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Diversity, equity and inclusion in a mixed work environment

Diversity, equity and inclusion in a mixed work environment

Hybrid can help to accelerate old problems and create new ones, particularly when it comes down to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We can help our companies avoid common DEI issues by looking at how power structures continue to exist in this new environment. This will allow us to improve and create a better company culture.

With some effort and creativity, this transition offers a unique opportunity to build an environment in which–no matter where they’re working from–everyone feels seen, heard, and included. These are the keys to seizing this moment.

Be aware of proximity bias

Hybrid work is ideal because it combines the best of both remote and in-person work. However, hybrid work can present new problems when it comes to DEI.

Proximity bias—the tendency to look more favorably on the people we see more often—is perhaps one of the most pressing DEI-related challenges. Similar issues like presenteism or a tendency to favor those who feel most at home in a traditional office setting are also likely to resurface. All of these biases can mean that workers who put in more “face time” at the office are more likely to receive raises or promotions.

Because hybrid work is likely to take a different shape for each employee, it is important that you have the right processes and structures in place to counter these biases. At companies where the hybrid model is flexible, some employees may opt for more work-from-home time, whether that’s due to commute length, childcare responsibilities, disability, working style, or simply wanting to avoid stressors at the office.

Being aware of proximity bias is crucial to avoiding serious threats to DEI progress as the company grows. Different employees spend significantly different amounts time in the office. Some companies have succeeded in standardizing the number days spent in the office each week. Others rotate who is there when. Others also implement regular in-person check ins between employees and managers. Whatever path you choose, it’s worth spending time training managers and early employees to recognize and resist this bias.

The transition from hybrid is a great opportunity to reevaluate your biases. Is it easier for extroverts in your company to be heard? Is it possible that your company values certain communication styles more than others or assumes that certain people will make decisions.

With so much conversation moving online, it’s easier than ever to analyze the resulting data. It might be worth looking into the possibility that 50% of your company is comprised of women, yet only 20% of Slack messages sent across the company are written by women.

Data can be used to help your company develop hybrid models to identify problematic aspects of company culture that might have gone unnoticed.

Definely prioritise DEI starting from day one

From the perspectives of founders and leaders, there is a lot on people’s plates. Many are busy navigating the logistics of building a new company, whether they’re managing a transition to hybrid work and building it from scratch remotely. These hurdles are necessary for long-term success. However, founders must make DEI a central focus of the entire leadership team. They also need to find a way to communicate this throughout the company.

Empathy can play an important role in this. Employee listening can help to understand how hybrid work affects employees. Surveying employees (even when the team is still small) provides important data about concerns or points of friction, while showing employees they’re being heard. Since founders and leaders aren’t interacting with coworkers every day, it can be harder to spot an employee who is struggling or have a quick hallway conversation to gauge how they’re doing, which makes surveys more useful than ever.

No matter how well-intentioned and capable leaders may be, there will always be bumps along the way. For DEI to be integrated into a company’s fabric, vulnerability is essential. It is important to acknowledge when a team is not doing it right. This is one of the best ways to demonstrate that DEI is a priority for leadership in hybrid work.

Being open about shortcomings, as well as transparent about the meaningful action you’ll take to do better, helps model the kinds of behavior you’ll expect from all employees. This lets teams know that you’re serious when it comes to taking the lead on these initiatives.

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Facilitate honest communication about personal health

One of hybrid work’s greatest promises is the chance to balance the benefits of remote work with the collaborative environment of the in-person office. One benefit is the ability to get away from the everyday grind of office life: commutes and uncomfortable work wear, as well as the complex nuances of working with coworkers. Another benefit is the breaking down of barriers between work life and home. Though this has created its share of difficulties–the feeling of being “always on,” the challenges of working from home while parenting–it’s also meant, for many people, the relief of being able to bring more of their authentic selves into the virtual workplace.

Zoom windows suddenly became full of cats perched on desktops and toddlers interrupting presentations. Remote workers were able to see an intimate side of their colleagues’ lives. This new dynamic, combined with the many small and large tragedies caused by the coronavirus epidemic, has resulted in more openness about mental health issues at many companies. It has also led to a more open discussion about the need to foster mental health in the future.

This is something we should strive for, whether we are working remotely or in hybrid. Burnout is still common. Even as vaccine rollouts continue, experts predict we’ll be dealing with The effects of the pandemic on mental healthFor many more years to come.

As we add the new routines of hybrid work into this mixture of circumstances, it’s crucial to put mental health and well-being front and center. This means allowing employees to have the time and space they need, by offering generous leave policies and encouraging employees to make use of this leave. It is also about fostering a sense if psychological safety between employees, their managers, and their families.

Building an organization that puts DEI at the center of its strategy isn’t just good for employee well-being or touting statistics; it’s also well-known benefit for bottom lines. There’s a strong, positive correlation between increased diversity and productivity, alongside growing evidence for a causal effect. So, it’s well worth putting efforts into being bold, creative, and thoughtful in the way we approach the issues of DEI as we continue to navigate a the relatively new model of hybrid work.


Amanda Burr Xido serves as the editor-in chief of Nomadic, a digital academy aimed at leaders.

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