How hybrid can strengthen your D&I strategy

How hybrid can strengthen your D&I strategy

New perspectives, boosted creativity, deeper customer understanding: the business benefits of a diverse workforce are already well documented. How can hybrid working help your business attract a more diverse array of top talent?

New perspectives, boosted creativity, deeper customer understanding: the business benefits of a diverse workforce are many, and they’re already well documented. A diversity and inclusion strategy has become essential for the modern business, not just because it’s fair, but because everybody stands to gain from it.

Indeed, research shows that the companies that have the greatest racial and ethnic diversity are “35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians” – and that in the UK, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponds with better business performance. With that in mind, many companies are putting thought into how to make their workforce more diverse – and one way, it’s been shown, is to offer hybrid working. 

Why hybrid?

Hybrid working allows businesses to recruit from a more diverse workforce because it breaks down geographical barriers to hiring, allowing companies to hire the right person for the job regardless of their location. As Mark Dixon, CEO of IWG, points out: “[The pandemic] has opened a Pandora’s box and you can’t get everything back in the box again. It changes the geography of a country, it’s about work being able to be done from anywhere, from the Hebrides to the Scilly Isles. The laws that used to apply to business – you get a good job if you commute into London – don’t apply anymore.” That’s applicable to everyone, regardless of their demographic – but research shows that there’s a stronger preference for hybrid working among traditionally underrepresented groups.

Preference for hybrid

Indeed, the research suggests that an employee value proposition with hybrid working will strengthen a diversity and inclusion strategy. In particular, a recent study by McKinsey showed that “employees with disabilities were 11 percent more likely to prefer a hybrid work model than employees without disabilities”. LGBTQ+ employees, too, expressed more of a preference for hybrid work than their heterosexual peers, with 13 percent more likely to prefer it, while non-binary employees were 14% more likely.

This isn’t just a slight preference, either; people feel strongly enough about it that they’d be willing to quit if denied the opportunity for hybrid work. The study showed that, “Of those who prefer hybrid work, 71% say they are likely to look for other opportunities if it is not available where they work now” – but again, there were variations in the strength of these preferences across different demographic groups.

Women showed a stronger preference, being around 10% more likely than men to leave a job if hybrid working were unavailable. Those with disabilities were 14% more likely to do so than those without disabilities, and non-binary employees were 18% more likely than men and women. Black employees were 14% more likely to quit than their white peers, while LGBTQ+ employees were 24% more likely than heterosexual peers. 

Why do people from underrepresented groups feel so strongly about hybrid working?

Many workers developed a taste for working from home during pandemic lockdowns, and as the world has returned to normal and hybrid working comes to the fore, many have been reluctant to part with the greater flexibility and work-life balance this way of working offers. But for people from underrepresented groups, the relief provided by the ability to work from home, or at a satellite office close to home, cannot be underestimated. For example, hybrid working immediately alleviates accessibility issues, with the lack of commuting a particular benefit to those with disabilities. 

By balancing the amount of time spent with colleagues with days spent working at home or in local workspaces, hybrid working can help take away some of the stress for the people in these situations. Hybrid working has much to offer everyone, but the McKinsey research demonstrates that it can have “a disproportionately positive impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, as well as on performance.”

Making hybrid work for everyone

While there was marked variation in the strength of feeling towards hybrid working among different demographic groups, the McKinsey research found that there was one thing all employees agreed on, regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation: hybrid working should be underpinned by a set of inclusion practices. 

Specifically, it identified work-life support, team building and mutual respect as being central to a successful hybrid working policy. Being sensitive to the demands of employees' personal lives, providing opportunities to strengthen trust and collaboration between colleagues and “showing genuine concern for the well-being of all employees” are key to going hybrid – and not only will your employees thank you for it, but your diversity and inclusion strategy will, too.

Discover how IWG can help your company recruit and retain a more diverse workforce, with advice on your workplace strategy and access to 3,500 flexible workspaces worldwide.