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Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Hybrid work is making workplace inequality worse

It’s an uneven playing field for promotions during hybrid work: With the option of working from home on the table, employers are labelling in-office workers as higher performers and giving them bigger raises and promotions. Managers are still sticking to the age-old adage that in person workers are more productive, not to mention they feel better when they have their workforce under their nose, writes the Wall Street Journal. The on-site employees are more likely to be assigned bigger projects or have a louder voice in a decision making process, all playing into the end-of-year assessments we all know and hate.

What do the numbers say? A survey of over 4.2k employees by Gartner found that 43% of remote workers and 49% of hybrid workers were highly engaged, compared with 35% of in-office workers, proving that the belief that on-site work is more productive isn’t founded in either data or science.

During lockdown, everyone was equal. When virtual meetings were the norm and the discussion ended once the red end call button was pressed, employees had equal chances to contribute to discussions. But with hybrid work, the red end call button blocks out workers at home, while workers at the office may keep the discussion going, excluding those at home.

This makes people falter when given the choice to work from home… even if it’s better from them: Some 52% workers surveyed by CNBC said that they believe working in person will help their career advancement. 31% of those surveyed said remote and in-person workers will be assessed the same, and only 15% said they believed remote workers were at an advantage. These fears are making employees come back to the office even when it’s not in their best interest — which is the case for many, including parents of young children, and those caring for elderly family members.

Working mothers are among those majorly affected: The pressure on working mothers to concede career advancement and stay home or go into the office and battle with childcare could push the gender disparity in the workforce even further, writes The Guardian.

What should remote workers do to ensure they’re still visible? If you had a tendency to be reserved at the office pre-covid, it’s time to shrug off the shyness and get networking. The more you catch up with your colleagues and managers, the more you’re in the picture even when you’re physically not. It’s also good to establish an “in-office ally” that will remind the group to call you when impromptu discussions pop up. Meanwhile, if you’re going into a new job, a good question to ask is which senior leaders are working from home, giving you a sense of the career paths available for those out of office.

Managers, it’s on you too: The WSJ recommends you don your pjs and try out hybrid work yourself to build empathy for remote workers and understand they’re not on their couch watching Netflix as you slave away. Meanwhile, SHRM says that managers should make an effort to avoid “negative remote work bias,” and should consider whether promotions and raises are being given based on merit, or compliance with a corporate culture of presenteeism.

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