With the rise in hybrid working, it’s not just employees who are benefitting from greater freedom in their workday; companies are equally finding that it’s supporting their efforts to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces. An increasing investment in workplace technology is giving employees greater freedom to work from anywhere, and to engage with their workplace and colleagues in new innovative ways.
Precisely because of this, companies are now able to attract a more diverse range of talent with different backgrounds and lifestyles, creating environments where people and clients feel valued, welcome and comfortable. For example, by enabling people to collaborate and attend meetings online, hybrid working can support people juggling work with childcare or caring responsibilities. Likewise, companies who allow employees to work from home two to three days a week open the door to candidates who might not be able to afford higher rents around city centre offices and supports those who maybe neurodivergent or have disabilities that may prevent them from commuting every day.
Building an inclusive environment where employees feel safe, valued and connected to the company’s culture and purpose is key for today’s workforce. Diverse and inclusive workplaces have the potential to drive greater innovation, productivity and ultimately, business growth. Employers must also prioritise employee wellbeing, including mental health support when thinking about their new
As companies begin to mobilise for a hybrid future, it is essential that they get the right HR professionals to embed the inclusive workplace cultures. Between May 2020 and March 2021, job postings for diversity and inclusion professionals in the US rose 123 per cent, while there’s also growing demand for these roles in the UK and Germany.
Although more companies now have diversity and inclusion policies in place, translating these into reality is an ongoing challenge and will require organisations to road-test, and learn from, new working practices. Alongside this, data is also increasingly pivotal in helping employers assess how diverse their workforces are, and where diversity and inclusion initiatives can improve.
DESIGNING FOR ALL
Inclusive workplace design is now a critical part of helping employees feel comfortable and do their job to the best of their abilities.
JLL research has found that employers are now expected to build new ‘authentic’ and ‘inclusive’ workplaces anchored in strong human values (a top priority for 50 per cent and 49 per cent of the workforce respectively), ahead of ‘green’ and ‘tech-enabled’ work environments (a priority for only 38 per cent and 36 per cent of employees).
The physical workplace itself must play a key role in supporting employees with a diverse range of needs and must be accessible and equitable to all. Technology will also play a vital role in ensuring the workplace can accommodate and engage a diverse workforce. For example, sensors that monitor how employees use the office, can provide insights into how the workplace can better support people to perform at their best.
Employee engagement platforms where staff can book desks, leave feedback and arrange meetings can indicate overall sentiment – and highlight areas for companies to address –offer people a seamless way to connect with colleagues. Helping staff to re-engage following a prolonged period of remote working will help employees feel more fulfilled and empowered.
Recent JLL research found that relaxation spaces, healthy food services and outdoor spaces, top the list in terms of what employees want; yet currently only 17 per cent of people actually have access to relaxation spaces, 19 per cent have access to healthy food services and 25 per cent have access to outdoor spaces. It is precisely this lack of equity in employee personal situations that employers must recognise and accommodate for. Creating supportive work environments that help alleviate stress and burnout, and support employees’ mental wellbeing is more vital than ever, with a third of employees reporting increased pressure when working in the office.
As we move into a new hybrid way of working, the challenge for managers will be to ensure people feel part of the team – and the wider workplace community – wherever they’re logging in from.
Now businesses must turn their attention to the question of how to integrate teams who are working in different geographical locations, in a combination with virtual and physical interaction. Only then will companies be able to truly leverage the benefits of a diverse and inclusive working culture through putting people at the heart of their future strategy.