How can I… create the most inclusive future workplace?
Inclusive workplaces

How can we build on the transformations driven by COVID-19?

The shift to remote working and then to hybrid working has had both positive and negative impacts on inclusivity within the workplace. Organisations should be aware of these changes so they can build on the good and respond to the bad. 

Examples of positive changes during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Individuals with less mobility not having to undertake difficult commutes into buildings not designed for them
  • Having fewer after-work social events – although these are vital networking opportunities, they can be off-putting for some (e.g. parents with young children, colleagues who do not drink)
  • Enabling neurodiverse individuals to engage more easily in meetings (research has shown that some find it easier to engage with online formats)
  • Improving the power balance in meetings and enabling more introverted personalities to participate more easily – in online meetings, it is harder for any one person to take all the air time, plus the chat function in video calls enables people to share their ideas in writing

Organisations might like to embrace some of these changes and make them permanent. For example, they could offer particularly flexible work packages to neurodiverse people to ensure that they have the best work life possible. By allowing employees to spend more time in the environment in which they are happiest and most productive, boroughs will get the most out of their staff and ensure their organisation is an enticing place to work

Unfortunately, as with many system shocks, inequalities have been exacerbated for many minority groups as a result of COVID-19. As this McKinsey study reveals, diverse employees struggled the most during the pandemic. For example, women were particularly worried about health and safety in on-site workplaces, mental health issues and household responsibilities as a result of remote working. LGBTQ+ employees also disproportionately felt isolation while working remotely.

LOTI recommends that local authorities invest in mental health resources and advertise them to specific target groups as part of a focus on building healthy workplaces. Find out more in LOTI’s guide to creating healthy future workplaces [add link].

Boroughs should also commit to consciously running more inclusive virtual meetings. Optimally, virtual meetings should empower those who might find it harder to contribute during in-person meetings. For example, employees with hearing loss can use automatic closed captions and read documents on their own screens at their own pace or ahead of meetings. 

Organisations should be aware that virtual meetings might reinforce existing problems or even make them worse. For example, research shows that women talk less than men of equivalent position or knowledge during in-person meetings. It is therefore vital to measure and understand how different groups of employees do or do not enjoy virtual meetings. Interested boroughs who want to ensure that their virtual meetings are as inclusive as possible can consult LOTI’s guide for running inclusive virtual meetings.

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