No one left behind: How tech must promote inclusivity at work

Balancing the needs of employees in both the virtual and physical workplace. By Chris Lorigan, Surface Portfolio Product Manager, Microsoft UK.

The last two years of working during the pandemic has taught many businesses the importance and value of flexibility and agility when managing their workforce in an ever-changing environment. Managers now have a responsibility to consolidate their learnings from this time and balance the needs of the virtual and physical workplace, to ensure equality and inclusion is front and centre of their operations.

Remotely replicating the office

As the pandemic began and the order came to work from home where possible, many organisations rapidly introduced new devices and collaboration technologies to replicate many aspects of the work they had previously conducted in person. The role of technology in connecting people and enabling collaboration and personal contact became clear. Our devices became our crucial windows to the world, both in our personal lives as well as professionally.

As many people now return to physical workspaces on a hybrid basis, employers must look at how these tools can help support new ways of working – synchronously, asynchronously, some people remote, some in the office. Supporting employee wellbeing, as well as giving them the access to the tools they need to do their jobs well, will be crucial to success. Organisational cultures have adapted to hybrid working and workers must now be empowered to bring their best selves to their work, wherever they may be situated. Choosing the right devices is key to ensuring staff are fully equipped and able to perform their work whether they are in the office, at home, or indeed on the go.

Accessible tech came of age

As interactions between colleagues shifted to video and increased in frequency, differences between employee work styles and needs became apparent. We saw accessible tech come of age, as live AI-enabled transcripts made interactions more accessible, and video platforms made people think harder about turn-taking and inclusive participation in meetings.

In order to support equality and inclusion goals within an organisation, it’s imperative that everyone has the same engaging experience of work – whether they are in an office, have specific accessibility requirements, if they’re working remotely balancing personal commitments or they’re on the frontline, conducting business out in the field.

Restructuring the physical workplace

To ensure that everyone has the same engaging, motivating and positive experience of work, organisations should look at how they can restructure the physical workplace, as well as boost their investment in digital tools. Cloud-enabled AV solutions are one way this can be achieved, by using them to foster a sense of inclusion for all staff. Furthermore, interactive screens can be placed in both meeting and social spaces for enhanced collaboration.

IDC’s Future of Work predictions outlined that by 2025, 90% of new commercial construction and building renovations will use smart facilities technology. This will further support flexible workplaces and better in-office experiences, whilst also encouraging boosts in productivity and performance. Devices will be a core part of the modern workplace with the flexibility and collaboration tools they afford businesses of all sizes, as well as employee experience tools. Developing a future-proof and fully flexible working environment will help to transform the post-pandemic workplace culture, where transparency, collaboration and inclusion are key parts of the culture.

Creating an inclusive culture

Amid talk of the Great Resignation, employees are citing better work-life balance and flexibility, alongside better pay and benefits as reasons for considering a job change. Using technology to promote an inclusive culture is just one way that businesses can be sure to attract and retain top talent, as employee experience, wellbeing and support take centre stage in the new workplace. Alongside this, staff are also looking for the best devices possible to do their work, with 61 per cent of employees reporting that the right device helps them to maintain a healthy work-life balance, by supporting their productivity.

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