Creating an Inclusive Workplace for Hybrid Workers was originally published on Ivy Exec.
It’s clear that an inclusive workplace is important to most employees. In an Atlassian survey, 80 percent of respondents said that diversity and equality is an important part of an effective workplace.
Prior to the pandemic, organizations were implementing training and processes for developing more equitable company cultures. However, many of those companies were completely in person, meaning that those initiatives were designed for employees predominantly working in the physical office full-time.
Now, however, that full-time, in-office culture is certainly a relic of the past. Four in 10 managers let their employees choose their own working hours; what’s more, not all employees come into the office on the same day, or at all. Compounding this free-for-all scheduling, some employees work fully in-office, while others work completely remotely; others opt for a hybrid schedule.
While this new workplace reality affords more flexibility, how does it impact inclusion?
Harvard Business Review suggests that hybrid working could reinforce pre-existing inequalities – and even create new ones. However, when shifting to a hybrid work schedule, Gartner argues, companies that are consciously equitable can boost their inclusion by 24 percent.
“Hybrid work affects four of the elements that make up inclusion: fair treatment, diversity, belonging and trust,” the firm notes.
Read on for inclusion-boosting strategies that companies can use to support these four pillars of equitable culture.
Speak openly about company culture – and re-define it for yourselves
When we consider company culture, we often think of it as something “hidden.” Each individual has to learn the unwritten rules and play by them if they want to get ahead.
But this mentality is particularly unfair for hybrid workers who don’t spend considerable time in the office. Not only do they miss the nuances of company culture, but they also have fewer opportunities to shape this culture than those who spend more time in the office.
Instead, be explicit about your company culture. How does your team define it? What are its rules? What aspects of it leave people out? Who struggles to participate?
Coach McKenna Sweazey suggests that if you’re unhappy with your culture, you and your team can always change it.
“…it’s time to rewrite your new cultural manifesto, a guide to the business’s behavior, drivers, and ethos. After you’ve mapped out your culture and how it aligns with your values, the last step is to make sure this doesn’t leave anyone out. Ask yourself, in conjunction with a group of people representing different perspectives, what about this might now work for some people?” she writes.
Develop programs that promote a sense of connection and well-being
One of the best ways to promote inclusion is to make employees feel a sense of belonging with one another. Do they feel connected to the company? To their team members?
Some of the ways to develop this sense of belonging is by ensuring that team members connect at specific times. If all of your employees work hybrid schedules, consider choosing a few hours each week where everyone is in the office together. If this is impossible, then schedule synchronous meetings so everyone has a chance to connect.
At the same time, leaders can foster this sense of belonging by replicating the physical office virtually. If you’re in the office, opening your office door signs that you’re available to chat. Virtually, you need to put in more effort, including scheduling open “office hours,” writes HBR.
Gartner also recommends polling employees to identify the types of financial and well-being programs they need. Specifically, hybrid team members may appreciate physical wellness programs to feel more connected with others and add movement to their days.
Train employees how to identify and avoid microaggressions
Prior to the pandemic, many workplaces focused on helping team members spot their unconscious biases, defined as stereotypes – positive or negative – they might hold about particular groups.
Gartner suggests this doesn’t go far enough, however. In fact, organizations need to focus on training their teams to avoid microaggressions, small, often-inadvertent comments that make members of marginalized groups feel “othered.”
“Current training and development efforts largely focus on unconscious bias; however, to truly drive inclusion, all employees need to understand how to empathize with the experiences of marginalized groups, how to spot microaggressions, and more importantly, how to prevent and disrupt microaggressions from happening or escalating,” they write.
Facilitate mentorships for underrepresented groups
A hybrid workplace may re-emphasize one of the problems with the pre-pandemic workplace: employees informally “mentoring” colleagues who remind them of themselves. So, executives and other leaders are more likely to replace themselves by others who look like they do or have similar backgrounds.
This system can be even more problematic for hybrid employees. They may have even fewer chances to make informal connections with leadership, making it that much more difficult for them to move up at the company.
Gartner suggests it’s high time for more formal mentorships that don’t rely on opportunity and “in group” thinking for less-senior employees to connect one-on-one with more senior colleagues.
Intentionally Creating an Inclusive Hybrid Workplace
Long-existing workplace inequities, like favoring men for promotions and connecting with “similar” folks, can become even more pronounced for hybrid employees. What’s more, new inequalities can be unintentionally baked into companies that offer a variety of scheduling options. For instance, employees who work primarily from home may be overlooked for promotion or left out of “watercooler” conversations.
We might feel like the pandemic has lasted forever, but your company’s hybrid schedule is still in its infancy. By adopting these intentional and planning-heavy solutions, you can ensure that your company culture is welcoming and supportive, rather than inequitable qualities unintentionally seep in.
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