The COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous impacts on work life in the United States for millions of workers and thousands of businesses. Remote work arrangements have become the new normal for huge numbers of staff. This raises an array of new issues and questions for employers, including tracking productivity, the logistics of holding meetings and a variety of others. But as an inclusion and diversity consulting company, we wanted to explore specifically how remote workplaces impact inclusion and diversity efforts.
Isolation and Inclusion
We know that inclusion and diversity create significant benefits for the bottom line of companies across industries. Companies that are diverse and capitalize on that diversity by being inclusive tap into rich and varied viewpoints and experiences that both boost the creativity of their decision-making and help them understand the diverse markets they are trying to serve both at home and abroad.
When our workforce is suddenly remote, though, what impact does that have on inclusion?
In general, remote working can provide a great boost to diversity programs. In an article for Fast Company, Carolina Milanesi, discusses how remote work can boost diversity along multiple dimensions. For example, remote work arrangements can help women return to work more quickly after having a baby, or while caring for a family member; a virtual workplace can be vastly more accessible than a traditional workplace for those with disabilities; and the ability to employ staff from around the country or globe means that even companies in racially homogeneous locations can recruit a diverse staff.
The Right Infrastructure Can Boost Inclusion
At the same time, companies need to ensure they have the HR and IT infrastructure in place to effectively leverage the diversity remote work policies can facilitate. Just because there are diverse staff on the payroll, doesn’t mean they are able to meaningfully participate and be heard.
This is where the inclusion part comes in. It’s crucial that technologies like file sharing, remote video conferencing and others are utilized to ensure that remote workers have just as much impact on the work of a company as non-remote workers, especially to the extent that the remote workers make up a relatively larger share of the company’s diversity that those that are not remote.
There are many benefits to remote work policies. The combination of a growing awareness of those benefits and improved technology has led to increased adoption and better utilization of staff input, wherever they are. That level of adoption has increased dramatically by necessity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, which it comes to inclusion, a remote workforce may pay special dividends.
It’s a great time for companies to experience first hand the way such policies can boost their inclusion and diversity efforts. Be inclusive!