While hybrid workplaces are becoming the norm for many organizations, equitable and inclusive hybrid work environments are not, and this can cause problems for your team. An equitable workplace is one where all types of workers have equal and fair access to opportunities and resources. Historically, equity was only considered in the context of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). In the post-Covid return-to-work context, you should consider the hybrid, virtual, and fully in-person workers and how to ensure an equitable workplace for all three categories.
Here are a few characteristics of an equitable workplace:
- An equitable workplace prioritizes both access to resources and investment in employees.
- The intention is to create an even playing field for reward and advancement, regardless of variables.
- All workers have the ability to contribute and communicate equally, regardless of location, role, experience level, language, seen and unseen disabilities, and/or device preference.
Even when a workplace has equitable remote or hybrid work policies, inclusivity still needs to be considered. Let’s dive into what is meant by workplace inclusivity.
Inclusivity means individuals with different identities and backgrounds are welcomed in a group setting (e.g., company, office, meeting), and are valued members of the group. Not only does inclusion mean these team members feel like they belong, but they are also trusted and relied upon to contribute to the team.
Inclusivity brings many benefits, including creating a bigger talent pool, increased employee engagement and trust, new perspectives and innovation, better decision-making, and improved performance. All these benefits together help generate stronger business results.
Yet building inclusivity in the workplace has its unique challenges. Despite significant progress, there are still some deep-rooted stereotypes in society. For example, many believe in gender stereotypes. Additionally, some people tend to be afraid of interacting with those who may have a different skin color, race, and/or physical ability. There is also the presence of supremacy ideology, where some people consider their culture and background to be superior to others.
We can overcome these challenges by using verbal and non-verbal inclusion language. Try these tips:
- Avoid boxes. Banish the binaries of good/bad, right/wrong, gay/straight, black/white, and us/them.
- Choose your words with intention. Regarding gender/sexuality, say “partner” or “significant other” rather than “husband”, “boyfriend”, “wife”, or “girlfriend.”
- Show ego-distance. Callout that you have blind spots and that you’re learning.
One of the best ways to promote workplace inclusivity is by learning to be an ally. An ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented group yet who takes action to support that group. They can be any race, age, gender identity, function, or organizational level. Typically, they have some sort of status that enables their allyship actions to be particularly effective. For example, men can be allies to women/non-binary people, cisgender people can be allies to their transgender co-workers, white employees can be allies to people of color and senior leaders can be allies to associate-level employees.
The Future of Work: Hybrid Workplace
As more and more organizations are shifting to the hybrid model of working, which mixes in-office and remote work to offer employee flexibility and support, inclusion can become a challenge.
In a study by Future Forum, Black employees reported less stress working from home, with 97% of Black knowledge workers saying they want to remain partially or fully remote for the foreseeable future. Working from home helps employees with different abilities by improving their health and productivity.
In addition, lack of close contact may hinder the formation of trust, connection, and mutual purpose – three key ingredients in effective working relationships. This leads to proximity bias, a cognitive bias formed on the “out of sight, out of mind” principle. Proximity bias may lead to isolation, stress, lack of separation between work and home, and cultural shifts.
These challenges can be overcome by giving employees regular recovery breaks, setting a ritual for switching their minds between work and home, and providing social and mental health support, including Employee Assistance Programs.
Team collaboration in a hybrid workplace can be promoted by getting teams and departments to design their hybrid schedules, sharing information transparently, enabling everyone’s participation, and rewarding outcomes, not inputs.
Provision of equal access to networks for all employees, making promotions transparent, assessing performance on an employee’s ability to meet their objectives rather than focusing on presenteeism, and making the time for performance reviews can lead to higher engagement of individual employees.
Tips for creating an Equitable and Inclusive Hybrid Workplace
Here are some tips to promote the creation of an equitable and inclusive hybrid workplace:
- Keep everyone in the loop
- Host dual in-person and virtual events
- Take routine pulse surveys to measure sentiment
- Celebrate wins publicly and encourage recognitions
- Adopt new strategies for fostering engagement
- Establish clear communication guidelines
Some other best practices include giving employees the resources to create effective remote work setups and empowering them to create a flexible work routine. Finally, managers need to be empowered to work with their team members to accommodate extenuating circumstances.
We would love to hear from you! How is your organization creating equitable and inclusive hybrid work environments? How are they driving your motivation levels and enhancing overall performance?