EngagementCultureHow to ensure teams can experience equitable hybrid working

How to ensure teams can experience equitable hybrid working

HR influencer Laura Trendall Morrison outlines how different sections of the workforce are being affected by today's challenges, and what organisations can do to create positive outcomes

The rise of hybrid working in the wake of a mass transition to remote working has resulted in professionals spending more time at home, forcing a rebalancing of personal and professional priorities. However, the division of non‐work responsibilities hasn’t been equally split; women have largely taken up the duties of home schooling, domestic chores and emotional labour.

The impact has been greatest on distinct groups, like women with children, women of colour and senior women, possibly due to their leadership roles and impact of supporting others at work, as well as likely responsibilities for caring for older family members.

The psychological pressure post pandemic does not end here. There may have been, due to changes in work, family or relationship structures, the need to reflect on skills, values and contribution, and to reconstruct identity and confidence after prolonged periods either on furlough, under-employed or conversely over-employed in the squeezed middle. The impacts are individual and need to be dealt with constructively.

In the employment arena, companies will be demanding more from workers as the economy recovers, to recoup losses, change direction, restructure, and may use performance processes and monitoring to measure and manage employee performance remotely. Equally, in employee’s home lives, we see adjustments to responsibilities, changes in family structure, pressures leading to family conflict, divorce or abuse which can impact performance at work and the need for support or adjustments.

Can everyone thrive in today’s workplaces?

Women are reporting higher incidences of stress and burnout at work, likely connected with caring responsibilities and the expectation women will also provide the nurturing and emotional support in the workplace.

This should be of great concern to organisations. McKinsey’s research shows one in three women are considering downshifting or leaving their career; the great resignation, prompted by introspection, examination of values and anxiety caused by the pandemic.

Only 20% of women are represented in senior roles; though the figures are improving, they have not shifted significantly, even in hybrid working conditions. For context, this was the case in 2001 when I surveyed a major UK corporate’s breakdown of women in senior level job roles.

We are a long way from the goal of a 50-50 split in workplace demographics; that is usually due to women choosing to leave the workforce early, often post-children or in mid-life, either due to outside factors or lifestyle changes and re-evaluation.

The wage gap remains a pressing concern and requires comprehensive analysis by organisational leaders. Some actionable steps include a robust assessment of roles, efficacy and contribution; transparency in who is rewarded and how behaviours are assessed; and ensuring pay and reward policies, internal promotion and recruiting processes are fair and without bias.

I believe many women simply get disheartened by being overlooked, or by being paid and rewarded less than colleagues and make a decision to find something that works on their terms. At present, women account for one in three entrepreneurs in the UK and women are the fastest growing group of self employed professionals.

Devising a solution in hybrid working

The key and single most effective thing employers can do is have a culture that support positive mental health and psychological safety. Encouraging compassionate conversations and ensuring occupational health, employee assistance and more importantly, line management and supervisor training is in place to make sure that colleagues are supported and not stigmatised as we go through this period of adjustment following the last couple of years.

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Caregiving can be tackled by taking the best of what, we have learned from mass deployment of home-working and agile working technology and allowing people to set their own schedules and hours according to the needs of the business and team schedules.

For those mid-career, now is a great time to look at career development. Innovative ways to perform roles are emerging, new needs in markets are becoming apparent and changes in regulatory frameworks are accelerating new industries and careers. The best approach is as it always has been: co-creation and ownership of aligned career development plans between the employee, and the business, aligning business goals to the personal goals of the employee to create a win-win situation.

Many women professionals have found new skills, undertaken training or embarked on new careers post-pandemic, prompted by the reflection that such a major global event created.

Tackling the talent challenge

Younger generations care more about the whole package and perception of companies in today’s hybrid working conditions. They care about wellbeing policies, corporate social responsibility and ESG measures, and how the company contributes to the community. In the digital age, they expect their voices to be heard and recognised, and if not, will take to social media, as is the case with Google on harassment and contractor rights, and Starbucks with unionising recently.

A radical solution to address the hiring crisis for younger people, and increase economic participation, may be for organisations to look at four-day or 28 hour weeks and working to fairly distribute employment opportunities.

This could ensure a pipeline of new workers are developed, making use of apprenticeships and mentoring. It also affords the possibility for older workers to enjoy a better work-life balance and address other hobbies and responsibilities by taking reduced hours and downshifting, particularly as the retirement age increases in the UK, to enable people to enjoy better balance and health as they reach the sunset years of their career.

Values matter in how an organisation successfully executes its strategy. Maturity, flexibility and trusting people to manage effectively – and having an open door and compassionate policy when situations change and support is needed. Another concern is to ensure there is adequate coverage in the business.

Many businesses have cut back on employees and many employees find themselves in poorly designed job roles with demands extending beyond contractual hours. This leave little resilience for emergencies or changes in demand, and I would suggest needs to be addressed.

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