Building an Inclusive Culture Around Return to Work: A Q&A with Arthur Woods

The pandemic has completely changed the workplace adapting to stay-at-home orders. When it was safe to venture outside the home, some employees felt they were more productive and happier working from home. Employers have had to adapt to this work-from-home movement, which includes adjusting company culture to accommodate a hybrid workplace.

Arthur Woods, the co-founder of Mathison, believes companies should embed hybrid fairness into their culture, which is about ensuring all employees feel the same level of psychological safety, whether in the office or working remotely. .

Do you work directly with clients returning to the office full-time or in a hybrid model? How does this affect their DEI efforts?

Yes, there are 3 major trends we are seeing with the return to the office:

  • Employers mandating a full return to full-time work – primarily financial or manufacturing groups

  • Employers offering flexible work from home with 1-3 days required in the office per week – this varies between specifically mandated days and the ability to choose which days each week

  • Employers who encourage employees to work near 100% – that’s what Mathison does and coordinates periodic team retreats

Options 2 and 3 created more accessible work options for working parents, people with disabilities, and neurodiverse people.

Many companies recently adopted DEI plans in the summer of 2020, when most of the world was still working remotely. What are some of the things these companies need to keep in mind as they return to the office?

What we have seen in 2020 are reactive and long overdue responses to a massive wave of the racial justice movement in America; and while some of the resulting actions hold, others do not. Unfortunately, many of these companies are falling behind on their DEI goals because they didn’t have the guidance or infrastructure to set realistic goals, or they sequestered DEI in an HR silo and didn’t make any. an imperative for the whole company. .

That said, moving from remote to hybrid or desktop can certainly complicate DEI initiatives that deliver results. “Hybrid equity” is a phrase many companies use to describe the process of ensuring employees have equal opportunity whether they are remote, hybrid, or in the office full-time. But ideally, hybrid equity isn’t just about employee growth and advancement opportunities — it’s about ensuring that all employees are entitled to the same degree of psychological safety, whether they’re working remotely or in the office.

How can employers audit their cultures for inclusiveness?

You can look at this in several ways. First, there is the compensation component. Is there equal pay for equal work? Are the increases fairly distributed? Does everyone have equal access to benefits? Second, you have the demographic component. How many people from traditionally marginalized groups do you hire? Are they confined to entry-level positions or do they also take on mid-level and executive-level positions?

There’s also the social element, which really defines your culture, but can also be difficult to measure. Employee surveys are great for getting direct feedback, but companies need to make sure they have the full buy-in from their teams to get a real sense of how they feel. “Retention interviews” have become a popular retention tactic here in the era of the great resignation, but they can also give employees the opportunity to talk at length about the challenges they face in terms of culture and belonging. at work. That said, some employees may be uncomfortable sharing their thoughts on this, and it’s up to management to keep tabs on their company culture and make sure everyone feels safe and empowered.

What steps can employers take today to create a more inclusive workplace?

Using inclusive language is a great starting point. Companies can use bias-checking AI tools to get started, but ongoing training and education are key here. Investing in DEI training for the whole company, not just HR, will help give everyone the social tools to foster a more inclusive workplace. Another strategy is to ensure inclusiveness extends to recruitment and interviews. With inclusive interviews, not only will you hire more diverse candidates, but you’ll also help reshape your company’s reputation as an inclusive workplace.

Will a truly inclusive company still offer remote work?

To some extent, yes. There are jobs that obviously can’t be done remotely, but for those that can, the option to be fully remote shows that a company is willing to make their workplace accessible to as many people as possible. potential employees. We’ve already seen that women and people of color tend to prefer remote working, but this should also be a sign for companies that they need to make their in-person environments more inclusive. The offer of remote work also reduces barriers for people who may be a great fit for a position, but cannot afford the cost of living where a business is based, or for people with disabilities to who travel and work in an office are physical challenges.

Leave a Reply