After a few years of many unknowns, one thing is known: hybrid work is here to stay. The value of a work model that allows for both remote and office working is unmatched, especially for people from marginalized groups, such as women, people of color, and those with disabilities. Benefits include saving commute time and money, better work-life balance, fewer experiences with discrimination and microaggressions, and more flexible hours.
Recent studies have shown that communication, creativity, and job satisfaction are optimized when employees come into the office a few days a week—specifically, employees thrive when they spend 23-40% of their time in the office. A return to in-person working even just one day a week has helped to address a frayed sense of connection and culture at work. However, bringing people back into the office more often doesn’t improve organizational culture by itself. Companies need to provide an inclusive work environment that is consistent and valuable for all workers no matter where they’re working.
With some workers remote, others in the office, and many hybrid, how can organizations help everyone feel included?
1. Regular Employee Recognition
We spend a significant part of our days working, so it’s important to cultivate an environment that makes people feel good about themselves. According to O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report, with regular employee recognition, the chances of having a “strong community” increases by 508%. Recognition in the workplace should come from peers as well as leaders, acknowledge both large and small efforts in personalized ways, and be an everyday part of workplace culture. It’s also good to recognize each others’ personal milestones and achievements, for things like completing a marathon or welcoming a new addition to the family. Recognition can happen during a team meeting, in one-on-one interactions, and via your company’s messaging platform (like Slack or Microsoft Teams). Consider what channels you have available—or can make available—for personal connection and recognition within your messaging app. Be sure to keep in mind that peoples’ cultural backgrounds influence how they feel appreciated and how they respond to praise.
2. Empowered people leaders
Creating a truly inclusive work environment takes effort from each of us. Managers naturally have a big influence on how people feel a sense of purpose, belonging, and appreciation at work. However, numerous studies indicate that middle managers are feeling the post-pandemic pressure to balance what their leaders want and the demands of their direct reports—and they usually lack the proper training for inclusive leadership. Developing an understanding of topics like identity, unconscious bias, psychological safety, and empathy among your staff can have resounding positive effects in many areas including employee satisfaction, talent retention, and organizational success. In addition to monitoring managers’ responsibilities and supporting them with training, it’s important that they are also compensated fairly for their effort.
3. Alignment on values
Your culture is made up of your values. Are your employees aware of and in agreement with your company values? After years of so much change, it may be a good time to review your values to see if they support and reflect a modern, hybrid workforce culture. A more flexible approach to working has proven to help marginalized groups succeed, which is reason enough to lean into hybrid work. For example, this new way of work has made a difference for women’s career success and wellbeing. According to research from IWG, 88% of American women believe that the flexibility of hybrid working serves as an equalizer in the workplace. Additionally, Future Forum reports that employees globally cite flexible work policies as the number one factor that has improved their company culture over the past two years. Consider how your organization can leverage the advantages of remote working and in-person experiences to build greater equity and success for your employees.
4. A reimagined office experience
Due to a rise in remote working over the years, younger generations in particular are missing the social connection and mentorship they desire, and workers returning to the office are experiencing unmet expectations for better culture and collaboration. To remedy this, organizations can consider reimagining their office spaces to best meet the new needs of their workers. Research demonstrates that heads-down focus work can be done effectively at home, which means office real estate might be most useful in service of collaboration, culture, and learning. Can you remove or rearrange desks to create social and team space, for example? Maybe your local teams would appreciate meet-ups at cafes or coworking spaces. Think about how you can best facilitate in-person collaboration in a way that respects those who may be less comfortable in the office to begin with—people of color, women, people with disabilities, and even introverts.
As we start to become more comfortable with a flexible global workplace, organizations can leverage the benefits of hybrid working to build greater equity and wellbeing for all employees.
Want your workplace to thrive in the hybrid era?