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In the run up to this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Conference, we’re sitting down with some of our world class industry speakers for a preview into their session and what they are most looking forward to about the event. Today we are joined by Ian Adams, Director of Membership and Stakeholder Engagement at NHS…

In my fireside chat, I’ll be sharing my personal EDI journey as a senior NHS manager and community activist.  Many employers today are readjusting to new EDI realities in light of their experiences during the covid pandemic.  The pandemic has changed the relationship with workers following the rapid shift to home-working for many staff who were previously fully office-based.  I will be considering the impact of this shift on different groups of workers, given the uneven distribution of costs and benefits due to this.

Lockdown, home-working and (now) hybrid-working have, I think, blurred the boundaries around our multi-faceted self-identities.  Increasingly our ‘professional selves’ have become evident in our homes through seemingly endless work interactions played out on MS Teams or Zoom from our living rooms or kitchens.  Many employers have taken a pragmatic approach to organising for hybrid working, including asking individuals for their preferences of home versus office working in the future.  Some employers have also developed practical guidelines to help ensure that, regardless of location, people in a hybrid meeting are fully included in discussions and decision-making.  This is about smart use of technology and introducing protocols to embrace inclusion of all those taking part in a meeting.

Building on this, I think there’s an opportunity for employers to view hybrid working through the lens of diversity and inclusion.  As an organisation leader, I have learnt a great deal during the pandemic about different individuals’ contrasting situations at home, including the struggles faced by some workers due to the limitations of their physical home-working environments.

Going forward, I think pure homeworking will be rare, despite employers’ and workers’ experiences during the pandemic; younger staff in particular really value contact with their peers and more senior colleagues to help them grow in the workplace and develop their careers.  That said, most employers are not setting rigid attendance targets; my employers now expects staff other than 100% homeworkers to attend their office normally once per week.  When I have attended my office recently, I’ve noticed high levels of informal engagement among staff, which must be a positive outcome from reopening physical workplaces.

That said, employers and workers have much still to learn from the shift to a more hybrid working model, mixing home and office working.  I think it’s incumbent on employers to help managers and their teams to understand when it’s best to be in the office and when to be at home.  What are the particular office-based activities that cannot be undertaken elsewhere?  The behaviour of leaders in this regard is critical, in my experience, not least in setting expectations and helping to establish appropriate boundaries and protocols to support successful hybrid working.

In truth, some elements of this may be easier to establish from the start than other dimensions – not least guarding against unintended consequences of some staff missing out on development opportunities, such as not being invited to work on new projects or in new teams because they are less visible at home.  One final thought – some organisations are encouraging team-based charters, setting out the rationale and related narrative about the benefits of staff working creatively in the physical workplace, and providing reassurance to all staff as we continue to evolve hybrid working models.

Ian will be participating in an exclusive fireside chat at the Diversity and Inclusion Conference on Tuesday 23rd November at 1:40pm – you can register your FREE ticket to the event and catch Ian’s discussion live at the event here

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