If hybrid work models are not properly implemented or managed, they have the serious potential to create two separate classes of workers.
Just last year many of us were unfamiliar with the concept of a hybrid working model or were unsure of how it may fit into the future of work. Since then, much has changed.
For starters, many in the workforce have experienced the benefits that remote working has had on their productivity, engagement, and improved balance in their personal lives. As a result, they are voicing their desire for it to continue. Recent research by Citrix showed that more than 90% of employees prefer a flexible work model moving forward. And that desire does not end with the workforce either, with 82% of decision-makers at these companies stating that they are planning to embrace hybrid working models in the future.
But as this reality truly begins to take form, there is another new, unexpected concept taking shape that we’ll likely need to get familiar with much sooner than expected – the digital divide.
What is the digital divide?
While it has many benefits, if hybrid work models are not properly implemented or managed, they have the serious potential to create two separate classes of workers, inadvertently establishing a workplace culture full of inequity and bias.
For a long time now, every single employee – no matter if they were a recent hire or the firmly-entrenched CEO – has shown up as an equally sized box among many other equally sized boxes in video conference calls. Each employee has had to use the same avenues of communication and has had the same level of access to management for guidance and to their co-workers for collaboration.
In this and many other ways, the pandemic actually leveled the playing field for much of the workforce, which also saw remote work have a profound effect on productivity and employee mental wellbeing. But now that equity has the potential to be compromised as many of us return to the office in varying degrees.
How, then, can businesses moving to a hybrid work model ensure that there is a consistent, inclusive, and equal experience in the office or at home?
Keeping the field level
For companies that are trying to take this leap successfully, they will need to invest in technologies and policies that foster equity in the work environment. These must be designed to empower all employees – both remote and in-office – to be able to engage and collaborate on an equal level and make the same meaningful collaborations and contributions that businesses need to drive innovation and growth. Some examples of policies that can achieve this include:
- Very precisely defining which tools should be used based on the situation. E.g. which communication platform to use for collaboration, which tool to use for scheduling meetings, etc.
- Ensuring your management is receiving consistent and ongoing education on best practices for hybrid working models. Your team needs to see an example of how well it can work.
- Establishing a moderator role for meetings to facilitate the conversation between in-office and remote workers to make sure all voices are heard and employees are contributing.
A shared digital workspace
It is also imperative that businesses put into place a shared and transparent digital environment that teams can use to maintain consistent access to apps and data, allowing them to get the work they need to be done from wherever they happen to be.
This shared workspace should also allow teams to define, align, and collaborate on work projects together. Whether they are fully remote, completely in-office, or somewhere in between, your employees need secure and reliable access to all apps and info and a place to collaborate with their team.
Planning for the future
Hybrid work is the way of the future. There is no getting around that anymore. Companies that understand the risks inherent in the model and carefully plan their transitions can avoid the pitfalls and change the game for their employees and their business forever.