The landscape of work has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with hybrid working emerging as a formidable trend, that is hopefully here to stay. Hybrid working allows employees to split their time between working from the office and remote locations and offers a multitude of benefits.
One of the greatest advantages is its potential to enhance inclusivity within the workplace, this is not really covered but much of the mainstream literature. In this blog, we will delve into the reasons why hybrid working can be a catalyst for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity.
Accessibility for All
Hybrid working tears down geographical barriers, making it possible for individuals from diverse backgrounds and locations to contribute meaningfully. No longer constrained by the necessity to relocate for a job, talented professionals from various regions can participate, bringing with them unique perspectives and experiences. This expanded talent pool enables organisations to tap into a broader range of skill sets and viewpoints, thereby fostering innovation and creativity.
Flexibility for Different Needs
The beauty of hybrid working lies in its adaptability to various individual needs. Some employees might thrive in a traditional office environment, while others may require the tranquillity of a home office, or need to be home-based due to personal circumstances. By accommodating different preferences and needs, organisations send a clear message that they value their employees’ well-being and recognise the diverse situations they might be navigating. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that the proportion of women in employment in the UK who work full-time has risen from 56.5% in 2019 to 58.7% this year.
Within this, it goes without saying that each organisation should be offering a variety of different support mechanisms to ensure that employees are having their emotional needs met; particularly as post-pandemic life has taken a toll on all of us, regardless of whether we admit it or not.
Promoting Work-Life Balance
Inclusivity goes beyond embracing differences – it also entails creating an environment where everyone can flourish. Hybrid working facilitates a healthier work-life balance by eliminating long commutes and allowing employees to structure their days in ways that suit them best. This is particularly advantageous for individuals with disabilities or health conditions that might make commuting or adhering to strict schedules challenging.
I’ve supported employees with long-term health conditions to thrive through the combined use of flexible and hybrid working to enable them to work with their medical conditions rather than against them.
Unconscious biases can often seep into decision-making processes within a traditional office setting. Hybrid working provides an opportunity to evaluate employees based on their contributions rather than superficial factors like appearance, being present on-site or office interactions. With remote work becoming the norm, individuals are judged more on the quality of their output and their engagement rather than on external appearances, helping to level the playing field and ensure fairness.
Neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism or ADHD, often possess unique talents that can greatly benefit an organisation. Hybrid working allows them to design their workspaces to suit their specific sensory needs, leading to increased comfort and productivity. Moreover, reduced sensory overload and the ability to structure their work environment can contribute to a better overall work experience.
For me, this is a huge one; many of you who know me, know that I can distract myself in an empty space, so a personal nightmare for me is an open-plan office full of people to talk to and distractions. I know that I’m not alone in this, every so often a day in the office is great, but please not every day.
Many employees shoulder the responsibilities of caregiving for children, elderly family members, or individuals with special needs. Hybrid working permits them to better balance these responsibilities with their professional duties. This empowerment is a significant step toward gender equality, as it reduces the burden that traditionally falls disproportionately on women.
When I was a people leader, it was personally very important to me that my team knew that they didn’t need to ask permission to nip out to do the school run or to take their lunch break at a different time to be with their youngest child once they’d finished their morning session at nursery.
When I became I carer, needing this flexibility became essential – it’s tougher than you will ever imagine trying to juggle responsibilities and feeling that you’re successful in both. Only last week I was at the hospital with my mum, where every person of a similar age to my mum had at least one of their adult children with them.
Three pictures show different people with caring responsibilities.
Cultivating Inclusive Communication
With hybrid working, communication methods evolve to be more inclusive. Teams must rely on digital tools, promoting the use of written communication alongside verbal interactions. This shift caters to various communication styles and preferences, benefiting introverted individuals who might feel overshadowed in traditional in-person meetings.
Managing a hybrid team requires different skills to managing a co-located team, and this does not come naturally to every people leader. It’s not really a surprise that Managers may also be susceptible to unconscious biases against hybrid workers, such as proximity bias, where subconsciously we favour those with whom we are in closest proximity and have more face-to-face contact with.
People leaders and managers should be trained not only in practical skills for hybrid team management but also made aware of potential biases and how these can be overcome.
Breaking Down Cultural Barriers
Global companies consist of teams spread across different time zones and cultures. Hybrid working fosters an understanding of diverse cultural practices and work ethics by necessitating collaboration across digital platforms. This interaction exposes employees to various working styles, leading to a more inclusive and culturally competent work environment.
Retaining and Attracting Talent
Even though there has been a flurry of recent media coverage about large corporations mandating a return to the office without really considering the longer-term impact on employee engagement and how hybrid working enables some to work full time.
Inclusivity is a key factor for attracting and retaining top talent. Organisations that prioritise diversity and equity naturally become more attractive to a broader range of individuals. Hybrid working is a tangible demonstration of this commitment, showcasing a willingness to accommodate different needs and circumstances.
Diverse and inclusive teams have been shown to be more innovative. By allowing employees to work in environments where they are most comfortable and productive, hybrid working contributes to the creation of a diverse talent pool. This, in turn, leads to a wider variety of perspectives and ideas, fuelling innovation within the organisation.
In conclusion, hybrid working presents a golden opportunity to enhance inclusivity in the modern workplace. By breaking down barriers, accommodating individual needs, and creating a more flexible and balanced environment, organisations can tap into a richer and more diverse talent pool. As they strive to promote equity and embrace differences, they also create a more dynamic, innovative, and thriving workplace culture.
Just a note about terminology
There is obviously a huge variety of names used for hybrid working that often include the term flexible working, which can have its own organisational definition.
Flexible Working is an overarching term encompassing various working arrangements, such as part-time working, condensed hours, term-time working, and amended start and finish times, formally requested by employees (People Management, 2023). By contrast, Hybrid Working is all about the location where work is performed.
A bit about me & my background
Before I became a Women’s Health Specialist….
I was an MBA-educated Senior Leader. I’ve worked in a number of technically complex and operationally diverse industries that present numerous challenges to keep people healthy, safe and well. I have a proven track record of delivering exceptional results in many different areas.