Many employees, especially women, have long been asking for more flexible working options. Since the Coronavirus pandemic brought a sudden, sweeping shift from in-office work to remote work, employers who were reluctant to allow remote work before are seeing its benefits. In this way, the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work in the office—permanently. 90% of C-level executives surveyed at 100 of the largest companies in the U.S. have indicated that their companies will be using a hybrid work model. “Hybrid” refers to a mix of in-office and remote work. This could mean some employees work full time in the office and others are fully remote, or that all employees work a certain percentage of time from home and from the office. It’s important to continue your DEI efforts no matter where your employees are doing their work. But moving to a hybrid model presents its own set of challenges when it comes to maintaining them. Here are a few things you need to consider to create an effective hybrid workplace.
Ask employees how they work best—and let them do it
The first and most important step you can take to providing an equitable hybrid workplace is to ask employees what will allow them to do their best work. A number of groups will be disproportionately impacted by a return to the office. This includes women, who had to leave the workplace in droves because of homeschooling and lack of childcare or caregiver help. It also includes working parents, who have been experiencing a better work/life balance since they have been able to spend more time at home with their kids. Disabled employees, many of whom experienced relief from working remotely and saw improvements both in their productivity and quality of life, may also prefer to work remotely on a permanent basis. And for all employees with a commute, remote work has brought respite from the extra stress, time, and cost of getting to and from work every day.
For those companies considering them, a hybrid policy that only allows upper-level employees to work from home is inherently biased. It is frequently the lower-paid employees who face the most obstacles, whether that is a longer commute from a less expensive area of town, less access to childcare, or a myriad of other challenges. Giving all of your employees the opportunity to participate in a partially or fully remote work environment will make it that much easier for them to do their jobs well, leading to higher productivity and lower turnover rates.
A carefully-considered hybrid policy is particularly relevant when you consider personal safety concerns for working in close contact with others. Rules about vaccination status and masking are still in flux, and parents with children too young to be vaccinated are particularly concerned. By asking employees what they need and taking their input into consideration, employers demonstrate their “people first” policies and also create an environment of equity where solutions are matched to the individual needs of employees.
Leverage remote work to maximize the diversity of your workforce
When you have a hybrid workforce, you are not limited by geographical location, but can seek out a more diverse pool of candidates. Look beyond traditional referral-based recruitment, which tends to uphold affinity bias and leads to candidates who are very similar to the people you already employ. Review where you are recruiting from, and incorporate national job fair events and employment boards to widen the pool of potential employees you have to draw from. And don’t forget to update the language of job postings to be more inclusive before you share them. These things can help diversify your workforce no matter where your company is physically located.
Continue your DEI training efforts—online
Whether your employees are working in the office or remotely, continuing their DEI training will be of paramount importance. Online training allows both remote and in-office employees to participate, regardless of their time zone. It can also encourage more openness, honesty, and engagement in employee responses and conversations. This is because those employees working from home are in an environment where they feel more relaxed and safer. Increased engagement and participation will positively impact the degree to which your DEI efforts are successful in the long term. Gupta Consulting offers our ELEVATE DEI Learning program, which is on-demand and can be accessed on tablet or mobile devices in addition to desktop devices. And ELEVATE can be combined with our live virtual training for maximum knowledge transfer.
No matter what your new hybrid workplace looks like, keeping DEI considerations at the forefront remains imperative. Through conversations with employees, fair and flexible policies, and ongoing DEI training, you’ll be setting your workforce up for success in DEI and beyond.
I’m Dr. Sangeeta Gupta, and I founded Gupta Consulting Group to help CDOs and HR leaders create and implement DEI programs that meet their organization’s unique needs.
Schedule a conversation with me today to learn more about our DEI solutions.