The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) defines equity in the workplace as “identifying and working to eliminate barriers to fair treatment for disadvantaged groups. Effecting change through an equity lens generally requires an understanding that the societal systems in which we currently work are not equitable and that those inequities are reflected in our organisations.”
Dedicated policies around workplace expectations, equal access to technology and professional development opportunities, and transparency starting with leadership teams all lead to more equitable workplaces. Equitable workplaces are better places to work for everyone, and lead to improved employee engagement, lower turnover rates, higher job satisfaction, and overall happier employees.
In hybrid and flexible workplaces, equity can look like:
1. Examine and restructure workplace design
If in-office employees have a different experience than remote employees, it can lead to miscommunication and tension between team members. Examine the design of the workplace and entire real estate portfolio, including which workplace networks people are using.
What is a workplace network?
A workplace network is any work area or system your employees choose to work from. This can include home offices, corporate office spaces, co-working spaces, coffee shops, or shared houses.
Think about the following — are all employees able to get to the office easily? Is there parking or access to public transportation? Are there spaces for nursing mothers to use to pump? How about dining options for those who commute for the full day? Are there quiet areas for private calls? All of these influence employee comfort and overall equity and inclusion.
“Companies that are dedicated to equity must be equipped to continuously adapt to changing workplace expectations by constantly revisiting their workplace strategy.”
2. Conduct leadership training sessions
Many leaders are likely unfamiliar with the details of an equitable workplace, and require training to understand micro aggressions, unconscious bias, and barriers to true equity. People managers and leaders may not understand the butterfly effect of decisions like allowing a team member to work from another country for a month, or move to another state. However, by working with legal, HR, and leadership teams, they can present employee needs and determine a fair decision that the whole company can support.
“For workplace strategy leaders to succeed, they need to align work expectations with HR or People Ops. Changes to workplace policies may have legal ramifications, or lead to inequality based on country or job role.”
3. Gather employee sentiments through frequent 1-1 meetings and group feedback sessions
Employees may be resistant to change at first. However, by conducting small group feedback sessions throughout the process and using 1-1 meetings with those who will be most impacted by changes, you can ensure that the workplace meets everyone’s individual needs and provides an equitable environment. When employees are involved in the decision - making and planning process, they can help design spaces they will use and feel comfortable in, which helps to attract others with similar preferences or needs to the company.