The new hybrid work environment has its pros and cons for women and people of color. Organizations that want to create and maintain successful hybrid teams, need to establish and enforce DEI policies.
As companies continue to evaluate hybrid work scenarios to determine the most effective long-term solution, it’s clear that one area to examine more deeply is how this new environment will be impacted by gender and ethnicity. While employees agree that there are many benefits to remote work, there are also potential disparities to consider and only 13% of company leaders are thinking about them. 
Organizations that want to create a thriving hybrid work environment should address biases and implement policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion early in the process to ensure equal development and advancement opportunities. And while companies may implement diversity plans to create a more vital workplace – feelings of inclusion and belonging are key indicators of how these plans impact individual employees.
Here are a few ways to make sure all employees – regardless of their gender or ethnic background – feel a sense of belonging in the workplace and have a fair shot at career success.
Mind the Gender Gap
Over the past couple of years, it’s become clear that work is something you do, not a place you go. Working women around the globe have experienced benefits from this new mindset with the majority saying they would prefer to work remotely post-pandemic. The increased flexibility has helped balance the multiple roles that many women manage daily including work, childcare and domestic responsibilities. 
On the flip side, remote work also brings the new pressures of “being constantly interrupted by their demanding and impatient ‘mini bosses’ aka children,” said Marris Haddad, VP of customer success at 321 Ignition, a website platform for car dealerships. Haddad's days are spent juggling meeting preparation and virtual networking with homework support, resolving sibling fights, laundry and other jobs. 
For remote workers who balance multiple roles, leaders can help prevent misunderstandings by creating clear policies that outline individual performance and team communication expectations. For example, when a new hire from a different country – and therefore, in a different time zone – is unable to respond to emails immediately on a Monday morning, some managers may inaccurately label the late response as procrastination. To counter this, leaders must provide training on how to support and collaborate with remote workers. These methods can be as simple as not requiring video on conference calls or improving flexibility with various schedules.
Beware of Proximity Bias
The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” becomes a real concern for employees when some are in the office and others are remote. Companies must be vigilant to avoid “proximity bias,” which occurs when employees within close physical proximity to their team are perceived as harder working and more committed than their remote counterparts. This often results in more attention and success for onsite workers.
According to Ali Shalfrooshan, a UK-based occupational psychologist at PSI Services, these biases are a natural instinct, but they don’t always result in accurate judgments and can lead to overlooking qualified individuals who are working remote. One example of this phenomenon occurred when remote workers at a Chinese travel agency showed higher performance levels but did not receive the same performance-based promotions as the company’s In-house staff. 
At first glance, remote work seems like it would create a level playing field for all genders on which people are judged more for what they produce and what they do and less for managing impressions and appearances, according to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic ManpowerGroup’s Chief Innovation Officer. But that’s not always the case, he adds. Data shows that when companies move to a hybrid model, men are typically the first to return to the office and sometimes it’s because they see an opportunity to exploit politics. This causes problems because women are then going to be disadvantaged by not being “in the right place at the right time.” 
Because of this, women may pay the price of being overlooked for prime work assignments and promotions. That’s why it’s important for companies to make a conscious effort to establish policies that treat all employees the same – regardless of gender – and avoid penalties for any remote workers by capping the number hours that all employees are able to work in office. 
Make Room for Advancement
Whether team members work remotely or on-site, they should receive mentoring and coaching to support their growth and performance. The good news is that 89% of workers want more remote learning skills development and career coaching. Leaders who want to create a successful inclusive environment will ensure that these training opportunities are equally accessible to all workers.
This kind of inclusivity may seem elusive to women who have taken on most of the responsibility for childcare and other domestic duties over the past year.  During the pandemic, only 9% of women working remotely with children at home received a promotion compared to 34% of men. Black and Asian-American workers are also at a disadvantage, as only 9% have taken on additional leadership roles compared to 15% of white workers.  For these reasons, organizations need to provide career coaching that pairs team members with the right mentor – someone with whom an individual can relate and learn from so they can build the necessary skills that will lead to promotions.
To create a brighter, more inclusive future of work, organizations need to clearly communicate that the team’s success is based on the quality of output, not on how many hours are spent in the office or online. Managers should be in regular contact with all employees to discuss how they are achieving their goals and schedule formal performance evaluations in which everyone is held to the same standards.
To learn more about how ManpowerGroup is working with companies to create more diverse, equitable and inclusive teams, visit the Future of Work research.
 Future of Work, Everest Group 2021