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Building an inclusive hybrid working model to attract and retain diverse talent

For many workers, the flexibility afforded by hybrid working has become a crucial workplace benefit. In fact, a survey by Microsoft found that over half of workers would consider quitting their job if their hybrid working policy was axed.

That’s because a good hybrid working policy benefits both the professional and personal lives of employees. For example, on those days workers aren’t commuting, they gain an average of 72 minutes back every day, while they also reach higher levels of job satisfaction, which converts to lower absenteeism, lower turnover, and higher productivity. While those offering their teams better flexibility are laying the ground for a variety of different ideas and perspectives, largely due to improved engagement from employees. While morale can be boosted through telling your employees they no longer need to work 9-to-5; but that they can have autonomy in creating a schedule for their needs and responsibilities.

But while many companies have embraced a new era of work, the benefits of hybrid working are yet to be distributed evenly. Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that working from home 2-3 days a week is only a reality for a small fraction of the workforce, and is typically awarded to those in the highest income band and those who are educated to degree level.

As businesses look to the next phase of hybrid working, leaders will need to ensure that inclusivity is at its core to ensure a successful and fairer future of work.

An inclusive, employee-first approach

While many business giants continue to mandate a full-time return to the office, making space for a hybrid model remains a vital opportunity to build inclusive and accessible workplaces for the future. Therefore, businesses must prioritise their hybrid working policies – whether refining them for 2023, or building them from scratch.

Offering staff the option to work flexibly is also crucial in appealing to a diverse demographic of caregivers and personality types, but more needs to be done to ensure these demographics are able to benefit from hybrid working. The ONS data shows that there is still progress to be made when engaging these various demographics as parents with dependent children only had slightly higher rates of hybrid working, while the rates among those with long-term illnesses or disabilities were roughly the same as the overall average.

If companies do not take an inclusive approach when implementing hybrid working, unequal playing fields among teams and colleagues can develop. And those businesses that do not foster an environment where all employees feel valued and are able to bring their authentic self to work – both virtually and in-person – risk missing out on a diverse range of creative ideas and approaches.

When it comes to hybrid working, leaders have a duty to prioritise diversity, equity and inclusion when developing guidelines that meet the ever-evolving needs of their workforce. Companies must make sure they identify and establish policies that encourage and support inclusivity for different demographics while working from home.

Building a successful and inclusive hybrid working model

For hybrid working to succeed, companies must ensure they are overcoming the challenges to implementation, including prioritising connection and creativity in a number of ways. Below, I outline key focus areas for those business leaders looking to build an inclusive hybrid working model.

Invest in the right tech

Ensure you are investing in the right technology to overcome connection and creativity challenges as well as ensure equal access to information. This way, when choice or circumstances dictate working remotely, it won’t come with the stigma of FOMO, and all team members will remain informed wherever they work from. Software that allows teams to work asynchronously is crucial too, as it leaves behind the pressure to work 9-to-5 and helps those with caregiving responsibilities breathe easier if their hours flex.

Reinforce company culture

Additionally, businesses should take action to build and reinforce company culture through global stand-ups, all-hands meetings and culture days that can help support employees in building their professional networks, even from afar. We live in the digital era, and culture building should happen both online and offline.

Draw the line between on and offline

To ensure the hybrid model works, it’s important to define what work should happen online and offline. Important tasks where human connection and culture building is essential, such as team meetings or performance reviews, may be better suited to happen in-person. Meanwhile, focus work and general admin and internal meetings can take place online. These aren’t set parameters, but encouraging your workforce to split optimise each half of the hybrid model can be very beneficial.

Remember – it’s a work in progress It’s important to remember that any hybrid model is a work in progress, which is why good communication is essential for success. Communication in hybrid teams can be complex as some people may feel more comfortable speaking up on screen than in-person. Therefore, it’s crucial to check in with workers on an individual level to understand their needs and priorities so your model can be as inclusive as possible. Leaders should monitor how hybrid working is evolving and be open to feedback. By allowing employees to have input on the design of a hybrid model, businesses will be able to set clear expectations on how teams will operate and reach a shared vision that stands to be far more successful than a cookie-cutter approach.

Make your wellbeing policy hybrid-proof When it comes to wellbeing, it’s much easier to check on colleagues in a shared physical space. While an open-door policy is great for boosting accessibility when everyone is together in person, it’s important that an open working environment is maintained when employees choose to work remotely so everyone can get the support they need. Whether it’s having a dedicated drop-in time over Zoom or having regular calendar slots where employees can easily sign up for a virtual meeting, it’s key that leadership teams show a willingness to engage with employees who are not always in the office.

Flexibility and inclusivity can drive business success

Building an inclusive culture that listens to employees’ needs, and gives them the space to integrate work and life, can be the difference in a company continuing to evolve. Accommodating diverse minds and how they work best is not just the right thing to do, but can drive creativity, innovation, and even revenue. Ensuring every team member, regardless of circumstances and location, feels engaged and cared for isn’t just a case for your culture – but your business too.

Lotus Smits, Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Culture at Glovo

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tech Expert .

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