The workplace has changed faster than ever before since the pandemic and organisations had to adapt quickly to be ready for what comes next. As hybrid work becomes the new normal, companies need to ensure they create an equitable and fair working environment for all their employees, not just for their office workers. Organisations should be careful not to create unintended discriminations towards remote workers. In this article, we will discuss why hybrid workplaces are more inclusive and how to foster diversity, inclusion and equality in hybrid work.
1 - Hybrid work is more inclusive than traditional office work
COVID has changed the way we work and for many people, it has been much a more inclusive experience. For many employees, having the option to work remotely is about the ability to work at all. Making office work mandatory simply excludes many qualified people from jobs they are capable and willing to perform.
Employees with family care responsibilities rely on remote work. The majority of carers for young families are women. Million of women were forced to leave the workforce in 2020 due to parenting challenges caused by school closures: More than 5 million payroll jobs held by women were lost in 2020. Parents of young children and in particular mothers are able to balance family and work responsibilities when they have the option to work from home.Women, many of whom are mothers, have expressed a stronger desire to continue working remotely than men.
Employees with disabilities also rely on remote work. Over four million people in the UK workforce have some form of disability. Commuting created a significant obstacle to many of these disabled people. Working from the office can be a major roadblock for individuals with mobility limitations.
Employees leaving in remote locations due to lower income need remote work options. Many people living with lower income, who live in suburbs or remote locations, struggle to commute to office locations. Employees with lower income simply can not afford to live near office locations, which often excludes them from job opportunities. Remote work gives people with lower income access to work, which they would not be able to do otherwise.
Being an inclusive leader in a rapidly changing workplace is difficult and requires constant learning and improvement. Test your allyship skills with this 2-minute diversity champion quiz.
2 - Implementing a new approach to foster equality in hybrid work is key
Hybrid work is more inclusive than traditional office work because it gives people who need it most access to the workforce; however there is a risk of creating a two-tier workforce that created unintended discrimination against remote workers caused by the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach. Here are some ways to avoid creating unintended discriminations against remote workers in a hybrid work environment:
1) Over communicate
Remote workers tend to work with less supervision, so managers may be less aware of their workload or accomplishments. Managers should over communicate via video calls, emails, phone calls, group meetings or one-to-one meetings. Replicating the informal interactions that take place in the office is key to make remote employees feel connected, and for their managers to stay informed of their contributions. To learn more about how to build inclusion in hybrid work, watch Building inclusion in hybrid work (how to do it well in 3 simple steps).
2) Review workplace policies
Traditional workplace policies will no longer work in a hybrid work setting. Traditional performance reviews and evaluations might hold hidden bias towards in-person workers, giving them an unfair advantage. Managers should focus on results-based performance rather than office-presence evaluations to ensure that remote workers are assessed fairly. To find out more about how to promote diversity and inclusion at work, read 5 ways to improve diversity and inclusion in your organization.
3) Monitor feedback closely
Managers should constantly rethink their approach with a strategy of fairness and equality in mind. Leaders should take concrete steps to ensure equal treatment of remote workers. Recognizing the needs of remote workers can be a challenge, so managers should monitor feedback closely. By talking openly with their teams, acknowledging the issues that hybrid work can bring and running regular employee surveys, managers can create a hybrid workplace that is fair and equitable for all employees.
4) Ensure fair and equitable promotion practices
Employers failing to promote their remote employees in a fair and equitable way risk losing talent, lower morale and even lawsuits. Here are a few ways managers can create equitable promotion practices for their remote workers. Actively mentoring all employees, including remote workers, is key to creating equitable promotion practices. Creating opportunities for exposure to senior leadership for all employees, including remote workers, will also create fair promotion practices. Creating a solid promotion policy and sharing it with all employees will help ensure a more equitable promotion strategy. To learn more about how to be an inclusive leader at work, read my book: Inclusion: the ultimate secret for an organisation’s success.
As hybrid work is here to stay, employers must ensure they create a workplace that is equitable for all employees, not just office workers. The hybrid workplace provides an opportunity to create a more inclusive workplace but it also comes with some challenges when it comes to treating all employees in an equitable way. Forward-thinking organisations, which will redesign their approach to work with fairness as a key component, hwill set themselves for business growth and success.