The Hybrid Working model could arguably be one of the few successes that have come out of the COVID pandemic. What was once considered a ‘perk’ that only the most progressive companies embraced, has now become a deal-breaker when it comes to salary negotiations. However, the flip-side of hybrid work has had some unintended (and for some, surprising), effects on gender equality in the workplace. In a recent survey by FlexJobs, 68 percent of women said they preferred to work remotely post pandemic, compared to 57 percent of males. With women making up the bulk of remote workers, there is concern that their voice and work will become less visible than their male counterparts, potentially resulting in dire consequences for their career progression and earning potential.
We took the debate to the leaders, to find out how they are managing these hurdles to hybrid work, and how we can maintain flexibility without reducing the visibility of diverse minds.
Katherine Squire, VP, Software Engineering, Zendesk
“With the hybrid way of working model to stay, organisations should be prepared to have adequate systems in place that encourage equitable contributions across roles at all levels. Business leaders need to acknowledge the fact that hybrid work can have a serious impact on gender equality in a working environment.
Companies need to adapt and design a hybrid-work system that addresses difficulties women face in working from home, while still enabling the work flexibility that supports them in their career. This means better training for managers, more support for remote workers, and implementation of digital tools like AI and analytics to track employee experiences and career progress without biases.
Having said that, the onus also lies on the senior leadership and HR teams to continue to build awareness around gender inequality in a remote working environment. At Zendesk, we offer flexibility while preserving equity; we must try and achieve the best of both worlds.”
Abbie White, CEO and Founder, Sales Redefined
“What is missing from the hybrid work model is those water cooler conversations. We know between sales and marketing that 1/3 of teams don’t communicate regularly, we know that nine out of ten sales and marketing professionals don’t believe they are in alignment on strategy and so on. That’s almost amplified by not overhearing a conversation in the office, or “can I just grab you for two minutes”, or hearing something that’s going on. What that means is we need to be more intentional and more deliberate about our conversations and our communication, especially when it comes to including diverse voices.”
Mark Nielsen, Global CEO, Talent International
“Of all the hardships of COVID there have been some silver linings. One of the most prevalent is the way the world has moved to flexible working arrangement. In some ways leaders were forced to accept this change and work how out how to keep their teams engaged. The result in this has been the shift to rewards efficiency and allows for people to have more personal time, which in terms gives more time for family. By default, we now have our colleagues in our studies and living rooms which has pushed us to be more authentic and vulnerable thereby allowing for real conversations.
At Talent, we have used these changes to bring around real change within our business, this included building on initiatives that encourage working from anywhere; ensuring that we are encouraging people to be comfortable with the gender they are identifying with and providing wellness days. We trust our people to get the job done regardless of where they are.”
Sally Elson, Head of People, MYOB
“Managing a hybrid team is different to having everyone in one place, and it’s important to acknowledge this and design the working environment accordingly. For example, managers should ask what hybrid means to the team – how much structure they want from days in the office versus those at home. Keep communication open about what is working and what isn’t, and adapt as necessary.
At MYOB we know that relationships matter, so we take a purposeful approach to hybrid working with some structure in place to ensure the best result for team interactions. This includes having teams nominate a day (or days) for collaborative work in the office. Outside of these nominated office day(s) it’s up to the individuals to decide where they work. This ensures everyone maintains an amount of in person time with their teams.
I’d encourage managers to think about where informal interactions should be substituted with a level of structure, such as an online catch up each Friday afternoon. There are no exact rules on what hybrid must be, but being clear on how that works in YOUR team is imperative.
It is important that the hybrid arrangement work for everyone, the organisation, the team and the individual.“