Workplace diversity and inclusion has become a core part of the modern organization’s values, but how is that put into practice in the hybrid work model? COVID-19 has changed the traditional workplace, and organizations must make deliberate choices to enable work arrangements for the future.
The employee experience varies drastically from person to person based on their own past history and systemic privileges. With the variety of home offices factored in, there’s even more complexity to the types of support employees need to do their job and create cohesion across an organization’s workforce.
Don’t make workplace diversity and inclusion an afterthought when employees return to the office or continue to work remotely. Start your post-pandemic hybrid work model off on the right foot with these practical steps leaders can take to support their people through this next phase.
1. Communicate a clear plan
Employees both appreciate and need clear instructions for how a hybrid work model should be. Without clear expectations, employees can become uncertain about where they should be working and assume there is a secret correct choice in working remotely or in the office.
68% of organizations don’t have a detailed plan for hybrid work yet, according to McKinsey, yet that is one of the top asks from employees. Most plans are high level at best, with only one in ten organizations moving forward with their vision.
Create a clear plan of detailed guidelines and policies to give your people a sense of security and path for the future. It’s important that leaders set a detailed set of guidelines so every employee is confident in what’s expected of them, without question.
2. Make flexibility the standard for everyone
Flexible working hours are the number one ask from the majority of employees in 2021. Professional services network EY reports 88% of employees believe workplace flexibility is important in where and when they work.
However, flexibility may mean different things to different people. Flexibility can take different forms, such as staggered start times, certain days on site, or quiet days without meetings. What’s important is that everyone is receiving the same message and equitable opportunities for flexible work.
Employers don’t need to take their new schedules to the extremes of asynchronous work for everyone. Instead, make flex schedules a permanent feature and have managers work one-on-one with their direct reports to find the work life balance that works for them and their team.
3. Create a better onboarding experience
Remote work is harder on junior employees than on leaders. According to Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index, 61% of leaders are thriving, reporting stronger relationships with colleagues and faring better than their employees.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, 64% of new employees reported they were struggling to connect and stay engaged at work. These junior employees are more likely to be Gen Z and female, as opposed to male information workers who are established in their careers.
To encourage employees to come into the office, keep your hybrid work environments balanced and try to include employees of all levels working remotely or on site. This normalizes both the digital and physical workspace for both new employees and existing teams.
Form a consistent onboarding process for all new employees, whether that is fully remote, on site, or with elements of both. The key is to have a plan in place to help new employees build a network for better collaboration, mentorship opportunities, and stronger company culture.
4. Moderate meetings between remote and in-person attendees
It can be hard to have the same level of communication when some employees are in the same environment and some are remotely calling in. Don’t prioritize employees who are attending in person, and exclude those calling in via a screen or speakerphone.
A helpful solution is tasking a meeting moderator who is responsible for calling for multiple opinions. The moderator is a key player in creating an inclusive meeting environment, which is important for team collaboration. Meetings in a hybrid work model are a great place to reinforce your workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives on a daily basis.
Don’t forget to ensure that meetings are scheduled to accommodate multiple time zones if that’s necessary for your team.
5. Develop new methods to collaborate
Go beyond the conference room. Collaboration and innovation could look very different from pre-pandemic. Companies are now investing in tools and technologies to digitally transform their organization, to better streamline how they work together in digital and physical environments.
Consider the best method for your respective teams to work together efficiently and effectively. Across industries, people have proven to be productive while working remotely. The next step is to standardize and create formalized processes around how your teams can continue to function online in unprecedented times. Whether that’s project management tools like Asana, instant messaging and channels on Slack, or talent intelligence tools to manage your workforce, technology is a key part of helping your organization run more intelligently.
Make the office a magnet, not a mandate.
Share the benefits of being in the office from the employee’s perspective. If in-person collaboration is an imperative part of a project, try restructuring areas of your office to be more conducive to this working style. Employees will be more likely to come into the office with purpose and to complete a specific task.
6. Reiterate how inclusive remote can be
Encourage employees to work remotely so that those who choose to don’t feel they are the exception. Instead of begrudgingly allowing employees to continue working remotely, leaders can embrace the hybrid virtual model going forward. The lack of remote-relevant specifics can make employees anxious that this is only a temporary perk instead of a permanent part of your workplace model.
Consider that viewpoints on remote work can vary by gender, ethnicity, and caregiving responsibilities. For example, black knowledge workers have been more likely to say that working remotely is better for their sense of belonging.
Women are also more likely than men to report being more productive from home. Remote work can also allow working mothers to stay in the workforce, a demographic that has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic when twelve times more women than men left paid work to care for children in 2020.
A hybrid work model can strengthen organizational performance, attract top talent, and help your organization stay agile in the coming years. Developing a better work-life balance is key to retaining happier employees.
Open communication, trust, and flexibility are key to a successful hybrid model, as well as an active inclusion program. Take your hybrid work plan to the next level with workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives from the start.