Remote Work: Creating More Inclusive Workplaces
by Kory Underdown on Jul 19, 2022 12:00:00 AM
Remote companies, whether being a hybrid workplace or “fully distributed,” are part of a growing change in work culture throughout the world. One of the by-products of companies going remote is the growing landscape of diverse and inclusive workspaces.
There are many ways that remote work can foster a more inclusive environment for racial diversity, gender inclusivity, and access for disabled workers.
We spoke with a panel of 4 remote work experts - Jessica Donahue, Kaleem Clarkson, Ali Green, and Rhiannon Payne - to get their insights on the state of remote work now and how these changes will create more inclusive workplaces in the future.
Why Inclusive workspaces matter
Inclusive workplaces are crucial in today’s workforce. A team with more diversity is able to meet a wider range of needs for clients, attack challenges from different perspectives, and feel more comfortable in their day-to-day jobs.
Some other benefits of inclusive workplaces are:
- Higher Innovation: Companies with more diverse teams see 19% more innovation, leading to faster growth and adaptation.
- Diversity = Perspective: Teams that are more diverse have a wider range of perspectives and experiences so they’re better prepared for decision making.
- Meeting Market Needs: When an employee and client share the same ethnicity, they are twice as likely to understand and meet the client’s needs.
- Happiness in Inclusivity: Employees feel safer and more cared for in environments where diversity is a priority.
How does remote work create a more inclusive workspace?
Increases the size of your talent pool
“When you’re location independent you can hire people from all over the place, you have a more diverse applicant pool right away.” - Kaleem Clarkson, Blend Me, Inc.
Remote work gives companies access to a larger talent pool. When hiring nationally or even globally, a company can fill their roles with the best talent available without having to overcome locational challenges such as employee relocation or hiring only within a certain proximity to a headquarters or office.
This allows companies to draw from a larger talent pool, and removes barriers like local demographic challenges to create more inclusive workspaces. If a company is based in a location with a predominantly white population, or the local workforce is mostly male, a remote company can overcome local demographics by expanding their hiring nets to a larger scale.
In San Francisco, one of the largest hubs for company headquarters in the world, only 5.1% of the population is Black or African-American. If these companies only had local demographics to hire from, their workforces would lack a wide range of diversity. Enter: Remote work.
Allows employees to work in safe spaces
Remote work also has a large impact on the feeling of safety, acceptance and even socialization for LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace, who experience additional stressors in the workplace.
Whether it be gender expression, presentation, or sexual orientation, members of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole have found it much easier and safer in remote settings.
Women as well as LGBTQ+ employees also experience less peer-to-peer harassment in a remote setting. They report fewer instances from coworkers implying they should present more masculine or feminine and fewer instances of offensive or derogatory jokes from co-workers.
And with text communication channels like email and Slack, they even feel more empowered to report issues of harassment or bullying to leadership teams.
Improves accessibility for workers with disabilities
Remote environments also improve the accessibility to many of the disabled and chronically ill labor force worldwide. Allowing employees to avoid challenges like accessibility to the location itself, transportation, or adequate resources and accommodations.
In 2021, the employment-population ratio of employed people with disabilities jumped from 17.9 to 19.1 percent according to the U.S. department of labor and continues to climb as more companies see the benefits of a fully distributed workforce.
Reduces the number of “super commuters”
A Super Commuter is a person that commutes more than 90 minutes a day to and from the workplace. Economic factors and cost of living are big influences on restricting the area where a person could find work.
Having to live in a less expensive area can lead to less in-person opportunities for employment. Remote organizations expand the pool of potential jobs and can remove some of the economic strain caused by those tedious and costly commutes.
“[In-person] Companies are still exercising some degree of control over their employees’ lives, saying you have to live in this big city with a high cost of living so you’re close to the office.” - Rhiannon Payne, Author, The Remote Work Era
Helps eliminate proximity bias
Proximity bias, or the act of unconsciously favoring or giving preferential treatment to employees in the immediate vicinity, is also a factor. In the case of a hybrid workforce, this would mean better treatment of employees who choose to work from a central office over those working remotely. In a “fully distributed” environment, this bias can be easily eliminated.
When your workforce is spread out, not everyone is operating in the same time zone, or under the same socio-economic factors. A 4pm meeting organized by someone in Seattle is a 1am meeting for someone in Vienna, Austria. Adjusting to an asynchronous work environment is key in removing proximity bias and diversifying an organization.
“Be intentional about creating a space where asynchronous work comes first and foremost.” - Rhiannon Payne
Improve, Include, Diversify
Remote work breaks down barriers. It removes economic obstacles for people from different backgrounds. It creates safer workplaces for women, LGBTQ+ people and employees from different ethnicities.
A diverse and inclusive team is better equipped to see things from different angles and to tackle a wider variety of challenges. With an ever-growing need to find the best talent in today’s workforce, inclusivity is a necessity and remote work is the answer.
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