How to break bias in the hybrid work environment

Unconscious bias can have a very negative impact on the opportunities that some people experience (or don’t experience) in an office environment - as well as organizational performance. This is something that often affects the experience that women have in an office environment, and many have reported that this has become even more challenging with new hybrid working models. Perception problems extend to the way that organizations and employees see how much effort is being made to tackle issues like this - in a recent survey by catalyst 65% of leaders said they felt they were addressing inequalities created by the pandemic but only 44% of employees agreed.

Breaking bias benefits everyone

New hybrid working environments have created plenty of issues for women. Mansplaining, being interrupted, talked over or ignored are experiences that many report as a result of virtual meetings, for example. Caring burdens increased during the pandemic and often fell more to women, whether that was homeschooling or caring for sick relatives. This led to false assumptions being made about women’s priorities in the workplace and potential for progression in the business. This directly affects women in the workplace, but can also have a wide range of other negative impacts too, so what can you do about it? 

  • Ensure that virtual meeting environments are fully inclusive. 45% of women in leadership roles find it difficult to speak up in virtual meetings. There are a number of steps any business can take to improve virtual meeting environments so they are not being dominated by a few loud voices. Make sure tech is working properly so there are no delays, for example, and send materials out in advance to give everyone time to consider them. Have a facilitator who individually asks for everyone’s contribution so that no one is missed out.

  • Create an inclusive team environment. Leaders need to keep communication channels open, especially when it comes to ensuring that all team members understand the contribution being made by everyone in the team. Clear boundaries are important too - demonstrating that the team does not need to be permanently available and ‘on.’

  • Acknowledge the ‘unpaid labor’ that women carry. Women still take on more domestic responsibilities than men and this was exacerbated during the pandemic. Working mothers face more bias and barriers than working fathers and are much more likely to need time and flexibility to deal with additional responsibilities. Make sure your business’ policies and processes don’t automatically exclude women or lead to negative assumptions about productivity that are likely to be incorrect.

  • Look out for the ways in which hybrid working has created bias. This means ensuring that people working remotely (more often women) have the same opportunities for advancement and visibility. Transparency over pay is vital too, especially as one study found that men working remotely received a pay increase twice as often as women working remotely.

  • Get to know your team. It’s essential for managers to stay in touch with team members in a hybrid working environment, to ensure they are on track with goals, that concerns are being heard and any performance issues are tackled straight away. 

The pandemic has meant that unconscious bias has been able to creep into hybrid working environments. For those organizations serious about inclusion - and performance - it’s vital to take steps to break this moving forward.

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