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How to prepare for the coming inequity of the hybrid office

There are things that both employees and employers can do to ensure that people who choose to work from home get equal opportunities for advancement.

How to prepare for the coming inequity of the hybrid office
[Photo: jacoblund/iStock]

Showing up to a shared office space does have certain inherent benefits. By being in the workplace, you can observe the behaviors of successful people. You are physically available for opportunities to get mentored. Also, because you spend time around prominent members of your organization, you are mentally available to them in memory, which might make it more likely that you will get picked for new opportunities that arise that can vault your career forward.

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As we transition to the new work environment, though, many people will have an option about whether they want to go into an office each day. While some companies will go all-remote, many will have a hybrid option in which employees may have a lot of flexibility in how often they come into work. In addition, the people who are most likely to need flexibility are those who play a significant role in caring for children and/or other relatives. Because women continue to do a larger proportion of family care than men, there’s likely to be more pressure on women than men to work from home. If the people who show up to the workplace get more attention and opportunity for promotion, then there is looming gender inequity on the horizon.

So, now is the time to head that off.

There are things that both employees and employers can do to ensure that people who choose to work from home get equal opportunities for advancement as we move into the future of work.

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Employer responsibilities

One thing that leaders in organizations have learned during the pandemic is that when some (or all) employees are working remotely, a lot of things that could be done without explicit processes now need to be carried out with more intention and effort. Running a meeting requires calling on people explicitly. Checking in with team members involves setting up specific meetings.

If a chunk of the workforce is going to continue to work from home, then leaders are going to have to continue to be explicit about the way they develop the careers of the people working for them.

It is useful to have a development spreadsheet for your team. Every week, take a look at the list of team members and think about when you last spoke with them about their projects and gave them feedback on their performance. Check in with them and find out who is mentoring them or coaching them on what they’re working on. Make sure that everyone has someone prominent on the leadership team looking out for them.

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When you assign people to projects, use that spreadsheet to ensure that you are spreading experiences out equitably across the team. Having a list will keep you from just engaging with the people who you think of first (who are likely to be the ones you see often and have probably interacted with most recently).

Employee options

If you’re working remotely, you should be proactive about making sure you stay in the loop on developments at the office. Hopefully, your organization has a policy in place that will create fair treatment across people who are working remotely and from the office, but you cannot assume that is the case.

Make sure you check in regularly with your supervisor, as well as with other team members. Leave a little time in these meetings to find out what they have been working on lately and to share some of what you have been doing. Find out how they’re doing personally as well. It can be difficult to feel connected to your colleagues without having a little small talk.

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Make sure you stay connected to your mentoring team. Keep a list of areas where you feel that you could use advice our coaching and engage with your mentors at least once a week to address some of the items on that list. Not only will that help you to address your weaknesses, it will also remind key players in your organization that you are curious and growth-oriented. That will help them to keep you in mind for future opportunities.

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