The vast majority of workplaces adopted a remote work structure during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, many have chosen to transition to a hybrid work environment. Hybrid work allows for increased flexibility – some employees may choose to work in the office while others prefer to work from home. A hybrid workplace can be productive and beneficial, but can also present unique challenges.
Hybrid work risks creating a sense of divide between in-office employees and remote employees; an “in crowd” and an “out crowd”. Those who choose to (or can) work in person in their office can be seen to have an advantage over remote employees, as they experience more face-to-face interactions with their leaders and other colleagues.
Businesses who have been hiring employees across the country (or world) throughout the pandemic must consider proximity bias. Many of their employees can’t physically work in their office because they live too far away. According to one article, “proximity bias is one of the main biases. The risk of recognizing, rewarding, progressing, and advancing those that are physically near you…is a challenge”. This is a common challenge faced by many teams today, as hybrid work models are so common.
So how do we combat this divide that can arise between in-person and remote team members? The answer lies in integrating healthy diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices into your workplace.
What do the terms “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” mean?
Let’s start by diving into what each of these terms mean. It’s important to distinguish the differences between these terms as it’s common for them to be used interchangeably, which is not accurate!
- Diversity: Including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, religion, etc. It’s the demographic mix of the community, with a focus on the representation of equity-deserving groups.
- Equity: The fair and respectful treatment of all people! In an equitable society, everyone has access to the means that enable them to reach their fullest potential.
- Inclusion: The creation of an environment where everyone feels welcome, is treated with respect, and is able to fully participate.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about how we can promote an inclusive, diverse, and equitable hybrid work environment for everyone!
Promoting a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment is a must – especially with a hybrid work structure!
As we mentioned, a hybrid work structure can present unique challenges due to having both a remote team and an in-person team. Regardless of your current work situation, it’s important to make it an inclusive, equitable, and diverse one. DEI is truly at the heart of a healthy, welcoming work environment.
Remove the illusion of a hierarchy in the workplace.
The first way to promote an equitable work environment is to remove the illusion of a hierarchy. Remote team members may feel as though they have less of a say in matters because they are not physically in the office space. Having a sense of competition for a say in decisions or ideas between remote and in-office employees is not ideal. Leaders should make sure that everyone is on the same playing field and treated equally. Removing any sense of hierarchy will also encourage remote team members to feel heard and confident when suggesting ideas to the team.
Similarly, the illusion of a hierarchy should be addressed when considering promotions and performance. Leaders should address any biases they might have with regards to office employees before making decisions about performance. For example, a recent Gartner survey reveals “64% of managers believe that office workers are higher performers than remote workers and are likely to give in-office workers a higher raise than those who work from home”. In a hybrid work environment, it’s great to be aware of any biases you might (perhaps unconsciously) have towards office or remote employees.
Encourage a collaborative work environment!
Another way for leaders to promote an inclusive work environment in a hybrid work structure is to encourage a collaborative work environment between remote and office team members. This is a great way to build high-performing teams. It invites the exchange of ideas among team members, which drives inclusivity and diversity of thought (read more here).
Promote healthy communication practices.
Open, equal, and transparent communication can also encourage a diverse, inclusive, and equitable hybrid workspace. It is so important to engage, include, and inform remote employees when some are working in office as well. This keeps everyone up to date and on the same page, which helps improve productivity and company culture!
Other great ways to promote an inclusive, equitable, and diverse hybrid work structure:
- Lead with a DEI mindset and through both words and actions. Set the standard for your team!
- Have 1:1 check-ins with all team members – both office and remote employees. It’s important to build meaningful connections with everyone on your team and for your team to build connections with each other as well!
- Ensure all meetings and communications are on a “remote-first model” to accommodate your remote team members.
- Celebrate your team’s wins! Have a weekly virtual meeting that includes your whole team and celebrate their weekly wins. We love to start our Mondays off at Envol with this tactic! It makes everyone feel seen and appreciated (which they totally are!).
- Team meetings and events that work for different time zones. It’s not uncommon for hybrid teams to be functioning across different time zones. Leaders – make sure you’re doing everything you can to include everyone in these meetings and events!
- Set up channels in the communication platform your team uses (we use Slack!) to share fun pics of pets, hikes, and random updates. This encourages a welcoming and inclusive workplace!
- Encourage roundtable discussions in meetings. This ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak and contribute their ideas.
We hope that you were able to take some helpful information away and can incorporate it into your workplace, whether you’re operating in person, fully remote, or on a hybrid schedule. It’s important to ensure that everyone on your team feels included, appreciated, and given equal opportunities.
Not sure about your next steps? Reach out to us at [email protected] – we can help! We also offer facilitated DEI training for you and your team – just ask us about it!