Is unconscious bias playing havoc with the work-life balance of your staff? Anecdotal evidence shows it can affect the way jobs are allocated in many workplaces – causing burnout for some and frustration for others.
Unconscious bias comes in to play when managers heap work on the shoulders of a few people, while ignoring the others.
And the worst thing is, as the name suggests, they don’t know they are doing it.
It goes something like this: “Hey, I need this job doing, and it needs to be done fast. I know, I’ll just hand it to John – he always gets things done quickly.”
If there’s too much of this kind of bias, overworked John becomes a victim of his own success while his colleagues suffer from being overlooked and have no chance to prove their skills.
But it’s not just unconscious bias that can cause people to suffer hidden discrimination in their workplace. Access to suitable workspace can be affected by many factors that cause disadvantage to the individual – and not all of them are easily apparent.
So how can you make sure your office is set up to promote equality and equal opportunities for all? We’ve compiled these tips and examples to help.
Case study: Tackling unconscious bias successfully
NFS Technology client Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, a forward-thinking law firm, has changed the way work is allocated in some U.S. offices, following an initiative in the firm’s UK and Europe transactions practice.
A dedicated resource manager will work full time on behalf of partners and alongside associates to find the best ways to allocate work. The resource manager will build up a picture of what associates want to work on, their previous experience, and who they may or may not want to work with.
This also aims to reduce the time partners spend deciding workloads and to ensure the most suitable candidates are used. The process currently covers about 100 associates in BCLP’s corporate and finance teams in London.
“Historically, there has been a stereotype across firms that when a white male partner is allocating work in transactions, it’s often the same person given the same fantastic deals, who is also a white male,” said Simon Beddow, BCLP European regional leader for corporate and finance transactions.
“This [new] process ensures work is really being allocated fairly. The randomness of the old ways of allocating work is removed.
“The old models would mean you might have one person working 15-20 hours a day next to a colleague doing four. Now you can identify where you may need people or have surplus capacity, and maximize productivity.”
4 ways hybrid working is inspiring change for equalityWe applaud the actions of companies such as BCLP, who have the wellbeing of their workers at heart.
Fairer work allocation is not the only positive move that is making offices more equal places to be. Hybrid working – supported by workplace technology – is also driving equal opportunities with:
- More accessible meetings
- Better access to suitable workspace
- Greater opportunities for good collaboration
- More understanding of wellbeing issues
1. More accessible meetings
Booking a hybrid meeting even in multiple locations and time zones has become a far simpler process thanks to workspace software.
The organizer can now use a mobile app to find suitable meeting spaces, invite guests and organize equipment and even catering in a few clicks. The system automatically informs everyone if there’s a change.
Bringing together face-to-face and remote attendees wipes out the inequalities caused by geographical location or mobility so no-one is disadvantaged.
4 tips for better meeting equality:
- Help remote attendees feel comfortable by being sympathetic with technical or broadband difficulties
- Ask in-room attendees not to hold private side-conversations while the meeting is going on – these can make other attendees feel excluded
- Encourage remote attendees to engage by looking directly into their camera
- Create full, equal participation by providing a structure to the meeting, and an agenda beforehand where everyone can see how they will participate.
How to make meeting room booking a cinch
2. Better access to suitable workspace
Some people like a buzz of background noise while they work; others prefer silence. Some like a warmer environment than others. Requiring people to work in less than optimal conditions is not great for productivity – and could even be considered a kind of discrimination.
It’s also a bad idea to ask remote workers to come into the office without the guarantee of the hot desk or meeting space they need.
Workspace technology sorts out this issue by giving staff the ability to find and book the space they need easily, using a mobile app before they make the journey to the office.
The software, such as Rendezvous, can be detailed enough to specify cool or warm environments, and quiet places – and it is incapable of prejudice when allocating workspace. It ensures there is no favouritism in desk allocation.
One recent innovation of meeting room booking and desk booking software is the development of colleague search, so you can work in the same location at the same time as the people you need to collaborate with.
Discover more about hot desk booking software
4 tips for better workspace allocation
- Deploy a workspace booking system so staff can secure their perfect space
- Make it mobile, so they can access it using an app
- Choose a user-friendly system that is easy to use
- Communicate the benefits thoroughly so you get great staff adoption
3. Greater opportunities for good collaboration
Hybrid working has been accused of stifling collaboration – those ‘water cooler’ moments where people just get talking. But Gartner* argues that this is an inadequate method of driving innovation, and says workplaces should be set up to create innovation deliberately with planned and shaped collaboration.
Workplace management technology is a great enabler of collaboration – for instance, the colleague search just mentioned makes it easy to be around the people you need the most. In a hybrid environment, it’s important to co-ordinate time in the office so everyone gains maximum value from it.
Meeting room scheduling gives everyone equal access to colleagues via hybrid meetings, no matter what their location, and creates opportunities for those who might otherwise be excluded from collaboration.
Because it makes setting up a meeting quick and simple, it also removes discrimination against people who do not have much organization time available, or who have no assistant to do it for them.
4 tips for boosting collaboration opportunities
- Give every hybrid worker access to colleague search facilities
- Make every moment in the office count by putting the right people in the right place at the right time
- Provide an app for setting up meetings and informal collaboration sessions
- Giving everyone access to self-service desk and room scheduling removes discrimination
Read more: The power of togetherness in the workplace
4. More understanding of wellbeing issues
This is one of the greatest achievements of the hybrid working revolution. As PwC said recently: “Digital transformation is about people”.
Workplace leaders are developing an empathic approach to management that considers factors that have never been high on their agenda before, taking into consideration human needs for companionship, recognition and teamwork.
Gartner ® states: “HR leaders must create a new, human-centric model that is fit for the hybrid environment by designing work around employee-driven flexibility, intentional collaboration and empathy-based management.”
Equal opportunities extend to all areas of working life, and that includes wellness. While technology in itself does not create wellbeing, managers who use it to gain a deeper understanding of how their staff work can respond to their requirements and make the working day a more seamless and satisfying experience.
The data captured by workplace technology and sensors reveals how space is being used in real time. This enables managers to provide a flexible environment that makes it easy for people to get on with work, reducing stress and frustration in the workplace.
Other technologies such as QR check-in and out of the building, desks and rooms means delays and obstacles are minimized – video conferences can even start automatically when attendees arrive.
It’s all part of creating a good digital experience that – ultimately – is good for talent retention. People who enjoy coming to the office to work with colleagues are less likely to seek a job elsewhere.
4 tips for creating better wellbeing
- Empower your staff by letting them choose where they can work best
- Create a seamless, effortless digital experience when they come to the office
- Make each visit to the workplace worth the journey
- Be an empathic manager who cares about the human side.
It’s time to be an equal opportunities workplaceResponsible technology companies now recognise that their role has evolved a long way simply providing useful software tools for improving operational efficiency.
Luis De Souza, CEO of NFS Technology, says: “Now hybrid working is well-established, many companies like our client BCLP are taking a good look at working practices and implementing forward-thinking changes.
“We understand that our technologies now have a huge role to play in supporting organizations as they create the positive digital experiences at work that drive productivity, wellness and happiness.
“Today’s workforce has been reborn, and workplaces are evolving in response. With trust, collaboration, innovation and wellbeing promoted to the top of the agenda, we can be sure the grown-up workplace is here to stay – and has technology at its heart.”
Gartner ®, Redesigning Work for the Hybrid World: Opportunities for Knowledge Workers, 2021. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission.
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