FLEX brand as we transition into a podcast format?
Lisa Walker: We hosted FLEX Summit back in 2019, and our goal at that time was to bring together thought leaders from around the world to talk about the future of flexible work. And at that time we talked about what cultural and technology shifts needed to happen, so that flexible work would actually be embraced mainstream, which is crazy to think about now because fast forward a year into 2020 and the entire world is now in the midst of this flexible work experiment, and those who can work from home right now are, and those managers and exec team leaders who were so resistant to a larger cultural shift happening of employees really, truly being able to work from anywhere, are now in the midst of experiencing it themselves. So what's really interesting to us is that we think we've accelerated the flexible work movement by maybe 5 to 10 years as a result of the pandemic, and I think there are still so many more questions to explore and the FLEX podcast is a great way to do it.
Alex Campanelli: So for our audience, tell everyone a little bit about what you do at Fuze, and what our vision was when we were collaborating to launch this show.
I run the Brand team here at Fuze and our mission is to drive larger conversations in the market around the future work movement, but more specifically the flexible work movement. That's really what we've honed in on as a thought leader in this space. The idea that because of the pandemic, that the fight for remote and flexible work has already been won, or that the conversation is over, is just not true. I think that this global experiment is actually raising just as many questions as answers. So if the majority of employees who can, want to stay remote and return to offices only one to two days a week, which is what the data is showing us, what is the actual role of the office going forward? How is office space going to change to accommodate the trends that we're going to see? Are we going to see a large migration of workers who can work remote, moving into smaller cities and more rural locations? And again, we're starting to already see that trend happening. What does that mean to those communities where remote workers are relocating to? How is that going to change those communities?
And then also another question that we think about quite a bit is: how do you build a great culture in a primarily remote company? What are the technologies that are critical for productivity? How do you measure remote worker productivity? Because FaceTime used to be such an important metric that managers and leaders frankly looked at to think about who their A-players were, and that's changing too. And then finally, I think another one that's really important that we think about is how do we make the flexible work movement more inclusive? How do we make sure that there's flexible work in some of the lower wage sectors, that this isn't just something that's available to information workers.
Alex Campanelli: Yeah. And I love that we're thinking about this holistically as we move forward, and I hope to address a lot of these topics on future episodes. So to follow up what you just said, Fuze has been talking about the future of work for quite some time. And that vision was actually one of the things that drew me to the company in the first place.
Lisa Walker: I'm really proud to say that we definitely live our values at Fuze, when it comes to flexible work. We early on, years ago, did put out a formal work from anywhere policy that was intended to empower our employees to actually take the time to work with their managers and personalize their employee experience at Fuze, which means how, where, and when, they do their best work. And I think that grounding everything in the philosophy that work is not a place you go, but a thing you do, really does underpin everything we do at Fuze. It makes me incredibly proud to work there.
Alex Campanelli: Me too. So for context, it's been about six months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, how has this impacted your life personally? How have you been doing?
Lisa Walker: You and I were just talking about this before we turned the recording on. I think anyone who tells you it's going well is lying, that's what I, at least I've chosen to believe that. And I think you and I were both joking earlier about the mantras of 2020 of, it's too much, and I just can't.
Alex Campanelli: Yes.
Lisa Walker: …(Those) are the two things that I feel like I'm saying on a daily basis, and I just can't. And I think you then added a third, which is, I'm doing my best.
Alex Campanelli: I'm doing my best.
Lisa Walker: And those three things are very true. So, we made a lot of big life decisions that could only happen with this kind of compelling event in that we actually relocated with our 10 and 13 year old boys up to Vermont, where my husband has family, and where we could just have more space and spend more time outside. So we've been living in Vermont since March. We moved from Cambridge, Mass. And we've been trying to create our new normal here and give our kids as much as we can in terms of the things they used to love. So can they play sports safely? Can they be in school in person more here than they could at home? But really trying to balance what things look like, and then we both are working full-time, my husband and I, he runs another tech company, and I'm at Fuze. So we've had a lot going on. And then we threw a COVID puppy into the mix and brought a puppy into the household. So it has been a lot, but of course, there've been incredible moments of joy and there've been incredible moments of stress. And I think the thing that's actually been easiest, which is crazy, is that the transition to remote work in working for Fuze was actually the easiest part. And I'm incredibly grateful because it's not an option for everybody. And I know that, that's a position of privilege to be in that I can work remote.
Alex Campanelli: Absolutely. And to follow up on that, what are your observations about how it's affected the workforce overall? You run your own team. What have been some benefits and some challenges?
Lisa Walker: I think six months in, and we are at that six month mark, people are definitely burned out on a hundred percent remote. And you and I were talking about this earlier as well, that we're really missing that in-person human connection. That doesn't mean you have to be in an office, but just people are missing human connection. So I think that people are looking forward to returning when we can safely to more of a hybrid model, where they get to spend some time in person, whether that's in a Fuze office, or whether that's meeting up in a coworking space, like a breather, or conference room space, I think there are different models that we're going to see evolve. I always joke, up here in Vermont, I'd love to bring the brand team up when we can safely go to the Equinox resort down the road and have an offsite there. So how do we start to think about what in-person experiences for our coworkers look like when we go back to the new normal? And I wouldn't say go back to normal, because it's going to be a new normal. We know that the data is showing us that people, the majority of workers, do not want to return full-time to an office. And I say that as someone who's spent five days a week at the Fuze Boston office.
Alex Campanelli: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lisa Walker: And I think that that trend we've seen, this pendulum shift of people like me, who were five day a week office people, now having done the remote work thing, want to find some in-between balance of some time in the office and sometime remote, because we've seen the benefit of the good parts of remote working, which are the amount of individual work you can get done when you're able to sit and focus all day in one location without the distractions of the office, but we also really miss the benefit of the office, which is what it means to have in-person collaboration and running a brand team with a lot of creatives on the team. I think that great creative work can happen remote, but some of the really wonderful experiences at a creative team do happen in person. So what does a hybrid model look like, and how does that change the future of work.
Alex Campanelli: Absolutely. And we'll talk more about this in future episodes, but what are your initial thoughts about how this will change the future of work moving forward? And what are your hopes for how it will change how we work?
Lisa Walker: I think the word FLEX, we chose it very purposefully a couple of years ago, as we were starting to think about building out that in-person FLEX summit. Flex is the word of the day for me. I think that as companies think about how to attract, win, and retain great employees, they're going to have to build a flexible work model, and they're going to have to be super intentional about it. So I think we're going to see this flex model evolve for leading companies where employees are going to work with their managers and their teams to build personalized experiences. I don't think we're going to see the majority of people go remote. I think we're going to see the majority of people build out this flexible model, where they spend some time in offices, they spend some time remote, and they really do build an experience that creates the best opportunity for them from both a productivity standpoint, but also that fits in with their life and allows them to live a better life.
Alex Campanelli: Yeah, absolutely. I know that when we do go back to the Fuze Boston office, I'll probably do some sort of that hybrid model as well, a couple of days in the office, a couple of days at home, just because it makes the most sense. I think that's about all the time we have for today's chat. Lisa, thanks for talking with me and thanks everyone for listening.
Lisa Walker: Thanks, Alex.
Alex Campanelli: Thanks again for listening to FLEX, a podcast by Fuze. Be sure to subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Google podcasts, and rate and review us. For more information, visit fuze.com and follow us on social media @fuze. See you next time.