“How do I get a promotion?”
Ask any search engine, and you’ll see article after article talking about visibility – of your accomplishments, hard work, leadership ability. That’s all well and good, but what happens in a hybrid working environment?
If you give people the choice of where they work, some will prefer remote working because it better suits their lifestyle, physical capabilities, or other needs. And that’s where you need to be careful about a diversity crisis emerging.
Whether it’s down to employee demand, leadership rethinking, or the draw of lower office rent, it seems inevitable that hybrid working is here to stay. Four out of five employers see it in their future – which is unsurprising, as there’s a considerable risk of mass resignations if remote working is taken off the table.
Proximity bias. Presence disparity. Complicated terms for a simple truth: hybrid working risks dividing your workforce into mainly-office and mainly-home workers, in a way that could exacerbate existing inequalities.
Managers are already anticipating this: they expect disabled employees, those with caring responsibilities, older people, and women to work remotely more than others. It’s not hard to see why: the commute isn’t physically easy for some groups, and improving work-life balance is a big draw to those juggling school pick-ups.
But that means the office itself becomes more homogenous than ever – and that’s where the accepted wisdom about how best to climb the ladder comes in.
The benefits of diverse workforces are well known, and the business case has been made again and again. In an already imbalanced workforce – with inequalities around age, race, gender, disability, and orientation – hybrid working could hurt as many as it helps.
Not only is it bad for the books, it risks ruining your culture, attributing to attrition, and undoing years of progress in the diveristy and inclusion space. So now is the time to act.
Employee surveys will help you tackle problems as they arise, and find solutions that work. While feedback sessions and 1-2-1s are hard in a hybrid world, our employee surveys offer a fair way to make sure everyone is heard.
Two-thirds of managers have had no training to manage remote teams, and hybrid employees are even trickier to handle. Avoiding unconscious biases, looking at performance quantitatively, and advocating for remote workers are all things you can be taught to do.
Even pre-pandemic, many organisations had WFH policies – but when they’re unclear or customisable, resentment and anti-remote bias can creep in. If expectations are clear, and there’s set times to be in- and out-of-office, you can mitigate any sense of division…
Equality starts at home. Leaders have a responsibility to showcase best practice – from managers using remote-working days, and talking openly about the benefits, to encouraging the office-shy to come in when needed, by making it an inclusive space to work in.
There’s a lot of small steps that can be taken: meeting times that consider school drop-offs, assigning tasks that match your employees career goals – not who’s sitting closest – and a focus on empathy generally. Small things can have a big impact.