Curating the week in wellness Feb. 28-March 4, 2022

Why more resources and accountability are needed for DE&I initiatives, and the difference between hybrid and flexible work models.

By Kacey Larsen      
DE&I initiatives and flexible work models

Hello, wellness pros!

We are here today with a collection of thought-provoking articles, tips and takeaways for your week.  

Please get in touch with any ideas, suggestions or feedback on how we can serve you better or cover topics that are top-of-mind at your organization. Email: kaceyl@ragan.com.


1. DE&I initiatives are short on resources and accountability.

In the 2022 Workplace DEI Report by Culture Amp, 81% of respondents reported they believe that DE&I initiatives are beneficial to their organizations, yet only 34% said they have enough resources to support that work. The survey received responses from more than 1.1 million human resource leaders and DE&I practitioners globally from 2,113 organizations.   

While 63% of companies reported hosting DE&I-related events and discussions, only 50% indicated they have a shared DE&I mission statement and only 49% have a strategic diversity plan in place. Those companies are missing necessary steps to create organizational alignment on DE&I, said Aubrey Blanche, senior director of equitable design, product and people at Culture Amp, in an interview with Human Resources Director.

“While many companies believe that DEI is valuable, organizations are often not providing adequate resources or aren’t strategically investing in DEI at the right levels to create significant change,” Blanche says. “This means that companies are largely performing, rather than creating, DEI.”

In a piece for Harvard Business Review, Evelyn R. Carter, PhD, president of Paradigm, suggests that accountability is another challenge to creating lasting change in DE&I. She writes, “Without a framework for measuring and evaluating their efforts, the resolve that many leaders and organizations have shown around improving DEI in recent years will falter when challenges arise.”

Carter has developed a three-part framework for driving better accountability around DE&I that can be applied to hiring, performance management, compensation and retention.

  • Educate: Before telling people what to do, you have to tell them why.
  • Listen: Invite feedback, really listen to it and iterate.
  • Recognize: Celebrate your wins, but nudge those who need it.

2. Hybrid work model is not the same as flexible.

As more and more COVID-19 safety measures begin to roll back, return-to-office and hybrid work arrangements are being outlined and announced at many companies. An Inc. article spotlights Zillow and its flexible work policy—which is not the same as hybrid, it argues.

“I think hybrid was an easy go-to because it represented this in-between state,” says Meghan Reibstein, vice president of project management and flexible work at  Zillow. “Hybrid is kind of ‘faux flexible’ in our minds. It’s this old-school way of thinking about it, where you’ve got to be in sometimes and you can be out sometimes. Flexible is just meant to represent that this is about what you need as an employee.”

A few of the solutions Zillow has adopted as a flexible workplace include:

  • A policy called One Zoom, All Zoom to avoid meetings where some meeting attendees are in person and others join remotely. The company has been experimenting with variations on this policy, like having someone in-person advocating for remote participants to speak.
  • Setting core collaboration hours for group meetings to empower employees to take more ownership over their schedules.
  • A commitment that employees may move out of the office area withoutan impact on their salary.
  • The introduction of a “Z Retreat,” which is people coming together for informal gatherings.    

While this approach will not be feasible for all organizations, Reibstein noted that Zillow’s flexible work arrangement has boosted the number of job applicants. And a recent meQuilibrium Self-Check found that employees rank flexible work location and flexible work schedule among the top four employer actions they find most supportive.

3. Repurpose leftover PTO into other benefits.

Reporting by Employee Benefit News (EBN) finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans have shortened, postponed or cancelled planned time off since March 2020. Clearly the COVID-19 pandemic had something to do with that, but both the blurred lines of work-life and other financial responsibilities likely had a hand in employees leaving paid time off unused.

While some employers have allowed more roll-over or increased flexibility around PTO during the pandemic, employees may be more interested in converting their leftover vacation hours into cash value that can be applied to student loans, emergency funds or retirement funds. The virtual platform PTO Exchange can assist with this, reports EBN, but the larger question around PTO policies in general needs to be addressed.

4. The impacts of age bias.

In a Resume Builder survey of 800 supervisors, business administrators or HR managers, 38% of hiring managers caught themselves reviewing a resume with age bias. Hiring managers identified three main concerns with hiring applicants age 60 and up: lack of experience with technology, likelihood of retirement in the near future and a set way of doing things that may be hard to change.

Survey respondents also identified concerns around hiring applicants who are younger than 25, citing unreliability, lack of experience and the likelihood of leaving the job in a short time as top concerns.

In a Forbes article, Michael North, assistant professor of Management and Organizations at New York University Stern School of Business, suggests that age bias at both ends of the spectrum is often overlooked. He points to equating age with immaturity and inexperience as age bias against younger workers while the succession theory that older workers should leave to make room for younger talent is outdated.

Recognizing the unique skills older and younger workers bring to the table is a positive step toward more equity. Plus, North says considering all-aged talent yields “tangible improvements in retention and productivity, organizational culture and the bottom line.”

5. March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month.

Prevent Blindness, an eye health and safety nonprofit organization, announced it is recognizing March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month. The group is providing resources on proper eye protection and safety glasses for various industries and information about the effects of extended digital screen use.

A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report found there were 15,730 eye injuries involving days away from work in 2020. And the American Optometric Association reports the average American office worker spends seven hours a day on the computer, which puts workers at an increased risk of digital eye strain.

“Practicing eye healthy habits in the workplace today, like wearing proper eye protection and decreasing the amount of screen time whenever possible, can help save our sight now and for years to come,” says Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness.

Whether recognizing Workplace Eye Wellness Month or not, this can be both a reminder and opportunity to review your organization’s vision benefits.