Diversity-Friendly Work Approaches in the Post-Pandemic Workplace - Ideas for Leaders
Idea #852

Diversity-Friendly Work Approaches in the Post-Pandemic Workplace

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


A new framework from the Women in Banking and Finance advocacy group in partnership with the London School of Economics highlights areas of focus to ensure diversity and inclusion in the evolving post-pandemic workplace.


In November 2020, the advocacy group Women in Banking and Finance launched a four-year research program, entitled Accelerating Change Together, to address gender and diversity issues in the financial and professional services sectors. WIBF commissioned the London School of Economics The Inclusion Initiative, led by LSE Prof. Grace Lordan, to conduct research on its behalf. Lordan’s first report, which presented a framework of 10 themes and corresponding action items for building more inclusive financial and professional services firms, was covered by Ideas for Leaders in Idea #802, “Success Keys for Women in the Finance Sector” (see further reading below).

In the second report to emerge from LSE and WIBF’s collaboration, Lordan and her LSE colleagues Jasmine Virhia and Yolanda Blavo focus on the pandemic-accelerated reconsideration of different ways of working—including remotely, in the office, or a hybrid arrangement. This report introduces the UTOPIA framework, whose acronyms stand for five sets of actions to guide financial and professional services firms in embracing diversity, inclusion, and the advancement of women while continuing to explore optimal and productive working arrangements. The research is based on interviews with 100 women and men in the financial sector, ranging from entry-level to C-suite executives.

The five elements of the UTOPIA framework are as follows:

Umbrella diversity: The diversity identification of individuals is often restricted to one dimension (e.g., African American, woman, etc.). In fact, an individual’s diversity can include many dimensions, both visible and invisible.

Trust and the Organization of Work: No one-size-fits-all solution will succeed as the optimal organization of work in a firm. Leaders should work with managers and employees to find work arrangement solutions at the team, function, and firm levels.

Productivity: Output is the true measure of productivity—not simply being present in the office.

Ill-Being: Rather than focus on well-being and happiness, firms need to focus on preventing ill-being in the workplace, such as high stress, overwork, and burnout.

Antecedent: The UTOPIA framework is intended to guide firms through a post-pandemic transition phase. Firms should build on this framework to look forward to a more fundamental reorganization of work.


For each of the five UTOPIA elements described above, the report offers specific action steps for organizations and their leaders, including the following:

  • Umbrella diversity: Ask employees in routine surveys to declare which dimensions of diversity they identify with; to ensure inclusive leadership, audit diversity at the team level, using not only data but also self-reported perceptions by team members of discrimination endured; promote women into senior leadership roles; offer inclusive leadership training.
  • Trust and the Organization of Work: Experiment with different approaches to the organization of work; build team cohesion; enable employees to take time off to manage major life events or take a break from work.
  • Productivity: Lay out for employees detailed productivity expectations, focusing on output vs. presenteeism; encourage team members to audit their productivity based on clear definitions offered by the firm.
  • Ill-Being: Focus on monitoring ill-being rather than well-being; review and improve HR systems to ensure lower levels of ill-being; ensure employee psychological safety.
  • Antecedent: Reflect on how the organization of work will be changing after the current post-pandemic adjustments are finalized; begin exploring alternatives such as the creation of a “virtual campus” through which physical aspects of an office, such as informal chats or group activities, are recreated digitally—ensuring that a virtual campus does not lead to discrimination or exclusion.

Promoting diversity in the evolving post-pandemic workplace is a multi-faceted and complex undertaking. Focusing on the financial sector, the UTOPIA framework identifies five areas in which financial services firms can take action—in the process, offering a template for companies in other sectors.



Jasmine Virhia’s profile at the London School of Economics

Yolanda Blavo’s profile at the London School of Economics

Grace Lordan’s profile at the London School of Economics


Further Reading (in CMS: References)

100 Diverse Voices: A framework for the future of work in financial and professional services. Jasmine Virhia, Yolanda Blavo, and Grace Lordan. Woman in Banking and Finance Research Report (November 2022).

Success Keys for Women in the Finance Sector. Ideas for Leaders.

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Idea conceived

November 10, 2022

Idea posted

May 2023
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