Kimberly Jones is PwC’s Talent Strategy and People Experience Leader. PwC is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.
When the pandemic hit, many of us were faced with unexpected challenges, juggling work and our personal lives. Some of us suddenly assumed wildly atypical caregiver and/or teaching responsibilities, others were confined to small living spaces day in and day out, all the while being catapulted into a seemingly open-ended work from home setup. In new ways, we realized the benefits of a much more flexible work environment and support system. Today, many of us want to keep that greater flexibility in how we work, while still growing and thriving in our careers. Enter the hybrid workplace.
Now, more than ever is the time to fully embrace new, agile and inclusive ways of working. While a hybrid work model can certainly enable our growing need for flexibility, success will lie in helping to foster a work environment that is not limited or impacted by where or how someone works.
Over the past 20+ months, employers have learned that remote work inequity is one of the key challenges that come along with working in blended teams. For those of us in leadership roles, we have a unique opportunity to continue to evolve what inclusion looks like in today’s hybrid workplace. I suggest starting with the following three opportunities:
Educate and build awareness around inclusion in a hybrid model
With a hybrid work model, it is important that employers equip their employees with skills toward effective and inclusive teaming with people who work across different places.
- Provide guidance on how to mitigate in-person bias so that everyone has the opportunity to make an impact, regardless of their location.
- Have hybrid teams create team plans that are customized to the individual needs of team members, including location and schedule.
- Foster a culture of belonging by encouraging teams to have open conversations, virtually and in-person, that offer a safe space to share thoughts, flexibility needs and recommendations on what’s working and what’s not.
Build meaningful connections and relationships across hybrid teams
While it may seem easier to connect with colleagues who are working in-person with you – or at least that may be a model with which you’ve traditionally been more familiar – it’s critical that we give everyone an equal opportunity to connect. In speaking with employees throughout the pandemic, I learned that something as simple as having a meaningful connection and face-to-face conversation (even via video) with a peer or a leader was a key reason they decided to stay with the firm. As we transition to our hybrid work environments, we must continue to invest in collaborative technologies and digitally upskill our workforce so everyone can create those invaluable connectivity opportunities, regardless of whether they are virtual or in-person.
Create learning and development opportunities for everyone
As you build out your hybrid workplace plans, establish how employees will have equitable access to learning and development opportunities. Be sure to remove unnecessary restrictions to where, when, and how your people are learning and keep programs simple and user-driven. Also, consider new resources and trainings specifically focused on leading practices and inclusive leadership skills for managing and working in blended teams. Remember, the hybrid workplace is still a relatively new concept for many, and it will take new skill sets to thrive. Custom trainings such as “how to get the most out of virtual meetings” or “how to present when you’re not in the room” will go a long way in ensuring equitable visibility for remote employees.
These are three ideas that I’ve seen work first-hand at our firm. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and no playbook to follow. Our hybrid journeys won’t be perfect, but I’m confident that by offering employees more choice, we can help support a more inclusive workplace – a workplace that can work for all. With intentional planning, willingness to reimagine the possible, and helpful guidance in implementation, we can build effective and inclusive hybrid work environments to help our employees succeed – and let’s remember to give ourselves and each other some grace and patience while we get there.