It’s well-documented that inclusivity within the workplace makes for a stronger workforce. Career opportunities, whatever the sector, shouldn’t only be available to people from a specific background, location, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic status. The future of work is a hot topic at the moment and many businesses are implementing permanent flexible working strategies as a way of promoting inclusivity.
Ingrid Ødegaard, Co-founder and Chief Product & Technology Officer at Whereby, shares with us her experience as the founder of a rapidly growing startup. The company firmly believes that a workforce doesn’t need to all originate from the same city, or even the same country in order to be successful. The world has fundamentally changed in the past few months, with many businesses relying heavily on remote collaboration to maintain their company ethos and foster employee wellbeing. What’s become clear is that an inclusive workforce can be an entirely remote one, if done correctly.
Here are five ways in which flexible working can make positive changes to promote inclusivity in the workplace.
With flexible working becoming “the new normal”, one of the biggest obstacles to inclusivity can often be complicated technology. Flexible working offers businesses the opportunity to revamp their technological infrastructure, as a way to promote inclusivity, by implementing intuitive solutions that can be used by anyone within an organisation. It should not be the case that training or expensive equipment is essential in order to utilise video conferencing systems, for example. Rather, systems should be selected with ease-of-use in mind, to accommodate all regardless of their technical capability.
A flexible working policy gives employees the freedom to decide where and when they want to work, all the while delivering on the company’s goals and expectations, and simultaneously opening up opportunities to promote inclusivity. Flexible working allows employees to adapt their workday to how they feel most productive, in terms of hours and from where they work. This style of working is particularly valued by working parents, for whom balancing home and work life can often be very difficult. Commuting alone can take hours away from the time parents could have spent with their loved ones and flexible working practices allow families to strike a more favourable balance.
Foster self-motivation and trust
Everyone has a different working style and productive work is often the summation of numerous tailored work practices. Flexible working provides the impetus for managers to ensure that staff are working in a way that is mutually beneficial. This type of inclusivity requires a culture of trust, self-motivation and accountability between managers and team members. It’s important for managers to recognise that work isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ scenario and flexible working provides an opportunity to learn about how each person works and provide support accordingly.
Flexible working opens up new realms of opportunity for those suffering from both poor mental and physical health, which might otherwise prevent them from accessing certain job opportunities despite possessing the necessary skills. Sadly, for some, certain jobs become immediately unattainable because a physical disability prevents them from being away from their home for long periods of time, or a mental health problem means that commuting is extremely difficult. Now is the time for businesses to open their doors to fully remote workforces and help bolster inclusive practices within their organisations that meet the differing needs of their employees.
Open up employment opportunities
Companies should be looking to hire staff from a variety of geographical backgrounds as a way to not only promote equality, but to also help encourage creativity, innovation, and reduce homogeneous thinking. In doing this, however, the integral role communities play in human connection and a sense of belonging cannot be underestimated, particularly among underrepresented people. Having to start over in a new community for the sake of a job can be very isolating, eliciting negative feelings of lack of support or protection. Flexible working opens up job opportunities outside of big cities and even in other countries. This affords people the simple luxury of not having to choose between their community and their livelihood and promotes the idea of bringing opportunities to the individual, rather than the individual to the opportunity.