Remote work has become popular among big companies for a variety of reasons.
Employees are happier working from home, more productive, and less likely to get sick or take time off.
Companies save money on office space, utilities, and other expenses.
And the number of people who want to telecommute is growing rapidly as technology makes it easier than ever before.
But how does remote work affect diversity in the workplace?
Remote work diversity policies are intended to increase employee diversity. Companies that allow employees to work remotely are able to hire people who may not have been able to hire otherwise due to location restrictions or other circumstances and open new opportunities to those who may not otherwise been a candidate for the position.
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How do remote work policies encourage diversity?
Remote work policies encourage diversity in many ways. This can benefit black workers, Hispanic workers, and other minority workers who are looking to stay home with their families while making a living. Almost 70 percent of businesses are offering a workplace policy that is flexible for their remote employees.
This not only encourages racial diversity, but also applies to those who are people with disabilities. Some people may not be able to work certain jobs due to a physical disability that won’t allow them to fulfill certain requirements (such as lifting a certain amount of weight or more). Even in industries that may be dominated by a certain demographic, the work policies are a welcome change for those who just want to make a living.
Even better, minorities and those with disabilities are taking an opportunity to work for themselves in a remote setting. That’s because their clients and customers will not be so inclined to care whether a person may be a certain race or have a disability. Because they have a need they want fulfilled through a product or service and won’t think twice about who that person is.
How does remote work help diversity?
Remote work is a great opportunity to level the playing field for those who may be considered marginalized. So it would make sense to give people who may have been unheard in the job market a voice. They can be hired for remote opportunities and be able to be part of a diverse team.
With diversity, this can also improve the lifespan of an organization. The opposite would be that an organization will face scrutiny because they have excluded certain types of people. To that end, people will not want to work for an organization nor do business with them.
It’s important that diversity and inclusion should be addressed throughout all companies even if they are a fully remote environment going forward. People deserve to work wherever they want and when they want. This is regardless of their race, creed, sexual orientation, disability, or what may make them considered marginalized compared to others.
Diversity initiatives can also be discussed with your company as your business becomes a remote company. You can incorporate a remote work strategy for those who are interested in working. Inclusive workplaces whether they are remote or in the office are appreciated and are always viewed as positive in the eyes of former employees.
This can help increase your candidate pools when you have more openings available. People move on because of their careers. Some move on due to better opportunities.
But if you treat your employees with respect regardless of who they are, this will make it easier for future employees to consider working for you. Your employee base will speak a lot about your business long after they have left for greener pastures.
Can remote work really improve workplace diversity?
Yes. Remote work can improve workplace diversity. That’s because a lot of people that had worked in an office environment had adjusted to a remote setting. Some companies had adjusted to the point where they will go all remote or in a hybrid setting.
At the same time, the presence of remote work can improve diversity and equity. This means human resources will need to consider being thoughtful about hiring those who may be part of a diverse group. This also includes making their company a culture of inclusion where anyone who is anyone can work so long as they have the right skills and qualifications.
It is important for companies to consider the idea of creating diversity friendly policies and reward those who make referrals for new hires that may be considered ‘marginalized’. So for example, if you refer to someone who may be a minority and is successfully hired, that employee that referred the new hire will be rewarded with a pay bonus.
Remote work environments were made for people who want to showcase their skills and abilities in an environment that may be considered non-traditional. For most, they feel more comfortable working remote as opposed to an office setting.
How can I make my remote work more inclusive?
There are a few ways to make your remote work more inclusive to minorities and marginalized community members. These steps include the following:
- Make everyone welcome: You can hold a welcome meeting for those who have been newly hired by your company. Ask basic questions like how they are doing. Get to know them about who they are, where they are from, and if they have anything fun to share about themselves. This will help you get to know your new hires (and people getting to know their new virtual co-workers). Employee engagement should be encouraged right from the start so people can be aware that the lines of communication are always open. Talk about the benefits of remote work including being a part of an inclusive culture, working a flexible schedule, and having access to an employee resource whenever they need them.
- Do remote mentoring: As an employer, you have a responsibility to serve as a mentor for your employees. Especially if they are looking to advance in their careers in a certain industry your business is in. You can provide this option to all of our employees. Encourage those that no matter who they are, they have a chance at advancing in their desired career path. A remote mentoring program does take some planning, but it doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting for it to take off.
- Discuss the importance of being inclusive: Take time for your employees to learn about being inclusive and how it can be part of their work culture. This includes sharing ideas, practicing active listening, what to say afterwards, and what to say should someone who is facing hostility due to their race, gender, disability, and so on. Inclusion initiatives should also be discussed to ensure a positive inclusive culture going forward. This will also give people an idea to bring in future employees to be part of the work culture.
- Encourage an environment where people are appreciated: This can be a joint responsibility between you and your employees. Make sure you give people the recognition they deserve whenever they have accomplished something. During virtual meetings, mention people who have put in a good amount of work and have made a difference for the company. Reward them accordingly. When you do this, this will make people feel appreciated for their work efforts. Including inclusive workplaces alone will allow people to stay on longer and be productive. The opposite (the lack of inclusion) will lead to a high level of employee turnovers for your company. And that alone may be bad for business. That’s why it is important to consider looking over your diversity policies and see if there and changes that need to be made. This will also help you determine what your inclusion practices should be.
- Allow access to shared resources: Remote teams should have shared resources at their disposal in order to work. Without access, the work won’t be able to get done. If there are some key resources that have to be accessed, make sure they are available to all. Some resources may be designed for upper level management and not lower level employees. If you have a productivity platform that does not allow you to perform certain functions, you may want to consider alternative options. Especially if you are planning on sharing resources with everyone on your team.
- Meet virtually via video with potential hires: Perform job interviews with your prospective employees via video chat. This will not only allow them to know what they look like as a person, but it will give them that personal touch they appreciate. They will feel appreciated and you will be able to determine if they are really willing and able to put in the work you ask them to. For those looking for remote work options, they want to make sure they want to be part of a team that is inclusive and gives them the confidence to stay on for the long haul.
What are the challenges to diversity for working remotely?
In some situations, the promise of remote work might present some serious challenges for some team members.
For instance, isolation can be an issue. Many companies instituted “happy hours” and virtual “coffee breaks” during the pandemic to encourage camaraderie and socialization among team members. But these events were limited by distance.
If you have members of your team who are overseas the timing can be troublesome as the hours of the event could be very inconvenient for those distributed colleagues.
Another challenge for a remote workforce can be lack of resources. A challenge that was revealed in the education system was that not all homes had an internet service that was capable of handling streaming video required for online classes.
And that’s not just limited to the educational system because the reality is that for many talented and gifted people, they may not access to high quality internet service either because of location issues or economic challenges. This is not an issue for a traditional office.
Another part of the resources challenge for some is having a sufficient home office setup. Many people who were sent to work from home during the pandemic had to set up shop at their kitchen table, a counter, a bed, a couch or somewhere else that was less than ideal.
There are several resources and tools that a company should provide for its remote and distributed staff, but even then, challenges in the home may make it difficult if the candidate doesn’t have a solid work from home setup.
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