Diversity and the changing nature of work
The challenges presented by the pandemic have afforded the opportunity for leaders and HR professionals to reconsider the way we now work.
Lockdown means that many people are now working from home, either part or all of the time and in some cases this has meant that workers who had been refused the option of flexible working on the grounds that the adjustment was ‘too complicated/difficult’ have found that flexibility is, in fact, possible within days.
This improvement in the availability of flexible working arrangements has provided opportunities for those with childcare/eldercare issues or disabilities to remain at work. At the same time, managers are finding that flexible working suits their teams, and that productivity and morale have not suffered. Let’s hope that employers will, in future, be more open-minded with regard to taking on employees who don’t fit the traditional, office-based, nine to five role.
Choice and preference
An innovative and flexible approach to how employees prefer to work will attract a more diverse workforce. Good managers will recognise that the best employees can choose who they want to work for, and are likely to prefer enterprises that encourage a culture of inclusivity, collaboration, knowledge sharing and diversity.
The change has already been made for many, in the new normal, employees will not want to work in an office from Monday to Friday, nine to five, putting up with overcrowded public transport in the rush hour. Furthermore, for employers there will be an issue around how much space they really need – why spend millions on rent when we now have effective technologies available for video-conferencing and digital collaboration.
A physical office may be necessary alongside virtual tools, but every organisation will need to re-evaluate the amount of space they need and who it is for. If employees only use a central space for infrequent meetings or when they need to use tools or equipment not available at home, the size or location may be open to re-imagining.
The way we work
Technology offers more choice and some challenges. Video-conference etiquette may mean that some employees have more opportunities to make themselves heard, as conversations tend to rely on turn-taking; what we lose in spontaneity we may gain in inclusion. The unfamiliar on-screen two-step and the slight time-lag of online working becomes something we no longer notice and work tend to be more planned and focussed.
In the past, those working from home or working flexible hours were often regarded as less committed to the organisation or their career. Now that we all work from home, that misconception can be laid to rest –- the CEO is teleworking!
Leaders need to create a culture, vision, inspiration and purpose that works for those not in physical association with each other. Remote working calls for clarity and consistency of communication to facilitate working in a more flexible and versatile environment. In the return to work after lockdown, we need to think carefully about what has worked well and what we need to retain from the crisis workplace.
Businesses are now investing in work practices that allow people with disabilities and special needs to be included and to thrive, for the benefit of the whole organisation. New ways of working will change the workplace culture.