The sudden outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic brought about an overnight pivot to remote work for organisations worldwide. The shift to 100% remote work arrangements unsettled organisations, giving way to scepticism about employee productivity, engagement and inclusivity, among others.
Two years later, work from home has yielded massive windfalls in terms of employee productivity, satisfaction and workplace environment. The mass disruption induced by the pandemic compelled organisations to reset team dynamics that catalyzed diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI) efforts.
During this time of crisis, numerous companies capitalised on remote and hybrid work models to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace environment. The benefits that followed range from access to wider talent pools to greater internal efficiencies. By adopting a remote-first mindset, organisations can create a greater workplace environment that meets the needs of different marginalised groups and makes them feel included.
Removing barriers to entry for diverse groups
Remote work options allow employees belonging to diverse groups tasked with primary family care responsibilities such as single parents and women to enter the workforce. Millions of women left the workforce in droves during the pandemic due to parenting and caretaking challenges. But with remote work, the time away from home and that lost in daily commute is removed, making it easier for people to balance family and work. Around 68% of women express a strong desire to continue working remotely even after the pandemic subsides. Remote work enables organisations to include such diverse groups in the workforce.
Opportunities to hire & retain diverse talent
Until the advent of remote work, an organisation’s workforce was concentrated around the geographical footprint of the company office. Accordingly, the local talent was not particularly diverse and recruiters were unable to source underrepresented candidates. Now, remote work removes geographical barriers and enables organisations to eliminate location bias and relocation costs from hiring and retention. Remote work options allow recruiters to cast a wider net and hire and retain candidates from different ethnicities, geographies and cultures. Inevitably, this will contribute to enhancing the organisational culture as well.
Enhanced access for employees with disabilities
Over 1.3 crore in the Indian workforce have some form of disability but only 34 lakhs of them have been employed. A common challenge preventing many of these people is the daily commute to work. What may seem like a smooth journey for able-bodied employees can prove to be a major challenge for employees with mobility limitations due to physical, visual or immunodeficiencies, even if these impairments do not affect their work abilities. By offering remote work options to employees with disabilities, organisations make work accessible for them.
Fostering a sense of psychological safety
One of the greatest impediments to making employees from diverse backgrounds feel included in the workplace is the absence of psychological safety. Many employees belonging to different racial ethnicities or gender identities find it difficult to fit in or feel comfortable among other employees. Additionally, having a visibly low representation and being a minority in the workplace adds to their stress. Remote work can help alleviate many of these issues as home can be a place of psychological safety for such employees. Furthermore, this will help organisations retain and attract more employees belonging to these minorities.
Level playing field for marginalised groups
For long, organisations have excluded marginalised populations due to race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, language or immigration status. Additionally, the workplaces that did hire these groups gave them no voice in workplace decisions or meetings. Remote work which offers collaboration tools and online skills training initiatives can help encourage the voice of these marginalised employees, driving them to contribute their innovation and ideas. Virtual meetings can also be a levelling experience for all employees where diverse voices can be represented and included.
As organisations continue to make post-pandemic work decisions, remote work options allow them to use a variety of collaborative technologies and tools that promote a healthy and equal workforce. With a remote-first mindset, companies can not only secure the services of employees and contractors worldwide but also foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive community.