Seven areas are dominating work trends this year, according to global organization consulting firm Korn Ferry. The first trend, reinvention, is all about organizations intentionally changing. It’s a signal that leaders are tired of reacting to disruption. Leaders are proactively transforming their business models, people policies, and work processes so they can thrive through ongoing change.
Hybrid work is one of the ways organizations are reinventing themselves. “Companies will reinvent where work gets done as they formalize hybrid models of working,” Korn Ferry predicts.
As organizations across the globe are moving from hybrid work as a temporary solution to a permanent way of operating, issues of equity are emerging. How can leaders create equitable policies? Especially in places like a museum or social service agency where some staff must interact with customers in-person to do their jobs while others can work from home. How can all of these different workers feel connected to the same mission?
This article will explore three equity considerations for a hybrid organization: the humanity of work, the fairness factor, and the role of leadership.
Humanizing hybrid work
Hybrid work is about flexibility, autonomy, and quality of life. It recognizes that employees are more than capital in an organization—they are humans with unique preferences and free will. Hybrid work has the ability to put choice in the hands of the people who work for you, resulting in greater engagement, loyalty, and trust.
While hybrid work empowers some employees, it alienates others. It may create a stark contrast between one group of people who can work from home, and another group who cannot, whether due to life circumstances or the nature of their job.
The key to facing the potential inequity of hybrid work is recognizing that the differences it can expose provide an opportunity for progress. As much as possible, a hybrid work model should honor individuals’ choices. A hybrid workplace should help to redistribute organizational decision-making power more equitably. When it is not possible for individuals’ choices to be upheld—for example, an employee prefers the flexibility of working from home to the tasks of their in-person, customer-facing role—encourage and reward transparency.
If employees feel safe discussing their preferences and reality, their humanity is honored. At the same time, your organization’s culture will get a boost as employees trust you to navigate this new world of hybrid work with them.
Addressing the fairness factor
Some employees who feel they get the short end of the hybrid work stick may call it unfair. Again, addressing their concerns with a human approach means validating their feelings about unfairness with empathy, honesty, and candor.
Not all jobs can be done from home. Communicate a consistent message to all employees, founded on your organization’s vision and values. Make sure that hybrid work policies are not based on arbitrary qualifications such as seniority or personal need, but are based instead on the needs of the job and the organization.
When employees see that decisions about hybrid work are guided by certain principles like upholding the quality of programs or valuing the customer experience, they will be more understanding when they don’t get their preferred work plan.
Amplifying leader involvement
Transitioning to full-time hybrid work can be difficult for employers. Some leaders have been resistant to the trend because they want a return to “normal.” Others cite productivity concerns for remote employees.
Leaders cannot demand trust from employees without first trusting their people. Hybrid work is the ideal proving ground for leaders to work alongside employees toward greater progress, humanity, and equity.
Committing to experimentation allows leaders to be part of the hybrid work revolution. For example, employers can implement policies on a quarterly basis, seek employee feedback, and then revise as needed. The most important consideration when experimenting with equity is considering all employees’ perspectives.
Finally, leaders should not shy away from setting expectations for performance. Leaders must clearly and consistently communicate standards for all employees, secure their buy-in, and create metrics to hold them accountable. Such specifications should be applicable to all employees, regardless of where or when they work.
Hybrid work is messy. Employees and employers alike are learning a new working reality. This new hybrid workplace will uncover some areas for improvement. In the ongoing pursuit of greater organizational equity, a hybrid workplace can be the catalyst toward progress.