The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.
Australian Chief Minister Award winner
“excellence of making inclusion happen”
The COVID-19 crisis has been a challenging time, however, there have been surprising positives. With more employees working from home, companies have been able to tap into diversity in new ways.
Through the pandemic, we’ve seen new attitudes being created towards flexible working. This is an opportunity for businesses to diversify their workforces and will open up jobs for those who aren’t able to adhere to the nine-to-five, or who can’t commute to a major city each day.
With businesses embracing flexibility, one of the changes we can expect is to see more women, in jobs that would previously have required them to be in the office and working traditional hours. For a long time, many women returning to work after maternity leave have been forced to reduce their hours or change roles to balance their new caretaking duties with work – a decision that often impacts career progression. Increased remote working and improved flexibility will see more roles offering these ways of working, in turn, giving mothers more optionality when it comes to managing careers and their families.
Alongside the acceptance of remote working and perhaps a core part of it, is the movement towards managing staff by outcome rather than by input. It’s no longer about working a set number of hours, at a set time – but about what you produce and the outcome you generate. Managing by outcome will also benefit working parents as they will be able to fit their workload around their family commitments – school pick-ups and drops offs. Parents can make use of early mornings or evenings, and capitalise on the saved commute time.
The coronavirus pandemic has also prompted organisations to implement new measures to better support parents. At Skills and Thrills, we’ve introduced bespoke care programs that many corporates have been taking advantage of to keep kids busy and ensure parents can focus on their work. The programs are live-streamed with tutors who run each workshop and interact with the kids at home, and activities are all skills-based and engaging.
This new attitude toward flexibility post-COVID-19 will also increase accessibility for other groups, including those who live in regional rural areas and people with a disability.
Rural and Regional areas are known for a strong sense of community and lower cost of living, however, there are a range of barriers to securing higher-paying stable employment for rural workers, who live outside major cities and towns These include long commutes, lack of jobs in their area of interest and less high paying professional jobs. Remote working effectively increases higher-paying employment opportunities for people living in rural areas. Corporates who historically only employ staff near their city hub, will expand their recruitment searches to include more remote areas.
The post coronavirus workplace also has benefits for people with a disability, who often face challenges in the workplace. The most obvious advantage is the increased acceptance of remote work. Travelling to work can be a stressful process, for those with both physical and mental disabilities. Working from home means the environment is already designed with the needs of the individual, maximising productivity and job satisfaction. This is an empowering experience, as employees are recognised for their skills rather than their disability.
With workplaces increasingly becoming more flexible, the focus is increasingly on skills and the ability to deliver results. As we enter the new normal, let’s hope businesses continue to shift in this direction, opening the door to a wider pool of talent, and creating a future workforce that supports greater diversity.