Welcome to the ninth edition of the Floorish newsletter dedicated to providing you with insightful data, ideas and views on diversity, equity and inclusion. In this newsletter, taking no more than 3 minutes of your time, I aim to keep you informed and inspired with thought-provoking content, practical tips and inspiring stories.
Recently, numerous organisations have been promoting a return to full-time office-based work for their staff. This push is driven by the perceived advantages linked to interpersonal connections and mentorship, particularly for the younger workforce.
I initially began contemplating remote work back in 2007 while I was employed at the Ministry of Social Affairs in The Hague and residing in Utrecht. At that time, I faced a daily three-hour commute. My curiosity eventually led to a career transition to the “New Ways of Working” team at the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2012.
As someone who has been working alternately remotely and hybrid since 2012, the trend encouraging employees to transition back to the office has led me to ponder whether the emphasis on in-office presence should overshadow the benefits that hybrid and remote work models offer, especially from a diversity, equity and inclusion perspective.
I thought it would be interesting to first of all explore the unique perspectives potentially held by older and newer generations and their experiences and preferences regarding their work environments.
Managed workspace vs. Professional autonomy
- Employees of older generations often entered the workforce during an era when the office was the centre of business operations. The office environment was where mentorship, networking, and professional development thrived.
- Working from home gives people more flexibility and can empower younger generations with a sense of ownership over their work and schedules. The preference to deliver results on their terms rather than adhere to traditional office hours fosters a culture of autonomy.
Work-home separation vs. Work-life integration
- The workplace used to establish a firm boundary between professional and personal life. Commuting to a dedicated work environment played a role in facilitating a mental shift between these two domains. Family dynamics used to be traditionally distinct, often featuring one partner, typically the man, working outside the home while the other partner cared for the children.
- Many employees of younger generations value the ability to seamlessly integrate work into their lives rather than segregate the two. Striking a balance that allows them to pursue both their professional and personal aspirations without rigid boundaries is increasingly considered the standard.
Social interaction vs. Digital connectivity
- Offices were not just spaces for tasks but also hubs for social interaction. Seniors might cherish the personal connections, camaraderie, and impromptu conversations that can naturally occur in an office setting.
- Growing up in a vibrant digital world has shaped younger generations’ perception of work. They are accustomed to collaboration tools, virtual meetings, and remote communication which tend to enable them to thrive in virtual environments.
The relevance of hybrid and remote work models in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion:
1. Eliminating geographical barriers
Hybrid and remote work transcends geographical barriers, granting individuals from diverse backgrounds access to a broader range of job opportunities. Remote work eliminates commuting costs and challenges, particularly affecting individuals who rely on public transportation or face safety concerns.
2. Accommodating disabled people
These models accommodate different needs and abilities, ensuring that employees can work in environments tailored to their comfort and productivity. This fosters a sense of belonging and accommodates employees with disabilities or unique circumstances.
3. Supporting work-life balance
Hybrid and remote work support work-life balance, allowing employees to juggle personal responsibilities and professional commitments more effectively. This enables individuals to bring their whole selves to work and contributes to overall well-being.
4. Minimising unconscious bias
Remote work minimises the impact of unconscious biases and microaggressions that can occur in traditional office settings. Teams are more likely to focus on the quality of contributions and skills rather than physical attributes.
5. Reducing biased evaluations
Hybrid and remote work often rely on measurable performance metrics, reducing opportunities for bias in evaluating employees. This supports fair recognition and rewards for all team members.
6. Optimising workspace preferences
Working from home empowers employees to create workspaces that respect their cultural, religious, and personal needs. This contributes to a more inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and understood.
7. Enabling asynchronous collaboration
It enables asynchronous collaboration, accommodating time zone differences and personal schedules. This makes it possible for global teams to collaborate effectively and inclusively.
8. Fostering innovative thinking
Diverse teams are proven to be more innovative, and hybrid/remote work brings together talent from various backgrounds, promoting creativity and novel solutions. This enriches problem-solving and strategic thinking within organisations.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I couldn’t help but think, “Finally, the world is transitioning.” After advocating for remote work for years, many of my former colleagues and friends were finally experiencing it. To my delight, most of them found it to be an amazing experience! Frankly, I couldn’t believe it had taken so long to reach this point. So, you can imagine my bewilderment when I read about the trend of people being asked to return to the office once again.
Regarding mentorship and interpersonal connections, a recurring question is how organisations can effectively incorporate these aspects in a virtual environment. It appears that there is significant untapped potential in this realm that warrants further exploration.
Businesses find themselves at a transformative crossroads, presented with a distinct occasion to bridge generational divides. While navigating this intricate terrain, it becomes increasingly evident that the hybrid and remote work models unveil various advantages that tangibly bolster the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.
I hope these insights have sparked your curiosity and I invite you to share any data, ideas or views you believe should be highlighted in future newsletters. Stay tuned for the next edition.
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