How to be inclusive in the hybrid workplace of 2022

The past two years forced millions of people and organizations around the world into hybrid virtual work, many for the first time. New global research from McKinsey & Company reinforces the notion that hybrid work is here to stay. However, there are implications for organizations and managers on how to create an inclusive workplace with fewer to no in-person interactions.

McKinsey's research, which surveyed 1,345 respondents across three continents, including North America, Europe, and Australia, explores how to fit hybrid work models into corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies. Despite such popular support for hybrid work, the employee experience with this model has varied greatly in terms of feeling included. For some traditionally underrepresented identities, this variability is exacerbated.

Here is a deeper look into key findings from the report and insights on how to be inclusive in the hybrid workplace of 2022. 

There are clear benefits of inclusion in the workplace 

Having an inclusive culture in general is a competitive advantage for organizations who want to attract and retain top talent. McKinsey found a 47% increased likelihood of employees staying with an organization if it was inclusive. In some of the best examples of diversity and inclusion in the workplace reflected by the survey responses, employees were 90% more likely to go out of their way to help a colleague if they worked in an inclusive organization. Employees were also seven times more likely to consider their organization as high-performing if it was inclusive. (LRN has great DEI learning on how to be an inclusive in the workplace.) 

Employees want hybrid work, though it has pros and cons to promoting diversity and inclusion 

McKinsey found that more than four out five respondents who worked in hybrid models over the past two years preferred retaining them going forward. At the same time, the hybrid work experience has varied greatly for employees in key areas such as feeling a sense of inclusion and having a healthy work–life balance. 

  • The pros: Hybrid work can potentially offer higher level of flexibility, a better work-life balance, and a more tailored employee experience. These attributes can all serve to create a positive impact on DEI efforts, as well as on performance.  
  • The cons: Unfortunately, hybrid work also has the potential to create an unequal playing field, amplifying in-group vs. out-group dynamics, which can turn these advantages into liabilities. Workplaces that are already challenged to diversify and to retain employees often find that providing an ill-conceived hybrid work model could have a negative impact on performance by speeding departures, decreasing inclusion, and harming the overall performance of the team. 

In spite of the variability of hybrid work, employees appear unwilling to let the concept go. McKinsey's survey revealed that 75% of all respondents said that they prefer a hybrid working model—a significant increase over the 47% of respondents who preferred this working model before the pandemic. This strong preference means that the onus is on employers for building inclusive workplaces that account for a hybrid environment. 

Employee identity, tenure, and experience impact preference for a hybrid workplace 

Of employees currently working in a hybrid model, 85% want the option to continue working remotely. Some traditionally underrepresented groups demonstrated an even stronger performance for hybrid work: 

  • Employees with disabilities were 11% more likely to prefer a hybrid work model than employees without disabilities. 
  • More than 70% of men and women expressed strong preferences for hybrid work, but nonbinary employees were 14% more likely to prefer it. 
  • LGBTQ+ employees were 13% more likely to prefer hybrid work than their heterosexual peers. 

In addition, several demographic groups that preferred hybrid work were more like to say they would leave their current employer if a hybrid option wasn’t available. For example: 

  • Younger employees (18–34 years old) were 59% more likely to leave than older ones (55–64 years old).  
  • Black employees were 14% more likely than their white peers.  
  • LGBTQ+ employees were 24% more likely to leave than their heterosexual colleagues. 
  • Women were approximately 10% more likely than men, and employees who identify as nonbinary were 18% more likely than men and women.  
  • Employees with disabilities were 14% more likely to leave than employees without them. 

For managers and leaders who are promoting diversity and inclusion, these examples highlight a possible benefit of implementing hybrid work models. If an employee is nervous to share parts of their identity because of stigma—even if their employer is working to change the culture—having a hybrid work environment can relieve some of the strain and help them feel more comfortable expressing themselves.  

How to build inclusion into the hybrid workplace 

To test the workplace models that employees desire, McKinsey asked survey respondents which scientifically validated inclusion practices they wanted their organizations to work hardest to improve as part of a hybrid work model. A clear consensus for three key practices emerged across all demographic groups on how to be inclusive in the workplace: work–life support, team building, and mutual respect. (LRN’s DEI curriculum also covers these topics.) 

  • Work-life support involves demonstrating appreciation for the demands, interests, and responsibilities that the employee has outside of work. Nearly half of respondents recommended prioritizing policies that support flexibility, including extended parental leave, flexible hours, sick leave, and work-from-home options.  
  • Team building includes activities that foster trust, collaboration, and healthy conflict among team members. Respondents recommended three ways employers could improve team building within the organization, including: encouraging employees to know one another and the work process of coworkers; creating buddy systems; and coaching employees through effective conflict management. 
  • Mutual respect involves showing concern for the well-being of all employees and demonstrating a commitment to treating each other with fairness and respect. Respondents believed this can be accomplished by fostering a culture that encourages employees to learn with and from each other, reframe mistakes as opportunities to improve, and celebrate contributions. 

The key takeaway 

With many employees now preferring—and even insisting—on a hybrid model, managers must take important steps to ensure that their remote work policy promotes inclusivity in order to attract and retain top-level talent. If you are actively working toward a more inclusive workplace, you need a DEI curriculum that sustains the conversation around workplace inclusion beyond one-time training. To get started, explore LRN’s DEI curriculum for free. It’s one part of a comprehensive and inspiring DEI program to help create a more empathetic and inclusive workplace.