The pandemic has transformed a lot about how we work, and what follows next is neither a return to the pre-pandemic workplace environment nor does it spell the demise of the in-office work environment. Rather, a new reality has dawned upon us—the hybrid workplace—where work is split in-office and remotely.
The hybrid work model promises businesses the benefits of both remote work (reduced carbon footprint, increased employee satisfaction, labor-cost optimization, and increased flexibility) and in-office working (greater creativity, smoother coordination, face-to-face collaboration, and informal networking). However, there is also the matter of it creating issues such as power differentials between teams. Ahead is a detailed discussion of how hybrid work will affect workplace diversity.
How Hybrid Work Can Benefit Workplace Diversity & Inclusion
The pandemic has started to slowly wane. Businesses are opening their doors and productivity is slowly picking up. But something has changed. Different organizations are adopting the hybrid work rather than reverting to their pre-pandemic in-office routine. This has been helped by numerous employees’ preference to continue working remotely despite the movement restrictions being lifted. According to a 2022 study, 60% of employees prefer to work remotely post-pandemic. That said, how does this new work model benefit diversity and inclusivity in an organization? Here’s how:
1. The Removal of Geographical Barriers Eliminates Location Bias
Previously, most companies preferred to hire people who lived close to their offices. According to research, applicants who resided even 5-6 miles from the hiring organizations received one-third fewer calls than those who resided nearer to the workplace. Moreover, companies were attracted to hiring local talent since it was more efficient and cheaper.
Unfortunately, it is harder for recruiters to source top talent and underrepresented candidates by solely focusing on a limited geographic location. By adopting a hybrid work environment, you’ll be able to cast your net wider to find underrepresented candidates from locations other than where your organization is located.
2. Remote Work May Foster a Greater Sense of Safety for LGBQT+ Employees
In the in-office workplace, LGBQT+ employees are more prone to facing daily hurdles that their co-workers rarely experience. According to a 2018 report, LGBQT+ workers had colleagues criticize their dress code and a couple felt exhausted from spending energy and time hiding their gender identity (13%) and sexual orientation (17%). Even something as ordinary as using the bathroom can cause anxiety, with many nonbinary and transgender workers experiencing harassment for using a bathroom that doesn’t align with their birth sex.
Hybrid work can help alleviate such workplace diversity issues. It can give such workers psychological safety and a serene work atmosphere to undertake their tasks at their absolute best.
3. More Support For People with Mental & Physical Disability
Approximately 6 million people in the US labor force suffer from some kind of disability. Commuting presents a significant barrier to most of these people, depending on the nature of their disability. What may seem like a simple trip for an able-bodied person can pose a massive challenge for people with physical, mental, or visual impairments. Allowing these individuals to work from home not only makes their work-life easier but also helps improve their efficiency, given that they need not worry about commuting to work.
4. Ensures Job Security for People with Family Care Responsibilities
Several women were forced to leave the workforce in 2020 because of the parenting challenges caused by the closure of childcare facilities. Given that it is women who shoulder most of the family care duties, it is much easier to balance their family and work life when working from home than when commuting to an office. It’s no wonder that women are expressing the desire to work remotely more than their male counterparts.
How Hybrid Work Can Pose Challenges for Workplace Diversity & Inclusion
Despite the numerous benefits that hybrid work promises, walking into it blindly can result in discrimination and lack of workplace diversity in an organization. While many employees welcome a hybrid workplace as a welcome change in their work routine, it could inadvertently have detrimental effects on their careers. Below is a discussion of why this is the case:
It Undermines Equal Opportunities
The workplace diversity and inclusion that ensure that the disabled, women, older workers, and culturally diverse people are afforded equal rights in the workplace could be undermined by the adoption of the hybrid work model. How? The formation of ‘outgroups’ and ‘ingroups’, which has been witnessed with remote work, will only exacerbate with the adoption of hybrid work. Moreover, those working in-office are more likely to engage in spontaneous office discussions, and can easily access the bosses, meaning they are better poised to get promotions than their remote working counterparts.
Offices Could Become Playgrounds for the Younger Staff
The age imbalance between commuting senior staff and the young staff who reside in the city could also pose challenges. Given that senior managers may opt to work remotely to avoid the hassle of commuting, offices could become playgrounds for young, inexperienced staff. Such employees working without hands-on supervision from senior managers may impact their productivity negatively. Moreover, the lack of guidance could hamper employee development, which in turn will affect complex decision making, innovativeness, and collaboration of the younger employees.
How to Promote Workplace Diversity & Inclusivity in a Hybrid Work Model
Workplace inclusivity and diversity have become an integral part of every organization’s values. The pandemic has transformed the workplace dynamics and organizations make deliberate choices to embrace these transformations.
One such change is adopting a hybrid work model. However, given that it is a relatively new concept, this work model may impact workplace diversity and inclusivity. Below are some tips that will ensure that your hybrid workplace is on the right path as far as diversity and inclusivity are concerned.
Moderate meetings between remote and in-person attendees to ensure that neither group feels like their views are not valued.
Develop new methods of collaboration using tools such as Asana. Effective collaboration between the remote and in-office teams will ensure that they exist harmoniously rather than compete.
Reiterate how important remote work can be: You can do this by encouraging employees to work remotely so that those who choose to work remotely don’t feel like they were pushed into taking that step.
Make workplace flexibility the standard for every employee.
At Electric, we can help you transition to a hybrid workplace by providing you with all the IT needs and collaborative tools that will ensure that your remote and in-office teams collaborate effectively. Get in touch today to learn more.