How Hybrid Workplaces Can Help Create a More Diverse & Inclusive Business 

As technology becomes increasingly intertwined in our lives, we are seeing the emergence of the ‘hybrid workplace’. This refers to work environments that take place simultaneously online and in person. In the wake of the pandemic, the prevalence of hybrid workplaces has skyrocketed. Although they were already well on their way to prominence beforehand, COVID-19 (and its variants) is accelerating their growth dramatically.

Video conferencing, high-speed internet, cloud-based file sharing and collaboration, and other tools have significantly narrowed the geographical divides between us. This obviously has major implications for productivity, but also for diversity and inclusivity.

Hybrid Workplaces and Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is, in short, an approach to workplace structure and protocol that enables every member of the team to feel motivated, supported, and capable in their mission to achieve a common goal. It’s a marriage of personal wellbeing and organisational fluidity with the goal of functioning optimally as a team. It requires both the organisation and its members to be open, committed, and trustworthy when seeking solutions to obstacles.

The hybrid workplace can boost employee engagement by allowing for greater flexibility and more widespread communication amongst colleagues. The strain of working from a fixed location every day can be problematic for several reasons. Unexpected emergencies, the need to provide familial support, unequal access to transport, physical disability, or simply, long commutes are just a few examples. All of these are factors that can breed undue stress and resentment.

In the hybrid workplace, the values of employee engagement can foster a truly revolutionary approach to work that eliminates several hindersome factors.

When trust, integrity, individual wellbeing, and the achievement of common goals are kept firmly in the foreground, technology can facilitate greater productivity than many of us thought possible.

Advancing Diversity

In an increasingly globalised world where many organisations have become transnational and transcontinental, hybrid workplaces have become more important than ever.

Conducting business across international borders is fraught with potential difficulties. Organisations are wising up to the fact that they need input from other perspectives and skills from other populations to succeed. While business can indeed transcend national boundaries, cultural and structural norms must still be delicately navigated to keep everything above board.

With that in mind, employee engagement has never been more critical.

Cross-cultural business practices have the potential to become toxic very quickly if the tenets of employee engagement are not adhered to. Bi-directional, open, and respectful communication is essential to bridging cultural divides and maintaining the integrity of a team.

Today, you’re more likely than ever before to employ or collaborate with someone from outside of your home country. Thanks to hybrid workplaces, this is not only possible but advantageous. However, failure to recognise the importance of cultural sensitivity in these situations is a one-way ticket to poor employee engagement.

What is normal for an American worker may be considered disrespectful, unfair, or highly irregular for a foreign worker. Keeping employee engagement high means understanding the cultural nuances and customs of the people you are working with, communicating often, and being open to constructive feedback. If transnational employees, clients, or employers feel like their values, time, or contributions are being undermined, then motivation and communication between team members will rapidly break down.

Hybrid workplaces give us the advantage of sharing skills, insight, resources, and energy for the advancement of a common goal. It is highly reflective of the employee engagement ethos. Collaboration across borders is a sign of an evolving human mentality that values diversity. But it must get backed up by effort, trust, and integrity from both sides.

Advancing Inclusivity

The disabled workforce is perpetually disadvantaged by physical limitations that undermine the principles of employee engagement. When something outside the control of the employee limits their ease of access or ability to work effectively, it’s hard for that employee to feel supported and motivated. After all, contributing to a common goal is only feasible when your needs are being looked after just as well as everyone else’s. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel isolated, unsupported, marginalised, and overlooked.

Virtual workspaces help people with disabilities overcome physical limitations that would otherwise make their work experience intolerable. With high-speed internet and emergent forms of real-time digital communication, disabled employees can work from an environment designed to meet their needs.

At home, disabled employees have tools to help them navigate everyday issues of physical access that would otherwise limit them in the workplace. They also need not worry about the additional time and effort that goes into physically preparing for and getting to work.

Hybrid workplaces, in essence, provide equitable access to employment between disabled and able-bodied employees, reducing disparity and eliminating structural prejudice. New avenues of employee engagement are becoming possible with hybrid workplaces. This allows organisations to easily provide alternatives to employees when traditional workplaces fail.

The same virtual workspace conditions can apply to a variety of situational difficulties, like family emergencies and temporary immobility. The more avenues of access and support made available to employees, the stronger the foundation for the values of employee engagement becomes.

Staying Flexible

The hybrid workplace is a manifestation of our commitment to flexibility, to adjust the environment to suit the needs of everyone. In the missions to advance inclusivity and diversity across professional environments, it is vital for us to remember the values that led to the formation of the hybrid workplace.

When we run into difficulties, which we inevitably will, the values of employee engagement must sit firmly in the front of our minds.

Trust, communication, collaboration, openness, two-way feedback, equitable access, and support are the conditions that move us forward. When frustration and adversity block our way forward, we must remember the roots of our commitment to progress and think and act flexibly.

The world of work is rapidly changing, and the ethos of employee engagement is the only way to keep those changes growing and going in the right direction.

Author: Kelly Lowe

Photo credit: Surface on Unsplash

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