13 Nov How To Make Hybrid Working Inclusive
No one could have predicted how much our concept of work would evolve over the past six months. At first the change was out of necessity. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, we were forced to construct makeshift workstations with no real idea of when we’d return to our brick and mortar offices. For a lot of us, this wasn’t easy. It resulted in feelings of alienation and isolation, whilst those of us with busier household’s faced new issues relating to pragmatism; as childcare, homeschooling, and overcrowding were piled on to our already large workloads.
When it became safe for us to return to the office, many organizations opted to allow individuals or departments to return, using hotdesking and alternating days to stagger this. Adopting a hybrid workforce has offered businesses and staff a number of new benefits. Not least allowing them to keep their staff safe and avoid infection. Ultimately, the reason many companies have chosen to adopt a permanent hybrid model, irrespective of COVID, is the flexibility that it affords.
However, while welcoming this increased flexibility, professionals also need to be alert to the potential inclusivity risks attached to hybrid working, and avoid inadvertently creating a hierarchical two-tier workforce, with a division between those who are visible and present in a physical office setting and those who, by choice or necessity, stay at home and appear to exist only in the digital world.
Who is most at risk?
Whilst you shouldn’t necessarily give preferential treatment to staff members, you should be mindful of ensuring that everyone feels equal and valued within the organization. There are certain groups that are more at risk of being alienated due to factors that are out of their hands. For instance, a study by the IFS and the UCL Institute of Education found that mothers were more likely than fathers to spend their working hours simultaneously caring for children. With the effects of the pandemic still taking their toll on the education system, many women are unlikely to return to the workplace due to childcare responsibilities.
Ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of infection and are therefore inevitably more likely to stay at home. A Public Health England report found that the highest coronavirus diagnosis rates were among black people and that people from black and Asian ethnic groups were twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white people. With knowledge of those statistics, individuals are understandably going to be reluctant to rush back to the office with the risk of infection still so high. Similarly, those with disabilities or long-term health conditions may find it quite scary, impractical and even physically impossible to return to a workplace with the virus still circulating and social distancing measures still in place.
What can you do?
Visibility and exposure have always been an important part of progression, but now it is more important than ever that we place inclusivity at the heart of career development. Many CPOs have been concerned about this challenge for some months and are actively trying to keep senior leaders away from the office, asking them to communicate the fact that important jobs can be done remotely. Leading by example is an important step in alleviating pressure and can take the stress off of those that are working from home, ensuring that they don’t feel obligated to come into the office.
Leaders are also grappling with how to run hybrid meetings effectively. If some staff members are in the office and some are at home, how do you ensure everyone’s voice is heard equally? As much as popular video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have served us well, to solve this issue you need to explore different technologies that allow for a more immersive virtual experience. You need to invest in technology that is fit for purpose, which allows you to feel as though you are in the same room as your remote counterparts, acting as an equaliser for your team.
At Laduma, we know that these traditional video conferencing tools don’t facilitate natural communication and collaboration and can work to fuel a hierarchical two tier structure. That is why we’re creating something unique, that will connect your team and make it easier for them to get back to their best. We can transform your current physical spaces into digital hybrid workspaces, allowing you to free yourself from your computer screen. Our technology allows you to work on your walls like a whiteboard, leaving only a digital trace, while your remote team writes and draws on those same walls using stylus-enabled mobile devices. If you want to hear more about our room mirroring, user profiles and round-the-clock support, among other features, contact us using the form below.
The most natural way of working for the post-COVID world is almost here!
Laduma is coming to a room near you in February 2021.