How Flexible Work Can Help You Create More Diverse & Inclusive Teams


The days of the traditional 9-to-5 are over, whether that means allowing employees to work from the comfort of their homes or establishing the 4-day work week. And while employees are happy to save the time and money on commuting, the data suggest firms that offer flexible work see a competitive advantage, too.

In a recent study done by International Workplace Group, 84% of businesses in Australia are using flexible working to improve talent retention. What’s more, 88% of respondents in Mexico believe that flexible work can help businesses employ a more diverse range of workers. Additional findings show productivity gains across the board.

Brain science supports the near-global consensus. When companies allow for flexible work, research suggests they maximize their chances of reaping the many benefits of creating a diverse pool of employees, and help everyone feel seen, heard, and valued.

Diverse teams are smarter

At NLI we know from research that when teams are made up of more diverse backgrounds, not only are they smarter, but the bit of discomfort can help teams perform better and stray away from possible groupthink. Indeed, homogeneity is often the enemy of creativity.

How do you introduce diversity to your teams? Take the bias out of hiring. Here at NLI we have a model for mitigating biases called The SEEDS Model®, which stands for Similarity, Experience, Expedience, Distance, and Safety—five broad categories of 150+ unconscious biases.

One of the major biases of the human brain is distance bias; we unconsciously believe that things closer in space or time are better than what’s further away. Is your office in New York City? Don’t pass up the applicant that lives in Chicago just because of their location.

While the idea of having to hire a new employee that’s further away may seem a little threatening at first, consider how their diverse background can add a fresh perspective to your team. After all, what are the chances that the best talent just happens to live within the 20-mile radius to your offices? Flexibility makes room for diversity.

Flexible work is inclusive

Not only do flexible work arrangements open up your pool of applicants; they also help employees to feel more seen and heard, and therefore included.

It’s no shock that work life balance has become a rising need for applicants, especially for younger generations, parents, adults furthering their education, or even the employee that doesn’t want to spend over an hour commuting. When companies offer flexible work, they acknowledge their employees’ individual lives outside of work. And that kind of inclusive thinking is attractive to applicants.

Over 80% of the IWG survey participants said that when deciding between two similar employment offers, they would turn down the one that didn’t offer flexible work. In other words, candidates have come to expect a degree of open-mindedness and inclusivity from their potential employers. Companies that don’t offer this benefit risk missing out on top talent.

Going forward, leaders should think of flexible work as more than just a benefit they can offer their existing employees, but as a way to bring new hires of more diverse backgrounds to their teams.

Author: Ana Vargas

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