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4 strategies to bridge the gap in achieving D.E.I. through Hybrid Work!


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In my journey as a DEI professional, specializing in employee engagement and fostering positive work environments, I've witnessed the seismic shifts that the working world has undergone. The recent transition to hybrid work arrangements, driven by the pandemic, has sparked a myriad of emotions, experiences and concerns among employees.

Today, I want to delve deep into the matter, sharing personal stories and strategies that can help us build bridges and achieve equity within this evolving landscape.


The Pandemic: A Catalyst For Change

As the pandemic unfolded, organizations swiftly adopted remote work to ensure the safety of their employees. While some embraced this new way of working, others found themselves grappling with challenges. I vividly recall a conversation with Joan, a dedicated Millennial employee and a mother of two. She found solace in working from home, where she could balance her professional responsibilities with caring for her young children and elderly parents. For Joan, this was not just a matter of convenience; it was about survival.


The Return To The Office

With the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions, the return to the office became inevitable. Many employees, like Joan, felt a pang of anxiety as they faced the prospect of leaving behind the newfound flexibility they had come to cherish. As a DEI coach, I encountered individuals who expressed their discontent and frustration, believing that they were being forced into a one-size-fits-all model that didn't consider their unique circumstances.


One of my clients, John, a Gen-Xer with a passion for community engagement, was vocal about his concerns. He argued that if remote work had proven successful during the pandemic, why couldn't it continue? John's commitment to DEI extended beyond the workplace, and he believed that a flexible work arrangement was not only fair but also aligned with his values.


I also met Allison, whose family expanded during Covid-19 with two children and her elderly in-laws who could not live alone anymore. The best solution for her family was to move away from the city to the suburbs to get a bigger house that they could afford. Allison didn’t mind commuting as long as it was only two times a week.


The Hybrid Work Solution

Hybrid work—an exciting compromise that offers numerous possibilities. While it's undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it presents its own set of challenges. 

Understanding that people possess diverse needs and preferences becomes paramount. For those of us who embrace options and forward-thinking solutions, it's essential to recognize that we have the opportunity to shape equitable working conditions by appreciating the freedom to explore creative solutions that encourage flexibility and choice.


As a DEI professional, I believe these four options within hybrid work are crucial for shaping equitable working conditions:

1. Flexible Schedules: Empower employees to control their work hours, enabling better work-life balance and accommodating caregiving responsibilities.

2. Reduced Commute Time: Offer remote work options to reduce commuting, benefiting those who live far away or rely on public transport.

3. Inclusive Meetings: Embrace virtual meetings to ensure equal participation, regardless of physical location.

4. Performance-Based Assessment: Shift toward outcome-based evaluations, leveling the playing field and reducing biases.


These options reflect a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace.


But the enthusiasm for hybrid work is not shared by everyone. I have seen growing resistance from leaders and employees—resistance that comes with any change implementation.


The main objections are:

1. Inequality Worries: There could be issues with access to resources and opportunities as well as productivity concerns such as not being able to control employees' time and work from home.

2. Team Cohesion: Team harmony will decrease, and collaboration will weaken.

3. Bias And Visibility: There can be an "out of sight, out of mind" bias in hybrid models, where remote workers might be overlooked for promotions or key projects.


The role of compassionate leadership becomes evident here. By addressing these objections with empathy, transparency and a commitment to DEI principles, we can navigate the transition to hybrid work while ensuring equitable working conditions for all employees.


Building Bridges Toward Equity

Leaders need to create a work environment that accommodates diverse needs and aspirations. Here are some strategies I recommend:

1. Flexible Policies: Encourage organizations to adopt flexible policies that allow employees to choose their work arrangements based on their individual circumstances.

2. Feedback Mechanisms: Establish feedback mechanisms that give employees a platform to voice their concerns and suggest improvements to get their buy-in.

3. Inclusivity Training: Provide training that fosters inclusivity and empathy among employees and leaders like compassionate and inclusive leadership.

4. Mentoring Programs: These connect experienced employees with younger ones, fostering a culture of support and understanding.


Embracing Diversity And Achieving Equity

In my years of coaching leaders, I've learned that true equity comes from recognizing the unique strengths and challenges of each individual. By offering options rather than imposing procedures, we can empower employees to make choices that align with their needs, not to dictate but to facilitate. We must create an environment where everyone feels seen, heard and valued. Only then can we truly achieve equity in the workplace.


Conclusion

The transition to hybrid work is a journey filled with emotions and complexities. Through empathy and a commitment to equity, we can bridge the divide and create a work environment that truly embraces diversity and belonging. It's not about replicating the past or imposing a single solution—it's about recognizing the beauty of our differences and allowing everyone to flourish.


In the end, it's not just about work; it's about life. It's about enabling Joan to care for her children while pursuing her career; it's about empowering John to engage with his community and advocate for DEI causes; and it’s about Allison living in her dream home with her expanded family. Together, we can build bridges that lead us to a more equitable future.


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My name is Sahar Andrade, I help organizations increase their employee engagement by investing in Diversity/Inclusion practices as well as through Leadership Development Coaching.

I coach successful leaders that are stuck to reinvent their lives with courage, release their fears, get clarity on their purpose and pursue their dreams.


My teachings, my unique education and experience combined with singular approach to realizing change, form a proven system for long lasting positive transformation.


My methodology is based on human psychology, N.L.P. practices and research to break down issues, reverse engineer them, and deconstruct personal myths, while developing personal leadership skills development. It is a simple step by step program, modules, exercises, one on one and group coaching.



This is my TED TALK : Overcoming Negative Thoughts

I am the founder of “Sahar Consulting, LLC” and “Reinvent Yourself to Greatness

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