Hybrid Work Environments Could Lead to Biased Offices

The pandemic has changed the working landscape forever. As the working world shifted to remote work during lockdown; new technologies and presentation methods were freely adopted. However, as companies and employees slowly return to offices navigating hybrid work environments, executives face the challenge of ensuring equality in opportunity between those who return to the office and those who remain working from home.

The hybrid work environment is designed to meet the needs of a new working dynamic, forcing companies to wrestle with “complex scheduling issues, seating placements and how to avoid disadvantaging those who aren’t in the room,” The Wall Street Journal writes.

Moving forward leaders and colleagues are discovering that hybrid work is complicated, and they will need to be very deliberate in how they “include” those not in the “room”.

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Chip Cutter, a report at Wall Street Journal weighed in on hybrid work environments stating, “bosses are struggling to determine the number of days people should spend in-person. They worry about how to run meetings, and even how to schedule them. 

Bigger questions emerge about how to ensure people aren’t left out of impromptu office discussions or other opportunities.”

At the travel company Expedia Group Inc., executives are trying to figure out how to have in-person meetings that don’t disadvantage those who aren’t in the room.

Though executives say it would be easier to manage if every employee returned to an office, or all stayed remote, surveys have repeatedly shown that most workers want a mixed approach as more adults are vaccinated.

Micorosft said, “The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.”

At Prudential, most employees indicated that they enjoyed working remotely but missed the planning, ideation and collaboration that takes place in person, says Rob Falzon, vice chair of the company.

Innovation comes from close proximity and affinity distance.

How Can You Make Sure Your Hybrid Work Environment is Inclusive?

Falzon went on to explain that “the company needs to be really thoughtful about how we assess people and give people opportunity so that we don’t end up with skewed outcomes.”

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“My experience is that the hybrid challenge is partly dependent upon the technology readiness of the organisation,” stated Rob Wright on the LinkedIn discussion.

Hybrid work environments are new for almost everyone. For most companies, the details are still hazy. But what is clear is that only those businesses that create a shared experience for their entire workforce and build an inclusive culture can realise the benefits of our new ways of working.

Here are some tips on how to avoid office bias:

  1. Lead your hybrid work environment with empathy: bridge social divides through innovative workplace initiatives and open communication virtually and in-person
  2. Get creative with how people interact: As hybrid work environments vary for each company, employees may appreciate guidance even for very tactical things, like when to use verbal communications versus a chat function.
  3. Check-in with each other: leaders need to talk with people one on one or hold focus groups to better understand employee pain points

The transition into hybrid work environments will require experimentation through planning and feedback to empower employees with flexibility, and ensure the remote workers are given equal opportunities despite an employees location.

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