How does hybrid working offer a more inclusive environment?

Hybrid working is here to stay, but how can you generate a more inclusive culture and improve mental health?


Autonomy over your life is linked to good mental and physical health. Hybrid and agile ways of working are growing in today’s workplaces because they support wellbeing, resilience, and better mental health.

But what is hybrid and agile working and how can they support a more inclusive work environment?

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working is a type of flexible working. It incorporates different working environments that people split their time between including:

A primary workplace. For example:

  • Office
  • Home office
  • Head office

A remote workplace. For example:

  • Homeworking
  • Satellite office
  • Co-working spaces
  • Any other space you use to do your job

What is agile working?

Agile focuses on work outcomes. It seeks to find the most effective ways to bring the following factors together to complete tasks and projects:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Time
  • Place
  • Connectivity

Agile working removes boundaries often placed between employees and their work objectives. A hybrid environment can enhance an organisation’s ability to focus on work, look after its people and achieve better results.

How does this make my working environment more inclusive?

The more options you can provide automatically removes barriers, increases resilience and supports better mental health. Flexible working has enabled people to re-shift their focus less on the professional working day and more on their personal lives. They have been able to fit more in, get more sleep, spend time with families and take up new hobbies which all contributes to better mental health.

The added stresses of commuting to and from work, wearing the correct office attire and not being able to see friends and loved ones enough have simmered down, and now they not only are able to take full advantage of new ways of working, but also work anywhere in the world. Hybrid and agile can:

Make it easier to recruit and increase your staff retention rates.

Help you build a trust-based culture at work:

  • People feel more able to focus on their work instead of dashing to be ‘present’ at a fixed time or place online or in an office.
  • Focusing on outcomes instead of time, place and method encourages people to deliver the work.

Allow you to provide flexible working patterns that allow:

  • Parents to do the school run or attend daytime school events without worrying about how they will do their job.
  • People to see their GP or deal with life events like moving house or seeing a therapist without having to use holiday or take a sick day.

More easily attract and retain a diverse pool of talent including:

  • Physically disabled people
  • People who live far from the organisation’s office
  • People who are not neurotypical
  • People living with mental health conditions
  • People who are older
  • People who come from a minority ethnic group who would not otherwise apply for a job with your organisation
  • Anyone who wants a better work-life balance

Allow individual teams and project groups to find their best ways to deliver an objective or project.

Lower your sickness and absence rates:

  • Showing trust and offering more working options means people are less likely to experience poor mental health caused by unhealthy levels of stress or burnout.

This sounds great, but how do I convince my organisation to try it?

There are many boards and directors who become entrenched with certain ways of working. This is understandable. If we’re used to a working pattern and environment that works for us, we can struggle to see why the same pattern and environment doesn’t work for everyone.

Here are some ways you can discuss hybrid and agile with your senior leadership teams.

  1. Talk about organisations and companies that successfully practise agile and hybrid working:
    – Unilever
    – TFL
    – Blood Cancer UK
    – The Insights Family
  2. Talk about how poor mental health leads to stress and burnout and how staff wellbeing can be better supported in a hybrid environment.
  3. Explain how hybrid will automatically widen your recruitment net and increase staff retention.
  4. Talk about how switching the cultural focus towards outcomes improves results.
  5. Point to the low sickness and absence rates at companies successfully practising hybrid and agile working.
  6. Explain how much easier it will be to attract and recruit a diverse range of talent, including:
    – Physically disabled workers
    – People living with a mental health condition
    – People from minority ethnic backgrounds
    – Experienced workers and anyone looking for a better work-life balance
    – People who are not neurotypical

Remember that in today’s job market employees are looking for jobs that suit their lifestyle. Attract the best candidates and be an employer of choice.

Remember: one size does not fit all

Hybrid works best when you link it to your organisational values and objectives. How you choose to implement a hybrid culture will depend on what goals and structure your organisation has.

For example:

How can I implement hybrid and agile working in field-based telephone and support roles?

Assume flexibility and invite your team to help you create an environment that helps them deliver work outcomes and supports their wellbeing. You could:

  • Construct a rota system as a team for who will be on telephone support and at what time.
  • Encourage the team to communicate directly and switch shifts when they need to.
  • Encourage the team to provide other support functions (eg. email, online chat etc) in any suitable environment (eg. office, home, remote, mix etc.)

It’s okay to make mistakes

It might take several rounds of testing before you find a system that works for you and your organisation. You will probably make some mistakes, but that’s fine. As long as you learn and build on what you’ve learned, you will succeed.

Hybrid working encourages personal autonomy. Autonomy builds resilience, supports mental health, prevents unhealthy stress and burnout, and helps to create a more inclusive work environment.

A hybrid workplace can be described as the best of both worlds, in relation to psychological safety.

Change should not be forced on the workforce, especially a diverse group of people. Psychological safety requires teams to build a sustainable company culture and commit to looking after this safety.

Organisations need to make an even greater effort to make sure that everyone is treated equally from the start.

Diversity, collaboration, and curiosity are all factors that allow an organisation to thrive. The goal of a team is to bring out the best in everyone and feel comfortable enough to share any gaps in knowledge so that others can help fill them.

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