Outdated attitudes risk widening inequalities

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video: Employers could reverse progress made over the past 18 months and worsen inequalities in the workplace if organizations fail to overcome deeply ingrained perceptions of ‘office culture’, warns new research from the Work Foundation.
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Credit: Lancaster Credit University School of Management

Employers could reverse the progress made over the past 18 months and worsen inequalities in the workplace if organizations fail to override deeply ingrained perceptions of “office culture,” a leading think tank warned.

New research, conducted by the Work Foundation and the Chartered Management Institute, reveals that ‘traditional’ views of the workplace are still relevant today, with managers expecting access to large projects and networks of workers. work decreases with remote or hybrid work, and exacerbates existing inequalities in the workplace.

The results also suggest that women are less comfortable than men in discussing a remote work request with their manager, and less likely than men to think their organization includes remote workers.

The new data, derived from surveys of 964 managers from the Chartered Management Institute, 1,000 UK workers and interviews with organizations representing women, people with disabilities and people with parental or family responsibilities in the workplace , also reveal that more than half of managers currently have the power to decide which employees can work remotely (55%), when staff should be present in the office (63%), working time during the day (53%) and staff responsiveness expectations (53%).

However, one in five employees (20%) whose supervisors make the decision for them is not satisfied with the way they work. More worryingly, only 59% of workers whose supervisor has formal decision-making powers over remote work requests are comfortable asking to work remotely.

While remote working and other forms of flexible working may be essential in enabling some to manage their work alongside their own well-being or family responsibilities, the researchers say the study reveals outdated attitudes that could exacerbate existing inequalities in the workplace.

Research findings indicate that workers with disabilities, workers, parents and caregivers may face particular challenges when working remotely, due to the isolation of the office and the potential lack of job opportunities. learning and development.

Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation, said: “The results of our survey suggest that attitudes surrounding remote or flexible working may be stuck in the pre-pandemic world, rather than truly seizing the opportunities that a whole new hybrid working model might present, which is alarming.

“There is a real risk that the ‘office culture’ is so ingrained that even organizations that seek flexible or hybrid arrangements could end up introducing inequalities between those who work primarily on site and those who work remotely. This would jeopardize the opportunities that hybrid work could bring to so many people – especially parents, caregivers and disabled workers – who have benefited from increased flexibility since 2020. ”

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, said: “This research highlights a real mismatch in attitudes towards hybrid work between some managers and their teams and it seems that some managers need to wake up and smell the coffee. Managers must take into account the new reality of employees wishing to work more flexibly, they must support it, express their support and ensure that remote workers are not disadvantaged, especially given the increased competition for them. talent employers.

“We have seen during the pandemic how greater flexibility in working practices can increase productivity, help everyone’s work-life balance and the well-being of workers.

“Engaging with employees to understand and then implement best-fit work practices is a great example of good management. Managers will have happier, more productive, and more loyal teams – and a healthier business – as a result. ”

In the ‘Making the hybrid inclusive: key priorities for decision makers report (published today, Thursday 14 October), the Labor Foundation calls on the Government to:

  • Develop an employer campaign and accreditation program to promote flexible and inclusive work practices. This should include strategies for consulting and engaging with staff on how time is spent on site, training managers to manage a hybrid workforce, and introducing measures such as an organizational policy of “right to disconnect”. Employer case studies should be used to promote innovative practices by ensuring that organizational changes are inclusive for different groups of workers.
  • Require large employers to share information about their flexible working approach and progress to drive adoption across their organization. Employers with more than 250 employees should be required to publish their flexible and hybrid working policies externally, monitor the adoption of flexible working practices within their organization in different groups of workers and regularly publish this data. as well as action plans to promote improvement.
  • Support the development of management capacities by providing inclusive hybrid work. For example, modules on equality, diversity and inclusion could be added to the Help to Grow: Management program, to ensure that managers and leaders are trained on how to create and foster inclusive work environments. .
  • Make flexible work the default position for all employees, with flexible options included in all job postings, unless the employers have a valid business reason for an exemption. The range of reasons given by employers for refusing to make work more flexible should be narrowed down; and workers already in place should be sufficiently supported to appeal decisions without fear of retaliation.
  • Prioritize inclusive employers in funding and procurement exercises, by requiring organizations with more than 50 employees and turnover above £ 10million to produce an up-to-date hybrid and flexible work strategy and action plan that prioritizes inclusion in the framework the demand for any public procurement or government grants.

In ‘Making the Hybrid Inclusive – A Guide for Employers published today alongside the report, the Fondation du Travail calls on managers and directors to:

  • Consult with staff to develop a flexible and remote working approach. Consultation should be an ongoing exercise aimed at developing an in-depth understanding of employees and the types of responsibilities and pressures they face that impact their work. This will help managers and leaders better adjust conditions to help workers be more productive.
  • Experiment and engage with staff to find an approach that works. When a shift to hybrid work involves some degree of experimentation, it’s important that employers check in regularly and be responsive to employee feedback. This can include having an open dialogue with employees around contact hours, disconnecting from work and making better use of the workplace.
  • Consider introducing an organizational policy on the “Right to Disconnect”, aimed at establishing a shared approach to workplace communications that helps workers disengage completely from work outside of core hours and during holidays in a way that promotes well-being and productivity.
  • Be a role model. When managers and leaders support remote working and mimic this behavior, it makes workers much more comfortable requesting access to this form of flexible working.
  • Increase the use of flexible working arrangements among men, which would help to integrate flexible working into the work culture, reduce misconceptions and associated career penalties, and could lead to significant progress towards achieving equality at work.
  • Make sure managers are properly trained and prepared to manage hybrid teams and a hybrid work model. This could include a focus on the ability to support the performance and well-being of workers who work remotely, effective communication, and appropriate use of technology to support collaboration.
  • Develop action plans around hybrid and remote work that prioritize diversity and inclusion, and publicize your hybrid work goals and policies to foster greater transparency and provide a leading example for other organizations. This could include monitoring the uptake of flexible working among staff based on characteristics such as gender, age, disability, sexuality and gender identity, and developing mechanisms to integrate flexibility into the workforce. working arrangements

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