As we approach the day we welcome employees back into the office after they’ve spent a year and a half working from home, it’s important that we take this as an opportunity to reassess our company policies. The employees that once filled your office space are not returning to the office as the same people they were back then. Their recent experience with remote work has changed not only who they are as employees, but who they are as people.
As a result, in addition to implementing substantial workplace policies that better support hybrid, flexible and remote employees, businesses around the world are also making a concentrated effort to transform their office into the inclusive workplace we’ve always known they had the potential to become.
The truth is, inclusivity in the workplace is more than just surface-deep. Of course it’s important to approach inclusivity by hiring more diverse talent and making sure that all employees have access to the resources and tools they need to succeed. But to make real progress as an industry, it’s our responsibility to adjust our company cultures in an effort to make our workplaces as accessible and inclusive as possible.
A truly inclusive workplace is one where every employee has an equal opportunity to participate. The mission of inclusive workplaces is to ensure that no employee is left behind or barred from participation based on gender, race, class, sexuality or disability. In a hybrid world, this mission extends to ensuring that all employees are treated equally, regardless of where they are working from on any given day as well.
Creating an inclusive workplace is an ongoing initiative. Structural change like this doesn’t happen overnight, real change only happens when companies make a concentrated effort to establish inclusivity initiatives directly into their company culture. True workplace inclusivity requires both structural change and shifts in day-to-day interactions between employees (led by leadership teams who are truly walking the walk).
Unfortunately, not all companies are quick to join the inclusive workplace movement (41% of managers say they are “too busy” to implement any kind of diversity or inclusion initiatives at their companies). But if you look at the numbers you’ll see that creating an inclusive workplace is worth it:
Across the board, it’s clear that those companies that take the time to create inclusivity initiatives (and follow through with them) are more successful in the long run. This comes as no surprise once you realize that happier employees make for better employees and nothing makes employees happier than when they work in environments that embrace their unique experiences and support their professional endeavors.
As mentioned before, creating a truly inclusive workplace takes a concentrated effort from company leadership. When creating more inclusive workplace policies at your company, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that the changes you are making in no way exclude or gate keep employees. As a general rule, when designing these policies ask yourself, “Does this benefit and support all current and future employees?” If your answer is yes, then you are making progress. If your answer is at any point no, then you still have some work to do.
Other best practices when implementing inclusive workflows and communication practices include:
While deep rooted inclusivity takes time, there are still many ways that companies can begin their journey toward complete inclusion. But remember, before implementing any new changes it’s important that you take the time to have an open conversation with your employees about their inclusivity expectations.
Creating new policies and workflows designed to better the company culture and make your organization more accessible to everyone is a great idea, but if you fail to take the opinions of your employees into consideration when making these changes then you run the risk of implementing changes that are inclusive on paper but have no real-world benefits. All inclusivity initiatives are designed with employees' best interests in mind, but only the initiatives designed by employees are actually beneficial initiatives with staying power.
Here are some ways that you can get your employees involved in beginning to promote inclusivity in your workplace today.
Intention is just the first step toward making the workplace more inclusive, but it’s far from the only step. The best and most straightforward way to make it clear to your employees that you value their unique experiences and plan to work toward developing a more inclusive company culture is to write it directly into your mission statement. After all, your company mission statement is the backbone of your entire operation. If creating a more inclusive workplace is really important to you, then demonstrate your dedication to improvement to your employees by rewriting your mission statement to reflect your new values.
When creating new workplace policies, it’s important to keep in mind that if something is new to you it is probably also new to your employees. Meaning, if you find yourself struggling to adopt a new workflow or adjust to a new communication practice, there’s a good chance that at least some of your employees are struggling, too.
By establishing a mentorship program at your company you are ensuring that no employee has to struggle alone. For hybrid organizations, a mentorship program not only keeps people connected, but it can help remote workers feel more included in company operations and ultimately feel less lonely.
A mentorship program designed to promote inclusivity could look like:
Whether your workplace is inclusive or not, your company culture has an affect on every single employee. Therefore, the inclusive policies you implement should be rooted in the experience of these same employees. And the best way to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard is to create a seat at your policy making table for your employees. Your inclusivity task force— the team at your company in charge of drafting inclusive policies— should be a reflection of the types of employees these policies are designed to support. Therefore, the team should be composed of employees from underrepresented groups and be a mix of in-person, remote and hybrid employees to ensure the experience of every employee has equal representation.
You can build an inclusive workplace without knowing what you’re missing. A workplace dedicated to its employees well-being has an open dialogue between all employees and management, HR, and leadership teams. Options like TINYpulse allow you to quickly find out how your employees are feeling, then take action. Right now, companies are using frequent surveys to find out how their employees feel about the return to office and what their expectations are to return to the work environment safely.
Just like how creating an inclusive workplace doesn’t happen overnight, the return to office isn’t one-and-done either. These are ongoing processes designed to make the modern workplace an inclusive and accessible environment for every worker.
By implementing inclusivity into your collective company mindset, you attract employees with different backgrounds, who live in different regions and who have different perspectives to offer your team. You are also actively working to create a workplace where everyone feels empowered to work their best and feel comfortable in doing so.
To ensure you are doing all you can to support your teams during this transitional time, download our Tools for Navigating the Return to Office guide.