The link between a company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy and its remote work policies may not be blatantly visible, but the two are definitely interconnected.
Here are a few ways on how promoting remote work can impact a company’s DEI numbers.
Hire from around the country
With an option to work remotely, candidates can be sourced from all over the country. There is a shift in recruitment parameters from location-based hiring to capability-based hiring. Candidates from underrepresented minorities receive an opportunity to apply for jobs irrespective of their location: such unbiased hiring directly reflects into the diversity of the workforce.
Safeguard against microaggressions
Microaggressions are unintentional remarks passed by employees while interacting with some groups, such as women or colleagues belonging to non-White ethnicities. Responding to comments on physical appearance, accents, and cultural differences, though not meant to be hurtful, can be frustrating for minority groups and can lead to less productive work environments. Remote work shields them from such microaggressions and increases their productivity as they are able to focus without the fear of judgment or confrontation. This freedom can attract diverse talent thereby improving the overall diversity of the workforce.
Build virtual communities
Different physical locations of offices is a deterrent when planning events and activities for all employees. A remote work policy coupled with the right Employee Resource Group (ERG) management software would solve this problem, promoting a sense of community and belonging. Virtual events, which would be open for all to attend, would let employees in different parts of the world come together to share their challenges and interests - women at the workplace, Black communities, LGBTQ members and allies, veterans, and so on.
Empower those with disabilities
Flexible working policies present a great support for those suffering from visible and invisible disabilities. Physically getting to work everyday can be quite exhausting for those with physical disabilities; even when equipped with the right facilities, navigating a workplace that was designed for able-bodied employees can be taxing. . Remote work could also boost the productivity of those with invisible disabilities such as mental health or other medical conditions as they need not put on a brave face to blend in physically with their colleagues.
To keep a check on the efficacy of remote work and flexible working options, the following checks and balances can be put into place.
Managers should be trained to overcome proximity bias by learning to evaluate those who work remotely fairly. In this system, it is crucial that promotions and general career progression of remote workers is not hampered because their colleagues choose to work from the office, getting more face time with the common managers. A 360-degree feedback system will highlight such biases and empower remote workers to advocate against any favoritism they observe.
Measure remote work efficacy
Some companies are assigning the task of managing remote and hybrid work to newly created designations such as ‘Head of Hybrid Work Effectiveness.’ Others are assigning it as an additional responsibility to diversity teams. These individuals create and govern policies and practices for efficient remote work management while also handling grievances. They also ensure all employees have upgraded softwares and any other support for seamless interaction.
With companies like Airbnb, Meta, Lyft, SAP, and many others offering permanent remote or hybrid work options, employees are bound to gravitate towards places that save the time, energy and monetary resources of commuting long hours and sacrificing time with loved ones. At the end of the day, if a company wishes to have a diverse workforce where employees feel safe, respected and understood, they will have to explore and adopt flexible working practices.