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4 practices for building a more equitable workplace

Hybrid work has made headlines in every major publication over the past year. And for good reason. 48% of employees say they want the flexibility of hybrid work moving forward. Now, companies are grappling with a big question: should they or should they not adopt this model of work?

As they weigh the pros and cons of hybrid work, many companies worry about the disparities that could crop up if they offered on-site and remote work options. Will hybrid work create an “on-site versus remote” culture? Will remote employees be at a disadvantage for having less face-time with executives? These are valid challenges that companies need to address if they adopt hybrid work. If they don’t, these hypotheticals could turn into realities. 

That’s where your preparation and expertise will be invaluable. With your leadership, you can guide your company through its transition to hybrid work keeping workplace equity top of mind. Yes, this is easier said than done. That’s why we created this guide that outlines four practices that’ll help you build a more equitable workplace. 

1 – Give employees the resources to create great remote work setups 

This is critical. If you don’t support your remote employees, you’ll lose before you even start. 

Your remote employees will need some guidance on how to stay productive and engaged while away from the workplace. Check out the tips we outlined in this post for more details. Here are some key takeaways to consider:

  • Encourage employees to keep their messaging app status up to date so it shows whether they’re available or away
  • Empower people to create a work routine that meets their flexibility needs
  • Train employees on virtual meeting best practices

Employees who work from home need access to foundational equipment like monitors, high-speed internet, and ergonomic furniture. Ensuring remote employees have the resources they need improves the work experience for everyone. It’ll help give on-site employees a seamless experience collaborating with their remote teammates. As for the remote folks, they’ll be able to be productive regardless of where they’re working.

2 – Don’t let any one team or department claim the “good” days

For employees, one of the biggest perks of a hybrid work model is having more say in their work schedules. Of course, for this to work across an organization, there need to be policies in place. Check out this post on hybrid work schedules to find out which scheduling framework will work best for your organization. More than likely it’ll be one of the following:

  • Cohort schedules – Employees work certain days or weeks on a regular basis
  • Staggered schedules – Employees must come in at a set time to prevent issues such as lines forming at the elevator 
  • Manager-set schedules – Managers coordinate with project teams to set their schedules each week
  • Employee-set schedules – Employees set their own schedules with minimal oversight from their managers or a workplace team

Schedules help provide employees flexibility while making things more manageable for your team. At the same time, they can be limiting if policies work in the favor of some people and not all. One of the best ways to ensure equity is by empowering managers to work with their team members to accommodate extenuating circumstances. 

For example, say an employee can adhere to their team’s schedule on all but one day a week—the day they need to pick their children up from daycare. To ensure the schedule works for everyone, their manager may decide to accommodate the employee’s schedule by allowing them more flexibility on this day.

3 – Design your space with diversity in mind

Space management is critical to ensuring the workplace supports everyone in it. Nayan Parekh, Consulting and Real Estate Services Leader at Gensler, explained that to support equity among employees, hybrid workplaces need to create “triggered interactions” and provide employees a “platform for authenticity.” Let’s take a look at what that means.

  • Triggered interactions – With fewer people on-site on any given day, spontaneous run-ins happen less often. These moments are opportunities to build culture. So how do we preserve them in a hybrid work setting? By creating opportunities for “triggered connections”—book clubs, employee resource groups, and tools like Donut are a few examples.
  • Platform for authenticity – What role does the workplace play in creating opportunities for people to express themselves in creative ways? According to Parekh, this is an important question for workplace teams to consider. One answer is what she calls a “self-curated team totem”—a physical totem where employees can promote their diversity and celebrate their individual attributes with their company.

Beyond these ideas, it’s important to ensure that your workplace has the right variety of spaces. Your space should support every kind of work your people need to do, whether that’s heads-down or collaborative work. Some employees may want to come on-site for in-person meetings. Others may schedule their on-site days for casual catch-ups with clients or members of different teams. Not sure what spaces you need? Scan this post to make sure you’re covering your bases.

4 – Let employees weigh in on changes that will impact their day-to-day

And finally, employee choice is at the heart of the hybrid workplace. Lean into this by ensuring you’re keeping your people informed of possible changes to the workplace that will impact them. This might be changes to schedules, the physical workspace, or on-site resources. Whenever possible, ask employees to share their feedback in advance of any changes. 

Keeping your people in the loop early on will minimize pushback and help build a workplace your employees actually want to show up to. Collecting unfiltered feedback on a regular basis is a skill in itself. Here’s a blog post that outlines exactly what you need to do to ensure your success.

Creating a more equitable workplace is an ongoing, iterative process. It’s important that companies recognize that adopting a hybrid work model is a move toward more equity for all and not an outright equalizer. 

To provide support for employees across your organization, be sure to follow these four practices. If you do, all of your employees—not just a few—will feel more resourced and supported to do their best work. 

Want more tips for navigating your hybrid workplace? Download our ebook, How to identify and solve hybrid work challenges.