Remote working is becoming more prominent across industry. This significant shift in working behaviours has propelled forward in recent years with some surprising benefits. Remote working results in higher productivity, increased motivation and reduced employee turnover. It’s fair to say remote working is here to stay, but will there be any repercussions? Well, when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion, there is cause for concern.
A Backstep On Equality
A study showed that more than half (55%) of managers expect increased remote working will exacerbate inequalities. However, how can this be the case if more people are provided the opportunity to work flexibly?
Usually, decisions around remote working are determined informally between an employee and their line manager. Unfortunately, without defined processes and procedures in place, there is room for bias. The decision-making process regarding remote work needs to be consistent to avoid perpetuating inequalities or stigmatising those who work from home.
In addition to this, remote workers could be at a disadvantage compared to their colleagues who are on site and ‘seen’ more by management and co-workers. This is particularly concerning when analysing employee bonuses and promotions, with remote workers less likely to receive either.
Flexibility Does Not Equal Inclusion
Flexible working is a fantastic way to attract and retain diverse talent. This way of working can provide a healthier work / life balance, improve mental health and support diverse recruitment efforts.
However, many companies that offer remote or flexible working do so in line with more traditional working patterns. Meaning employees still need to be online and fully available between 9 - 5 regardless of job roles and responsibilities.
In these sorts of situations, the assumption is that the organisation is being flexible and therefore inclusive. But what about the single dad who needs to take and pick up his children from school? Or the person with chronic pain who struggles to get out of bed in the morning?
Furthermore, whilst offering remote work is generally beneficial to employees, there is no denying that impromptu conversations and meetings can happen in the office. With the introduction of hybrid working, we run the risk of remote workers missing out. To be inclusive in these situations remote workers should be virtually looped in or caught up later.
When offering remote working to employees, it’s important to remember that some flexibility does not equal complete inclusion. Organisations need to examine how the business is actively including remote workers and ensuring they are hearing a range of diverse voices.
Unfortunately, many of the points discussed above could have a detrimental impact to the retention and progression of diverse talent. With remote working higher among employees with disabilities and caregivers who are more likely to be women, we could be on track to worsen current inequities without intervention.
But there is hope.
When implemented correctly, offering remote working also has its benefits. Without the requirement of onsite working, businesses open themselves up to a much wider network of candidates. This results in a much larger and diverse talent pool and gives your executive search partner and recruiters access to exceptional candidates they may never have reached before.
It has also been reported that an increase in remote working could eventually lessen the likelihood of bias playing a part in business decisions. With employers being forced to evaluate employees based solely on productivity, effectiveness, and the value of their work rather than the subjective opinions formed in the office.
A remote working arrangement could also see an increase in retention rates amongst employees, as workers fit their work around their lives. With millions of people leaving work each year due to caregiving responsibilities, menopausal symptoms, economic housing limitations or mental health issues, remote work could be the answer.