Going hybrid might harm diversity at work through unfair promotions

As companies shift to hybrid working models, leaders need to rethink how they can offer remote employees fair promotion opportunities.

Whether or not we like it, promotions in the workplace are often given out on more than performance and skills alone. As managers cannot have full visibility on what their team members do and how they perform, their judgment is imperfect. Therefore, they make promotion decisions not based on performance but based on perceived performance: how well an employee has been able to communicate or highlight their performance and their skills. Visibility plays a crucial role in how we are perceived. Without visibility, employees don’t have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills

The issue is that in hybrid environments, some people will go into the office more often or at more strategic moments than others, thereby increasing their visibility and opportunities to demonstrate their work and skills. Employees who stay home will have less such opportunities. With less facetime opportunities, they are basically forgotten about.

There is strong reason to believe that this will ultimately worsen diversity of leadership positions.

If you let people choose whether or not they come to the office, what could happen is that you indirectly favor young single many from affluent backgrounds? For example:

  • People with disabilities will favor working from home, as they won’t have to go through unadapted commuting and office facilities. They can build their optimal work setup at home
  • People with children (and in particular women) will sacrifice their office time for more flexibility to take care for their family
  • People from lower socio-economic backgrounds, often living further away from the city center and office, will have longer commutes and prefer to optimize their time by working from home more often

As a result, these people, who today already often need to prove themselves more than their colleagues to get promoted and break glass ceilings, will face even tougher times in a hybrid environment.

So what can organizations do?

There a two levers leaders can pull to provide people better or equal visibility.

First, they can make sure everyone gets the same in-person office time. By forcing people to come into the office a set number of days every week/month, or even to all come in on the same days, everyone gets the same facetime.

Second, leaders can create more relationship-building moments online, that both in-person and remote employees can attend.

Please reach out to discuss how iungo ( can help you. iungo allows you to meet and connect with people within your organization through live randomized 1-on-1 video conversations . We offer employees in distributed and remote teams the opportunity to stay socially connected.