Can a hybrid work model promote inclusivity?
Hybrid working has been criticised for promoting inequality across work environments, so how can organisations leverage new ways of working to support employee wellbeing and inclusivity?
People spend a third of their lives at work, yet most workplaces do little to promote mental health, accessibility, or productivity. This has a knock-on effect on employees who may suffer undue stress and strain due to inequitable, suboptimal working conditions.
Emerging technology is ready to break that paradigm apart. Futuristic designs of workplaces place a premium on ensuring that everyone can work without barriers and meet their full potential.
The pandemic forced many businesses to shift to a fully remote work model. This shift accelerated the demand for better remote-based innovative technologies that enabled businesses to operate without a physical location or via a hybrid model.
Hybrid work models provide more than just flexibility to employees, they can also boost accessibility and productivity at work. Employees who work from home can save time commuting and spend more time doing things they love with their friends and families. Remote working allows employees to save funds they would ordinarily spend on commuting or on lunch and spend it prioritising their wellbeing.
Employers who decide to go remote can embrace the future of work by adopting cutting-edge technology to better manage their digital workplace. Staying up to date with technology ensures that remote and hybrid employees maintain a high level of productivity and aren’t set back by accessibility issues due to inequitable, outdated design.
Mental health at work
Supporting employee mental health is a priority for managers and business leaders today. The pandemic exacerbated many mental health struggles, and now people look for employers who offer benefits and the best environment to support their mental health.
Progressive employers can promote better mental health at work by offering tech-driven benefits. Employees no longer want to clock in from 8 am to 5 pm. They also realise they do not have to attend a physical office desk to be productive. Instead, they seek employers who can offer flexible, hybrid work arrangements that allow everyone to set their own hours.
While complete autonomy over work schedules has been criticised for its complexity to get the right people in the office at the same time. It allows companies to leverage office space to entice employees back into the office and demonstrate that the organisations values their employees wellbeing.
Employers can use the space they save to provide breakout rooms and private spaces for employees to connect with mental health services and therapists. While therapists can be accessed remotely via telehealth, employees still need a physical private space to speak openly. Employers can provide this space within the workplace by setting aside some amount of the floor plan as a private area for employees.
Providing a space to relax and connect with online therapists is important for employers who care about mental health at work. However, private rooms are only the beginning of inclusive and modern workplace design.
Future-oriented accessible workplaces put an emphasis on the experience that disabled employees have at work. This inclusive approach to design goes beyond accessibility and strives to make the workplace a productive, enjoyable place to be for all employees.
‘Leaders need to go beyond a ‘tick-box’ approach…’
This approach has been dubbed ‘Freedom Through Design’ by MBE and product designer David Constantine. It requires designers and business leaders to reach out to employees with specific needs and go beyond a ‘tick-box’ approach. Instead, the designers of the future should be asking ‘How does this workplace experience make me feel?’
Shifting parameters of performance
High performance has been at the centre of successful workplaces for decades. Businesses that promote efficient designs, like Kanban frameworks and Kaizen work models, have already benefited from greater productivity and innovation in the workplace.
Workplaces of the future will implement new metrics for performance and productivity. Many monotonous or task-based roles will be automated using AI in the coming years, meaning human work will be centred around innovation, creativity, and collaboration.
Workplaces that cherish creativity will also support greater employee autonomy. Despina Katsikakis, global lead for Total Workplace at Cushman & Wakefield, believes that authentic interactions and a greater emphasis on ‘serendipity, occasion, memorable and delightful experiences,’ will make the workplaces of the future more productive and pleasurable places to spend time.
‘The future workplace will implement new metrics for performance…’
Employers can support serendipitous encounters and authentic engagement by promoting more employee engagement opportunities in the workplace. Design choices like high-end coffee bars, collaborative workstations, and leisure-oriented break areas can help employees come together over a shared, positive experience and spark interdepartmental collaboration.
The workplaces of the future should be designed to support mental health, accessibility, and productivity. For some businesses, a hybrid model can support more inclusive, innovative work. Business leaders that choose to implement a hybrid work model should ensure that the work environment remains accessible and productive by investing in digital-management software.
Employers that maintain a brick-and-mortar space can make the most of the location by offering perks for in-person employees and creating workplaces that align with the new parameters of productive, inclusive workplaces.