Written Monday 6th March 2023

Diversity in the age of hybrid working

Nearly three years on from the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, hybrid working is the norm for thousands of office-based workers. While many were keen to return to the office full-time, with reports of companies making it mandatory for some, others have embraced the flexibility that comes with balancing life on-site and at home.

A 2022 study by Embryo reveals that a large number of full-time employees are benefitting from a mixed working schedule: 36.21% in London, 35.33% in the South West, 30.19% in East Anglia, 29.46% in the South East and 27.18 in the North West.

This varies according to each sector, too. According to the same survey, those working in Recruitment and HR are most likely to be working hybridly at 55.56%, closely followed by Marketing, Advertising and PR (53.85%), and Public Services and Administration (49.01%). As these are all primarily desk-based roles that can be carried out from anywhere, this preference towards hybrid working is understandable!

We’ve previously explored the pros and cons of flexible working, including its impact on cost and wellbeing. But how does hybrid working impact diversity and inclusion, specifically?

The benefits: attract a more diverse working community

We’ll start with the good news: you’ll be removing barriers preventing those unable (or unwilling!) to work on-site full-time (or at all!), meaning your recruitment opportunities will be limitless, and you’ll grow a diverse and impactful team.

Enabling your team to work from where they choose – whether that’s the office, completely remote, or a mix of the two – will encourage people who may have been previously limited by location to apply for jobs.

Working parents will be able to balance childcare and routines more effectively. Not only will this prove vital when managing childcare costs, but with women’s careers disproportionately affected by the impact of parenthood, this will help to reduce gender divides in the workplace.

For those with varying health needs, hybrid working will allow them to comfortably manage conditions, attend appointments and sessions without disruption, and work in a comfortable environment suited to their needs and requirements.

Anyone impacted by the cost of living crisis will also be able to save money on the costly things about office life, such as daily commutes, fuel, pricey lunches, and even the lure of grabbing a daily coffee.

On top of this, you’re likely to encourage younger generations to join your team. It’s important to bring in fresh perspectives and to reduce age imbalances within the team, and that may mean adapting to different generations’ working preferences. A recent study found that younger workers are more likely to experience career benefits when working remotely – another reason why hybrid working may be more attractive to younger generations. Giving people the option to decide for themselves will let them choose what works best for them.

Flexibility can also make work life easier for those for whom the daily commute would be a significant barrier. Giving people with mental health problems, neurodiversities or physical disabilities, for example, the opportunity to choose the work environment that suits them best, or avoid stressful experiences such as busy or inaccessible commute routes, will decrease pressures. Just ensure your team has the kit they need, wherever they are.

It’s important to remember that hybrid working may not just be about location, but flexible hours, too. Encouraging your team to adapt their working day around obligations and commitments means you are truly putting your people first. Whether that’s managing hours around medical appointments and school holidays, or simply working at a time of day when they are at their most productive mentally, you’ll have a well-balanced team based around mutual respect and trust.

The challenges: disconnection and barriers to development

As with all things, however, hybrid working presents a number of challenges, too. Unfortunately, there is no fix-all solution!

Some things can be harder to execute remotely. While we have seen a boom in online training sessions and conferences, ensuring your team has access to ad-hoc learning opportunities is tricky when they’re not (all) in the office. Some informal learning sessions can be hard to replicate virtually when there is no set ‘training module’ in place. This could potentially mean some groups of people will face barriers in terms of career progression and development.

How do you fix this? Ensure you’re finding solutions to ensure all employees are supported in getting that developmental boost they need – particularly those early in their careers. That could mean setting up team study sessions, promoting mentoring schemes, or investing in training courses and suppliers who can do that hard work for you.

There’s the added problem of ensuring your teams feel connected and supported. If colleagues are choosing to work remotely or from home for most of, if not all, of the working week, they risk becoming isolated. This could seriously impact their wellbeing, as well as their contentment with their role.

Schedule regular social events (both in person and online) and off site activity days, and think outside the box to ensure your company culture doesn’t rely on the office as its sole social space. Remember, keep these events inclusive, and offer a balance of online and in-person sessions for those unable to attend physically for whatever reason, and on different days to cover all working patterns; otherwise, you run the risk of isolating people even more.

At Druthers, it’s our mission and our passion to empower organisations to find the best person to make an impact on their work, from a diverse shortlist of remarkable talent. Get in touch with us to find out how your business can make a positive change to your hiring and retention processes.