While offices are once again opening their doors after a span of eighteen months, the majority of workers (58%) are seeking full-time remote work in the post-pandemic period while others (39%) seek a hybrid structure, a survey from FlexJobs revealed.
According to the report, 50% of respondents enjoy low stress levels from having no commute, while 47% are happy about getting to spend more time with family. But even as employees globally bask in the perks of remote working, critics are raising their eyebrows at the drawback of implementing the system in the long run.
One of the major questions concerning the fate of hybrid and remote working is Diversity and Inclusion. While in the physical workplace, it appears easier to foster an inclusive environment, leaders are left with challenges in the hybrid environment where communication is the backbone. Both leaders and employees are aware that – with limited communication – hybrid workplaces cannot have productive outcomes. This idea has redefined the ‘inclusive workplace’ as something beyond the mere concept of a diverse workforce.
A well-communicative setup that ensures the needs of remote workers in a hybrid structure are addressed is a crucial aspect of an inclusive workplace. While this new type of work arrangement is gaining popularity among global leaders, it also questions whether all employees are able to remain productive in this environment.
Sharing examples of the new aspect of inclusion, Monica Watt, CHRO of ELMO Software, said the company has rolled out ‘rules of engagement’ for Zoom. These rules are designed to improve the experience for people working remotely as well as in the office. They include:
An in-office attendee who is the champion of those online. It is their responsibility to ensure the voices of those people on the video conference are heard.
Before the meeting, the team should distribute an agenda so that everyone can prepare talking points or thoughts in advance.
“Create opportunities for informal interactions such as our Morning Tea, and Quarantini time on Friday afternoon to be social,” said Monica Watt.
Experts recognise meetings as one of the key areas for building policies of inclusion. As such, the need to make employees feel heard is of utmost importance in an evolving hybrid workforce.
For Marcus Marchant, CEO, Vistaprint Australia, a hybrid work model with space for the team to meet face to face and collaborate allows for a "good balance of asynchronous and synchronous work".
"The key is to have a good balance of both so that teams and departments don’t feel like they are working in isolation or in silos, but rather sharing ideas and discussing ideas," Marchant said.
Coffee breaks and water cooler chats are not just sources of recreation but also great points of data flow. As remote workers do not have access to such conversations, leaders must ensure the equal participation of all employees in meetings to establish an office culture with well-ventilated information.
Experts believe that, with the emergence of the remote workplace, diversity has gained new momentum.
According to an article published by LinkedIn, hiring in a physical workplace is often limited to locals whereas – with the flattening structure of the organisation due to a hybrid set-up – overseas hiring is providing more opportunities for companies to create a truly diversified workplace.
Geographical boundaries are no longer barriers to talent acquisition, so there is more intercultural growth in the process.
Pranali Save, Chief Human Resources Officer, Icertis says such circumstances create better opportunities to promote diversity.
“Because companies can recruit from a wider geographic area, they will be able to cast the widest possible net for the best and most diverse talent – including candidates from underrepresented groups,” said Pranali Save.
She added that the hybrid work model has opened up possibilities for talent from tier 3 and tier 4 cities, even villages, to get an equal opportunity to work on the best assignments without having to leave their homes or migrate to bigger cities.
New hybrid models are also reducing or eliminating the office commute, making work more accessible for everyone, such as employees with disabilities, for whom traditional in-office work models were challenging.
In 2018, Human Rights Campaign published a survey that revealed a stereotypical approach towards LGBTQ workers. Data showed that one out of five LGBTQ workers received advice to conduct themselves in ways that stereotyped them. Meanwhile, 53% reported having heard their colleagues crack jokes on homosexuality.
Experts believe, however, that such incidents could decrease in a hybrid workplace.
Differently Abled Employees
For physically challenged people, the daily commute is a tough ordeal. Remote work, however, gives employees a chance to grab better opportunities without the need for commuting or travelling. Experts predict such issues would be resolved in a remote workplace where employees don’t only feel a sense of belonging but also feel valued and productive.
When it comes to diversifying the workforce, employers still need to address underlying biases and promote inclusivity if they want to create a culture where people from all walks of life can share their experiences without the fear of being judged.