We at HLK are recognising National Inclusion Week (NIW) this week. NIW intends to bring organisations together to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion in the workplace and share and inspire best practice. In this article, we will be looking at the concept of "inclusion" in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the balance between office-based working and remote working.
The shift towards remote working over the past 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been dramatic. A report from Microsoft Surface and YouGov found that 87% of employees reported that their businesses had adapted to hybrid working with the workforce split between working remotely and working in the office.
Most businesses are still figuring out the right split between working remotely and being in the office, whilst ensuring that their employees retain a sense of belonging to the organisation and connection to their colleagues. With these new work practices likely to continue for the foreseeable future, what does 'inclusion' mean in this context?
The same Microsoft report claims that 56% of employees reported an increase in levels of happiness working from home, which is a positive outcome. There are undoubtedly several benefits to home working, including time and money saved from the lack of commute and the flexibility that comes from being at home. But the data suggests that homeworking is still not ideal for many employees, and some want to return to the office as soon as they can.
The report states that many employees "are being stretched further in the work. Nearly one in three (30%) reported an increase in their hours while working from home, and more than half (53%) feel they have to be available at all times." Most employees (60%) also felt less connected to their team and colleagues whilst working from home, which could have an impact on company culture and career development. This also acutely affects new starters who have not yet had the chance to meet their colleagues in person.
A survey conducted by The Martec Group found that while some blossomed working from home, they also found "a significant decline in mental health, increased stress levels across all industries, seniority levels, and demographics. Job satisfaction, job motivation, and company satisfaction were also negatively affected."
Research by McKinsey & Company found that there is some variance in the challenges faced by different groups when remote working. Women were found to be more concerned about health and mental-health issues and increased household and childcare responsibilities. This could potentially lead to women missing out on promotions and becoming more marginalized in the workplace.
LGBTQ+ employees were also found to disproportionately fear losing ground at work and report feeling isolated and report more acute work-related challenges than their straight and cisgender peers.
We are but 18 months into what has been a revolution in the world of work. It is evident from the research to date that one size does not fit all, and so employers need to implement flexible working policies to ensure that the needs of all employees are satisfied. Putting inclusion first can only lead to the benefits of a happy and productive working environment that motivates all staff to perform well. Here at HLK we are adopting a flexible approach towards hybrid working and have consulted all the colleagues to ensure that everyone is listen to and every viewpoint is considered.
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