Tushar Agarwal, Co-founder and CEO of HubbleHQ, discusses how flexible working has neutralised decades of work limitations that are often tangled up with race and socioeconomic status
The long-standing cornerstones of the office we once knew are now firmly a thing of the past. Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed the most widespread working from home experiment in history, and for many organisations it’s been business as usual. With so many employees across the board proving that they can be just as productive at home as in the office, it’s important that we take this opportunity to think about what we want our workplaces to look like in the future.
As we enter the age of employee empowerment and hybrid work models, it’s critical that as business leaders, we now turn our attention to how this flexible working shift can propel greater diversity and inclusion initiatives.
So, as business leaders, what can we do to ensure that diversity stays firmly on our agendas? First, let’s explore how a distributed workforce can play a huge part in breaking down barriers to entry for diverse talent.
Remote working vs. roadblocks
While structural and systematic bias is the main contender preventing equality of opportunity to those from BAME backgrounds, women and disabled people, a number of other factors are responsible for holding back diversified employee bases.
Traditional office jobs have until recently been tethered to geographical areas, where commute time can all too often restrict entire talent pools. Socio-economic status, educational backgrounds and ethnicity are often linked to geographical location—and for many, affording the cost of living in and commuting to particular areas isn’t a simple task. The traditional office model has equally excluded job prospects for many disabled people, where a challenging commute combined with inaccessible workplaces can also have a stark impact on access to opportunity.
With more open and positive attitudes around remote working now set to become a permanent fixture in the future of work, companies can seize the moment to attract talent with an array of backgrounds and experience. Not to mention the opportunities that would be opened up for almost a fifth of parents who are forced into quitting their jobs due to ‘punitive’ childcare costs. At HubbleHQ, we found a 147% search increase for onsite office childcare facilities between 2018 and 2019, with only 1.1% of office spaces able to meet this demand. Remote, flexible working reduces the likelihood of parents needing to choose between family and career, meaning they can return to their jobs quicker with less of a cost.
As employers, we need to take a number of measures at all levels of an organisation to ensure our workforces proportionately reflect the diversity of the communities in which we operate.
Measurement is a great first course of action to take when mapping out diversity initiatives. After all, the numbers speak loud and clear. By collecting diversity and inclusion data, companies can see exactly what the current situation is in raw data, and then assess the gaps. Companies can use this data to highlight their current strengths or weaknesses and use this as a basis to set new targets and adjust their current initiatives and support. Evidence lies in the numbers, so collecting data is necessary to identify gaps, evaluate initiatives and take action.
Survey your employees
If companies haven’t taken the time to understand the needs of their employees, then they aren’t yet in a position to enact impactful changes like flexible working. Employees are the most important part of any business and through regularly surveying them, insights into their feelings towards culture and inclusion can be tapped into.
For instance, when acknowledging survey results showcasing that 30% of employees say childcare would improve their WFH experience, companies can understand where more assistance is needed and make changes by developing better flexible working schemes or even by putting in place a child-care scheme. Employees’ opinions will offer an inside perspective of the company and valuable guidance for senior leadership members. You can’t be everywhere at once. Surveying allows employees to have a voice before any points of contention develop. A Workplace Strategy Tool is a useful method for understanding how your business currently functions and where there is room for improvement.
Senior leadership buy-in
Change comes from the top. CEOs and senior leadership teams must genuinely believe in their diversity initiatives for them to be a priority and in turn, successful. Endorsement by senior leaders to support a culture of inclusion, will encourage proactive changes internally and publicly. Buy-in at all levels is critical when an organisation needs to demonstrate actionable change.
There is a mountain of evidence available for senior leadership teams to review when it comes to the overall gains from inclusion initiatives. This alone is enough to set into motion prioritising investment and resources into developing a bespoke business inclusion strategy. To hold one’s business accountable, senior leadership can introduce key performance indicators to reflect commitment to any initiatives put into place.
As we now firmly enter an era of employee empowerment, the expectations on employers to prioritise assessing and developing their diversity and inclusion initiatives is higher than ever before. Employees now aspire to join companies that genuinely promote diverse talent, so companies that respond will be set for success in the road ahead.
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