The future of work is the hybrid workplace. This is an environment designed to support a shifting combination of in-office and remote workers.
But in this new world—with everyone drifting along the spectrum from fully in the office to fully remote—workers and organisations will have to navigate new inclusivity challenges: ensuring that everyone, everywhere can fully participate in all aspects of business life. Calls, meetings, company days, watercooler chats, serendipitous encounters on the stairs…how do we keep everyone involved in these under hybrid working conditions?
There are huge opportunities for the businesses that get this right: attracting and retaining top talent, a golden reputation as a top-tier employer, sustainable productivity and unshakeable resilience in the face of adversity.
But there is also danger afoot!
There is the risk of a great divide between those most willing and able to come into the office and those who—for reasons of geography, family, health or simply inclination—are less able to. What happens when half the team is laughing it up in the office, with the other half working remotely and straining to catch what’s going on, unable to fully participate?
This is the domain of what we call the Inclusion Imp: a monstrous force of habit and inertia that will strive to thwart your transition to a hybrid workplace that is truly inclusive.
The Inclusion Imp will sow the seeds of conflict and disharmony in your teams, creating a disengaged, disenfranchised tier of second class citizens in your organisation.
In this blog, we will explore three ways that the Inclusion Imp threatens the cohesion of your organisation and what you need to do to defeat him.
(Pssst… the Inclusion Imp is not alone! There are many other beasts that want to foil your plans for the future of work. Our latest eBook, The Great Return to the Office: The Seven Monster Threats That Will Thwart Your Successful Transition to a Hybrid Workplace, gives the gruesome details of these monsters, the carnage they can wreak in your organisation and, most importantly, provides guidance on what you can do to stop these beasts in their tracks!)
Right. Let’s take a closer look at how the Inclusion Imp will threaten the cohesion of your organisation and what you can do about it.
The Inclusion Imp: Threats and Weaknesses
1. The imp will pounce on any lack of awareness around new inclusivity challenges to create division and conflict
The hybrid workplace will create new challenges around inclusivity that workers, teams and leaders have never had to deal with before. If there is no awareness of these new challenges then their destructive consequences will slowly—but surely—emerge. Before you know it, your organisation will be divided beyond repair.
Inclusion Imp Threat:
If nothing is done to help people to navigate the new hybrid world as people start returning to the office, then conflict will inevitably begin to surface. Left to its own devices, the Inclusion Imp will create an us versus them workplace causing a brain drain as you slowly lose good people to less divided, more supportive companies.
Cultivate awareness: you need awareness of the ways in which you are excluding those who either cannot or prefer not to come to the office as often (or at all). Talk to your teams, create an inclusivity champion, observe how people interact at meetings and events.
Lead by example: leaders, in particular, need to become aware of the ways in which they are personally promoting or inhibiting inclusivity, taking special care to lead by example and bring their organisation with them on the inclusivity journey.
2. The imp will devastate any organisation without clear, unambiguous guidelines for inclusivity under hybrid conditions
The office will never quite be the same again.
It’s tempting to hope or assume that everything will just go back to how it used to be, with no adjustments necessary. This would be a mistake. In order to maintain inclusivity, new measures will need to be established and clearly communicated throughout your organisation.
Inclusion Imp Threat:
Without clear and effective inclusivity guidelines, your organisation will fall back on old ways of working that are no longer relevant in the hybrid workplace. Our impish friend will drag your teams back to the past, ensuring a workplace torn by division and strife! Productivity, happiness and talent retention will suffer accordingly.
Create and disseminate clear inclusivity guidelines: work with your people to create guidelines that everyone is on board with, putting substantial time and effort into disseminating them widely and supporting people to understand and embody them.
Empower people to call out exclusionary behaviour: the guidelines need to have teeth; put processes in place to regulate diversion from your inclusivity guidelines, not in the spirit of punishment, but of teamwork and unity.
3. The imp will ruin any company that does not invest in seamless digital networks and social platforms to overcome siloes
The shift to remote working during the pandemic caused our networks to shrink as individuals hunkered down in their team siloes and drastically reduced their collaboration with others across the business.
Microsoft research found that lockdown caused inter-team interactions to rise, while extra-team interactions plummeted. Cross-organisational networks need to be revitalised, with a robust plan for collaboration and communication in the new hybrid world.
Inclusion Imp Threat:
When workers return to the office, it’s critical that no one is left behind. But the imp will let people linger in their impoverished digital siloes, throttling collaboration and causing innovation to nosedive.
Deploy vibrant social networks: roll out social network platforms with a people-first mindset. The technology aspect should be seamless to the point of being invisible, leaving only the experience of enablement and connection.
Bridge the gap between physical and digital communities: it’s critical to create a digital/physical interface that makes everyone feel part of the community, whether they work mainly at home or mainly in the office.
Inclusivity Isn’t the Only Challenge in a Hybrid Workplace
The Inclusion Imp isn’t the only monster threat to your transition to a hybrid workplace.
Join Whitebeard the Future Worx Wizard on his quest to slay the beasts that imperil the future of work!