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Back to office plans pose diversity challenges

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Companies returning workforces to offices as the coronavirus outbreak eases will need to ensure the plans and processes do not unfairly disadvantage some staff, EY Oceania People Partner Kate Hillman says.

Ms Hillman says an environment where some people are working from home and others are coming into the office could have unintended consequences for diversity and inclusion.

“I am concerned if we move to a hybridised environment that those that spend more time in the office and around the leadership may necessarily develop the relationships that really advantage their career path,” she told a Dive In event today.

“Diversity includes hiring and developing people with disabilities and through COVID this community, and anyone with an underlying health risk, is less likely to be able to come into the office.”

Moves to return to workplaces highlight the importance of managers using technology wisely so staff remain well connected, particularly those that can’t return to offices as soon as others, she says.

Nevertheless, home working arrangements may also level the playing field for employees who face longer commutes when it comes to productivity.

Ms Hillman says telecommuting is typically characterised as people remotely accessing the office, but the reverse is the case, and leaders must respect that employees come from different backgrounds and work in varying circumstances.

“The reality is the office is telecommuting into people’s homes, and that is quite challenging,” she said.

The session on attracting and retaining diverse and high performing talent also focused on inclusive leadership and creating a safe work environment to ensure voices across the organisation are heard.

Ms Hillman says diversity often exists within organisations but remains clearly under-represented at the leadership table.

“Diverse teams that are inclusively led and well managed outperform homogenous teams,” she said.

The three-day Dive In festival, supported by, wraps up today.