The world of work is changing rapidly, and one of the most significant shifts of our time is remote work. The emergence of remote work has brought about significant benefits to individuals, teams, and organizations, including improved work-life balance, autonomy, and flexibility. However, remote work has also exposed some significant challenges that organizations need to address, such as inclusion and equity.
In this blog, we take a deep dive into how remote work is redefining inclusion and equity and suggest some measures that organizations can take to create a more inclusive and equitable work environment.
Diversity in Remote Work: A Double-Edged Sword
One of the most imposing challenges that remote work creates in the pursuit of inclusion and equity is the lack of physical proximity. Working from home means that individuals may feel isolated and lack access to resources, camaraderie, and mentoring. Moreover, remote work often limits exposure to diverse populations and interactions with people outside personal networks.
Despite this challenge, remote work offers more opportunities than ever before for diversity recruitment, as remote work is location-independent. It makes actively seeking diverse talent easier as organizations can look beyond their immediate geographic locations to onboard more diverse individuals, leading to a more homogenized workforce. This is often easier said than done, though, as remote work removes physical proximity in recruiting, making it challenging to gauge an applicant’s work-culture fit and overall work strengths.
Another challenge that remote work poses to diversity falls on inherent biases that come with remote hiring. Despite remote work’s supposed flexibility, remote hiring tends to exclude individuals with specific disabilities that require an on-premise adaptation of workspace or equipment. Moreover, hiring remotely may create an unconscious bias in selecting people based on their fluency with tools rather than work experiences, creating an unintentional disservice to people who have limited access to current, supposedly standardized tools.
From a diversity perspective, the lack of physical proximity raises questions around inclusion, making it difficult to ensure that everyone is integrated and giving them a sense of camaraderie and support in the virtual workplace. Without inclusive remote work policies, people may find it challenging to achieve the sense of belonging that comes with an on-premise workplace.
Managing Inclusion in Remote Work
As companies move towards remote work, there is an increased need to create a sense of belonging and institute policies that support inclusion. It means ensuring that individuals feel comfortable and supported in the virtual workspace. To create a sense of belonging, organizations can take the following steps.
- Establish a Diverse Remote Work Policy
Organizations should establish policies that promote diversity and inclusion in remote work. Such policies may include equal access to promotion opportunities, mentoring, and leadership. Organizations need to have a clear diversity policy in place to align their hiring strategies with the organization’s diversity and inclusion goals.
- Foster a Culture of Inclusion
Remote work can make it challenging for individuals to feel like they are part of an organization. To prevent isolation, organizations must foster a culture of inclusion. One way to achieve this is by creating virtual engagement activities with remote team members to create a sense of camaraderie and collaboration.
- Invest in Training and Development
Organizations should invest in training that promotes inclusion and educational content that promotes diversity and equity. Training should include teaching remote workers about inclusivity, unconscious bias, and how to manage and address conflicts between colleagues in a remote setting.
- Meet Regularly
Organizations should schedule regular virtual check-in meetings to ensure that individuals feel supported and connected. These meetings can serve as a platform for providing feedback, discussing project updates, or sharing best practices.
Managing Equality in Remote Work
In remote work, it is easy to become disconnected and work in silos. Without the physical presence of colleagues, it can be challenging to monitor individuals’ workloads and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in projects and receive the resources they need to complete their work.
To create an equal work environment in a remote setting, organizations should take the following steps:
- Prioritize Communication
Communication in remote work is crucial to ensure that everyone has equal access to information and feels included in decision-making processes. Organizations can create a communication plan that outlines the frequency of communication channels and encourages transparency in decision-making processes.
- Promote Flexibility
Remote work offers flexibility that can accommodate individuals’ needs and personal life circumstances. However, flexibility should not come at the expense of productivity or opportunities for equal participation. Organizations should create policies that promote flexibility while ensuring that individuals have equal access to resources and opportunities.
- Provide Accessible Resources
Organizations should provide accessible resources that ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to information and technology. This may include providing alternative text formats, captioning videos, and audio guides to access information.
- Monitor and Evaluate Performance
In remote work, organizations should have mechanisms in place to monitor and evaluate performance to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in projects and receive feedback regularly.
The Challenges of Inclusion and Equity in Remote Work
Remote work has enabled many individuals to work from home, helping to reduce travel time and improve work-life balance. However, this new way of working has also posed significant challenges to engaging individuals and groups in the organization’s culture. Though remote work has been around for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a primarily office-based workforce’s transition to a remote setting. This shift, though helpful, has highlighted the downsides of remote work, particularly its effect on inclusion and equity.
Interestingly, the primary challenge that remote work faces is a lack of community, which is fundamental to creating a sense of inclusion. To mitigate this challenge, organizations should ensure that they work with clear and strong communication channels, establish support mechanisms, and share ideas and opinions frequently.
One issue that has become prevalent in remote work environments is burnout, a condition that individuals experience when they work long hours in isolation with no sense of connection to their colleagues. The situation can have a detrimental effect on the quality of work that individuals deliver and the organization’s overall productivity. In most cases, it stems from a lack of access to resources or opportunities, leading to tedious, repetitive, and often strenuous work, leading to feelings of being undervalued or neglected. To combat this, organizations must institute platforms that facilitate communication, provide equal opportunities, and advocate for employee mental and emotional wellbeing.
Remote work also poses a challenge in creating equity. The situation is often driven by the inability of management to offer an equal distribution of resources, making it challenging for some individuals to access the same workplace technology or workspace support required to enable them to work effectively. Moreover, providing equal opportunities to remote workers for professional advancement can sometimes be challenging. To mitigate this, organizations need to offer their employees equal resources, tools, and opportunities to participate in the organization’s operations, regardless of their location.
Creating an environment that fosters inclusion and equity in remote work requires an inclusive and equitable policy. Organizations can create policies that provide equitable access to resources, creating a safe and secure environment for their employees while offering equal opportunities for professional development and advancement. Moreover, policies should make sure that those with disabilities can access the resources they need to perform at the same level as their peers.
Implementing inclusion and equity policies in remote work can have a positive effect on individuals and businesses. The organizations will attract a diversified variety of individuals, creating a cultural mosaic that incorporates work ethics from different backgrounds, ultimately increasing innovation and creativity.
The rapid advancement in technology and the latest pandemic has advanced the shift towards remote working. Remote work has enabled individuals to work outside of traditional office settings, reducing travel time and improving work-life balance. However, as this blog has highlighted, remote work also poses challenges for inclusion and equity.
Creating an inclusive and equitable environment in remote work requires a shared understanding of the work environment and the people who work in it. Organizations must create a supportive working environment that encourages communication, fosters a culture of inclusion, and provides equal opportunities for all remote workers.
In summary, organizations need to create diverse remote work policies, foster a culture of inclusion, invest in staff training and development, ensure regular virtual engagement, prioritize communication, promote flexibility, provide accessible resources, monitor and evaluate performance, and create policies that support equity. Ultimately, investing in this can create an inclusive and equitable environment that attracts and retains a diverse workforce, driving innovation, creativity, and high growth.