TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Leslie Tarnacki, senior vice president of global human resources for WorkForce Software, about workplace equity with hybrid work schedules. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

SEE: IT expense reimbursement policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Karen Roby: The word hybrid, hybrid work, that is something that we really didn’t talk much about before the pandemic, and now it’s just part of our everyday conversation. Do you work from home or are you fully remote? Are you hybrid? Are you in the office? There are so many combinations now, and I think a lot of people now that we’re settling into what our future might look like at individual companies, there’s always concern about, “Well, if I’m in the office or I’m not in the office, do I have access? Am I going to be treated the same?” How big of a concern is that for employees and for companies to make sure they’re balancing it right?

Leslie Tarnacki: I think it’s a concern for both, certainly, for employees, because as you say, I mean, this pandemic threw everything on its side. So ,we’re learning that the workplace is in evolution and we’re stepping up and doing things to pivot and address it as we need to. I think that, for employees, it’s a concern because you want to make sure that you’re treated equitably, and you want to make sure that if you’re an employee that chooses to work remotely more often than reporting to the office, that you still have the same opportunity, you still have the same access to your manager, you still have the same access to human resources, you still have the same access to all resources, candidly. I mean, all technology and all content and things that you need to be successful and do your job, but also are still considered at the same level for opportunities for advancement and training and development and things that very naturally when people are in the office and visible and seeing people every day tend to more easily assume that are there for them.

And for companies, I think that’s a concern because companies need to understand that they need to invest in the technology that is there for everyone across the board at this point. So, not just those people in the office, but people that are remote and working virtually part of the time have the exact same technology and resources that everyone in the office has that companies need to also be able to train their leaders and managers to deal with a hybrid workforce. How do you make sure that you’re balancing team meetings and everything that’s happening on a daily basis so that everyone is treated the same way?

Karen Roby: Everyone was rushed home to get them all out of the office, and then as people have trickled back and I think companies are still trying to figure out what their policies will be and what makes the most sense depending on their type of company and industry, but I do see where employees would have that feeling of, “Well, I want to choose this hybrid option or this remote option, but I’m scared that if I’m not physically in the building and there where the leaders of the company can see me more often that I am not going to have the same opportunities.” I can certainly see where that would be a real concern.

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids’ education is a mammoth task. Here’s how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Leslie Tarnacki: Yeah, it is a valid concern. And, really, it comes down to, the leadership in the company needs to make sure that they are reinforcing this inclusive environment. I think that it’s important from the executive team on down to really make sure that there’s a foundational awareness that there’s a full commitment to supporting employees regardless of where they are in the world. That’s easier said than done. And, again, it comes back to training and making sure that you’re ensuring these leaders are empathetic and understand that it’s absolutely crucial that employees are provided everything they need for their success. It’s also really important that companies are regularly assessing and checking in with employees and evaluating, and then pivoting accordingly. If remote employees aren’t feeling like they’re getting what they need, then fixing that as quickly as possible, because this really is the new way that companies are going to work.

Karen Roby: I remember, Leslie, I think it was about probably three or four months into the pandemic when we were all pretty much still on lockdown. I did an interview with someone about the changing relationship and the need to have a relationship between human resources and those in the C-suite, especially those involved in tech decisions, CTOs, CISOs, CIOs, etc. Do you see those relationships evolving more now with human resources because of the changes we’ve had to make?

Leslie Tarnacki: Absolutely. In fact, there’s no question there’s been. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have always had very strong collaboration across the board, but I think more than ever in my human resources collaboration with IT, and really cross-functionally across the board, but making sure that we’re in lock-step to ensure that everyone has the technology that they need to be successful regardless of where they are.

Karen Roby: When you talk about some of the technology that’s available and that needs to be in place, you’re talking about things like the video conferencing. I mean, all of that needs to be a priority.

Leslie Tarnacki: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, there’s no question. There’s so much value. In fact, just stepping back for a minute, I almost chuckle because we were forced into this huge pivot about a year and a half ago and I thought it was so interesting that suddenly there was almost more collaboration over video conferencing that we were having with employees and with different departments than there were when we were physically in the building with them. It was just such a unique phenomenon, and I see that continuing and that trend, out of necessity, will continue because we need to make sure that we have that connection.

SEE: Burned out on burnout: Companies may be trying too hard to ease employee stress (TechRepublic)

Karen Roby: Wrapping up here, Leslie, this setup and this way of working, it’s not going away. This is what we’re looking towards down the road. If you had to look, let’s just say even not too far, even just two years down the road, how do you see this time period we’ve been in? How do you see it really shaping us for the future?

Leslie Tarnacki: I think it’s about flexibility. It’s about work-life balance, which is so critical to everyone these days. I mean, that’s almost the number one thing that you see and hear from people looking to make a job change, and this hybrid work environment really provides and supports that. I think that two years down the road, we’re going to see this trend continuing. I mean, I wouldn’t even call it a trend at this point. I would call it a necessity because for any business to maintain the level of productivity and execution that they want to have to be successful, they need to have this set up or they won’t be able to attract the talent or keep the talent that they have. It’s going to be important.

Karen Roby: Leslie, I would certainly think that, especially talking about tech specifically where we have so many open positions and the supply and demand doesn’t match up, I would certainly think when people are interviewing with these companies, they’re going to be asking those questions. “What can you provide to me to make sure I’m in the conversation and I’m not left out because I want to work from home?”

Leslie Tarnacki: One-hundred percent. Yeah, those are going to be on the forefront of what candidates are looking for and what companies need to offer. I mean, here we have these resources and this technology to support you in this type of form and making sure that you’re onboarded effectively and you know that you’re very much part of a collaborative cohesive team, and we’re dedicated to you and making sure that you recognize that and have what you need to be successful and advance your career with us.

Subscribe to TechRepublic’s YouTube channel for all the latest tech information and advice for business pros.

Image: WD Stock Photos/Shutterstock