Katharina Cavano l Palladium - Dec 15 2021
Workplace Inclusivity Trends for 2022

If 2021 was spent adjusting to hybrid work environments, then 2022 will be ‘the year companies get to know their people again,’ says Palladium Chief Diversity Officer Rosanna Duncan. In a year plagued with challenges due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, mental health is in the spotlight, especially for employers who are focused on how best to reach and communicate with their workforce.

While for some, working from home hasn’t been tenable, whether due to living situations or personal preferences, many others have found that they prefer it. “It’s going to be even tougher to get people back into the office in 2022,” says Duncan. “This is going to be a big deal for employers, and I’m envisioning a scenario where organisations will need to figure out how to get teams back into the office at all.”

It will be a balancing act, Duncan notes, and employers will be faced with managing the collective anxiety of the workforce, while at the same time ensuring their safety in the office. “It’s going to be a tightrope walk of how to keep the workforce happy and how to keep the productivity levels up, and balancing anxiety levels with the fact that for some organisations if people don’t start coming back, there won’t be a business at all.”

Flexibility will be key, she says, but so will taking the time for employers to get to know their people again. “As we’ve moved towards working from home employers may now be less connected to their people and have less of an understanding of what their people’s needs are – how they like to learn and work. Understanding employees needs and reasonably meeting these needs will be critical for success,” Duncan notes.

Adjusting to the New Normal

For Duncan, this includes understanding the impact this ‘new normal’ has had on people’s mental health.

“Because people are so remote right now mainly working in isolation and not in person, employers will need to examine whether they’re picking up on or missing signs that they would normally detect if they were working together in an office, and if not, how they can put the support systems in place so that they do,” she adds.

According to Duncan, the act of getting to know the workforce must include an awareness of their people’s physical and psychological needs. This will be especially important if people are not ready to return the office.

Getting to know their people will mean that organisations will be able to make any necessary adjustments and provide appropriate support. A recent study revealed that only 39 percent of employees with disabilities have actually disclosed them to their manager, but for many with ‘invisible’ disabilities that include depression or other mental health conditions, unless employees share this information it’s not possible for managers or teams to know.

“Fostering an open culture where employees feel safe and supported to share invisible disabilities will be critical moving forward, especially as remote working continues and it’s harder for managers to pick up on warning signs,” Duncan adds.

Even before COVID-19, companies had a responsibility to support the mental health of their employees, but with an increased focus on a sustainable and safe return to work plan, employers must also ensure there are support systems in place for taking care of employee mental health.

“Organisations have a key role to play in building stronger economies and more inclusive societies, and that must begin internally with their own people.” Duncan notes that the companies that embrace flexibility, foster an inclusive and open culture, and support employees and teams with a fit-for-purpose work environment and work-life balance will be the winners in 2022.

“We’re moving into an exciting period where now more than ever, employers must listen to their employees and vice versa, and it’s going to hopefully create a far more productive work environment.”

For more information, contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com.