Why Remote Work is the Best Opportunity for Diversity & Inclusion Yet
As someone who loves the comradery of office life, I almost hate to admit that I’ve learned a lot by working remotely. No doubt my employees would say the same. Together, we’ve learned that productivity doesn’t have to suffer with distance. We’ve learned to be accepting of interruptions during calls. We’ve learned that turning your camera on for team meetings boosts morale.
But, even beyond such obvious and practical considerations, I’ve learned something bigger: remote work opens the door to new and transformative opportunities. In fact, more specifically, it creates new opportunities for achieving diversity & inclusion goals—a top priority for nearly all companies today.
How Remote Work Helps Diversity & Inclusion
According to Global Diversity Practice, “diversity” is “the mix and inclusion within your workforce,” while “inclusion” is “getting the mix to work well together.”
In effect, diversity in your workforce is a matter of meeting quotas. That’s something any company can achieve without remote work; it’s just a matter of hiring the candidates who fit your desired profile. Inclusion, however, is where things get tricky.
It’s one thing to hire a certain candidate. It’s another to hire a candidate who works well with your team and propels your business forward.
So how does remote work help companies meet the challenges of both diversity and inclusion? Here are a few things I’ve learned in these past few months:
Remote work helps defeat location bias.
Most Fortune 500 companies are located in areas that have the highest cost of living. Therefore, many candidates who cannot afford to relocate are disqualified for certain positions before they even apply. This problem is known as “location bias.”
Remote work, by eliminating location as a factor, works against this problem. People can choose to stay with their families without limiting their own career advancement.
Remote work opens doors for working mothers.
In a webinar hosted by my company, CEIPAL, earlier this year, an all-female panel discussed how women leaders were responding to the COVID-19 crisis. All panelists agreed that remote work was generally a good thing for women, especially mothers.
Why? Because the work-from-home model enabled them to maximize time with their children without sacrificing their careers. When over 14 million Americans spend +1 hour commuting to work, working mothers are forced to choose between family and career.
Remote work allows these mothers to pursue careers in line with their interests and remain in the workforce, while maintaining fulfilling personal lives.
Remote work helps ensure accessibility.
On average, almost 30% of our workforce today has one or more disabilities. These disabilities can prove real inhibitors to career advancement. Even something as simple as an in-person interview can be a deterrent for someone physically disabled. Whereas for someone physically able, it’s no barrier at all generally speaking.
And that’s not even taking into account non-visible disabilities, which account for about 40% of all disabled workers. While remote work does not magically fix any of these problems, it provides a basic step in the right direction.
There are many stories of disabled employees who see remote work as a major advantage.
The benefits of putting diversity and inclusivity at the center of your business are well documented. Racially and ethnically diverse companies are 36% more likely to outperform their competitors. Gender diverse companies are 25% more likely to have above-average financial returns.
Further, organizations with diverse boards have 95% higher returns on equity than less diverse counterparts.
If remote work helps us achieve the diversity and inclusion balance we’ve been searching for, then I’m all for it. Even if it does make coffee breaks and trips to the proverbial water cooler a little bit lonelier.
Perhaps I’ve reluctantly stumbled onto another one of the very few silver linings of this ongoing pandemic.