The pandemic was a forcing function that, almost overnight, made flexible working a reality for many employees. Now that the worst effects are behind us, the attempts to return to pre-Covid ways of working – under the guise of “re-establishing connectivity” – have been met with some resistance.
Over the last three years, Getty Images and iStock’s VisualGPS research has tracked people’s attitudes toward work and what this means visually. Since the pandemic, 73% of people globally agree that achieving a better work-life balance has become more of a priority, while 47% believe that companies should offer work flexibility or more permanent remote work.
As more people are now putting themselves first and redefining “success” to be more inclusive of overall health, wellbeing and balance, businesses should consider some of the benefits that hybrid working has already had on employees.
Minority groups are seen and heard
Firstly, hybrid working can help people from minority groups feel less marginalised. I co-chair Getty Images’ Multiculture Network (MCN) Employee Resource Group (ERG), a self-organising community of people from traditionally underrepresented ethnicities or cultures, and members have highlighted that they can’t miss the “watercooler moments” if they weren’t part of the conversation in the first place. For many, being on a group Zoom call has levelled the playing field in a way that office-based meetings haven’t historically done.
Overlaid in the early months of the pandemic was the murder of George Floyd and the traumatic feelings it surfaced in the Black community. Hybrid working has enabled the global community of people of colour to gather, discuss their responses, and speak up in ways that they might not have done if everyone was office based, where the majority are more visible. When done well, it enables greater feelings of inclusion and belonging, vital for collaboration, job satisfaction, and, ultimately, retention.
So, it’s not surprising that employees from minority groups wish to retain hybrid working. McKinsey reports that 85% of those currently working in a hybrid model want to retain it, with those from marginalised groups more likely to be in favour. Of those respondents, 71% would leave if hybrid working were taken away – with marginalised groups more likely to do so.
Improves mental health
Secondly, it can have a positive impact on employees’ mental health. For some, being entirely home-based during the pandemic exacerbated feelings of isolation, but hybrid working offers the best of both worlds; time with other humans and time to recharge. Not everyone is an extrovert and being asked to go to an office five days a week can be stress-inducing for introverted employees.
To be themselves at work, people must feel that they can balance the demands of their home life, whether that’s raising children, managing their wellbeing or caring for sick or elderly family members. With flexible working, employers show they understand their employees are human, that they’re trusted to do the work they are paid to do and are measured on their output, not on their presence in the office.
At Getty Images and iStock, employees can choose to be fully office-based, fully remote or hybrid, and can tailor their hybrid working preference – from one day a week in the office to once a month. Our global leadership has listened to what employees want and has provided it, with employees returning the trust with high performance and engagement. This is evident in our latest annual Employee Engagement Survey scores, which are the highest we have seen.
Authenticity at all levels
At Getty Images and iStock, we enable businesses of all sizes to tell their stories by providing imagery and videos that represent diverse communities and celebrate inclusion. Our focus on creating authentic content is just one articulation of the DE&I principles which are deeply embedded into our workplace culture. It is a work in process, but we are committed to creating a workplace that represents the diversity of our customers around the globe.
If you are thinking about changing your flexible working arrangements or are committed to a hybrid model, ask yourself, how am I already communicating my company’s working policies to employees? And, what changes could I make to show that my business is serious about flexibility for all employees?
Kate Philpot is senior director of global Sales Enablement at Getty Images and iStock