Why Remote Teams Need Inclusive Workplace Practices

For most businesses, remote work is now a way of life in some capacity. Advances in technology and communication tools have come a long way, and these strides increased over the past few years. What was once available to a select few workers and job titles is now table stakes for many job-seekers. In fact, recent studies have shown around 64% of workers would consider seeking new employment if they were required to return to office full time, while a whopping 98% of workers expressed the desire to work remotely at least some of the time.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion in your workplace, remote work can develop and support a great company culture – or it can cause issues that diminish or damage a healthy work environment. We’ll examine how remote work can influence culture, for better or worse, and provide actionable tips for supporting your remote employees.

How Remote Work Can Help Organizations Become More Diverse

Preferences for Hybrid and Remote Work

A 2022 report by software firm Slack reported that 81% of Black, Asian and Asian American, and Hispanic workers prefer hybrid or remote work. And although roughly 50% of men and women report a desire to work primarily from a remote location, women prefer remote work at a slightly higher rate than their male co-workers.

In addition, younger generations now entering the workforce have ample experience in learning, socializing and working virtually. The idea of working in a cubicle for the next 30 to 40 years seems as odd to them as the Zoom meetings felt for senior workers when they first began working from home.

As with many other workplace perks and options, the ability not only to offer remote work but to encourage individualization of work schedules, styles, and locations will appeal naturally to a diverse array of candidates.

Remote Work Shifts the Focus to Output

Office politics often take root when most or all employees are working, well, in the office. Those who excel in social situations and dominate the “water cooler” chat, whether it’s about work topics or idle gossip, can sometimes become favorites for reasons other than the quality and quantity of their work. Others may not feel included – or worse, they might also feel stereotyped or even discriminated against.

Although there are still meetings and social opportunities embedded within remote work, the quality of work shines in remote settings.

Remote Roles Can Increase Accessibility

Working in an office poses barriers that we seldom consider. Imagine a great employment candidate who struggles to afford the cost of transportation to and from the office, or a disabled person who faces challenges traveling to, or working in, an office. Consider the bigger, better recruiting net you cast when you permit (or even encourage) remote work for the positions that allow it.

Inclusive Workplace Practices for Diverse Remote Teams

Effective businesses and workplace leaders should prioritize actions that promote the positive work environments that position all employees for success. This is especially important when you have remote workers because some of the in-person social fabric of the office is missing. The following strategies can help your organization maintain, respect and grow its diversity while working remotely.

1. Judge performance based on output

Raises, promotions and bonuses should be awarded based on performance and contributions to team efforts, rather than vague measurements like facetime in the office.

2. Implement a blind recruitment process

Because remote jobs are inherently more accessible, your candidate pool is likely to be more diverse (which is a good thing)! Consider scrubbing applications of personal information that may be subject to unconscious bias during the hiring process.

Remember that individual traits such as race, gender and ethnicity are important aspects of who your employees are. It takes practice and intentionality to disregard these traits when recruiting and then pivot to celebrating them after hiring, but doing so will build a happier, more diverse workplace.

3. Listen

Bringing everyone back into the office may seem like an obvious choice to increase productivity. As you weigh work location options, always listen to the input of all your employees.

How Remote Work Can Negatively Impact Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

Administered thoughtfully, remote work can pay great dividends in company success and employee satisfaction. For best results, monitor your remote-work program to avoid these pitfalls.

Remote Applications and Interviews Can Create Barriers

Consider that while remote work itself is inclusive, a remote recruiting process can pose problems for some candidates. Those who can’t afford the technology to interview remotely or don’t have a private space appropriate for an interview might be unfairly impacted. Also, video or audio issues might exacerbate the already limited amount of non-verbal cues available when interviewing remotely.

Unconscious Bias Can Impact Underrepresented Groups

Working from home might sound safe and cozy, but that’s not always the case. Harassment and bias can occur via video calls and phone conferences just as easily as in an office setting; in fact, it may affect remote employees more than those in the office. According to a 2021 survey from the advocacy group Project Include, tech workers reported more instances of gender, age, race or ethnicity harassment during remote work than they experienced while working at a corporate office.

Proximity bias is another concern. Employees who log more in-office hours are literally seen more frequently by the managers and executives who make decisions regarding desirable assignments and promotions. This can lead to unconscious favoritism that has nothing to do with performance.

Remote Work Can Silo Teams 

Office lunch areas, break rooms, and coffee stations provide natural opportunities for employees to mix and mingle. Joe from HR and Susie from Engineering are more likely to socialize in an office setting, whereas remote workers frequently see and hear from their assigned teams but few other co-workers. In turn, relationships and cultural diversity may suffer. This is why it’s still important to provide remote social opportunities for teams to intermingle.

You Protect Your Teams, We’ll Protect Your Business

At Society Insurance, we understand the potential of a diverse workforce. Remote work offers key opportunities to promote inclusivity and diversity, but it also poses some challenges to watch out for. Our focus is to simplify the process of protecting your business, so you can continue to build strong, capable, diverse teams. To learn more about how Society can help your business, contact your local independent insurance agent.

Author

We strive to ensure each new hire will make a contribution to help keep Society moving forward. Beyond the necessary skills required for the job, we look to hire those with additional attributes to create a cohesive environment within our company. Join us and maximize your potential here at Society Insurance by applying at societyinsurance.com.

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