For years now many of us have been talking about how increased flexibility in the working environment increases diversity in the workforce. We have been trying to encourage employers to embrace this change for some of its roles. However as coronavirus has resulted in widespread homeworking, we are all being challenged by needing to change some working norms, challenge the status quo and maybe even be presented with data that supports more flexible working which would bring about other distinct benefits which will help thousands of people enter or remain in the workforce.
We have seen that working from home removes the often-wasted daily commute time and has certainly seen a benefit for the environment. Increasingly meetings are being held virtually reducing business travel also. But probably the biggest benefit is yet to show itself as it can help companies attract and retain good people. Remote working can open the door to talent pools that are more diverse in three key areas: gender, disability and race which as of yet are underrepresented.
Flexible and homeworking has long been championed as a way to encourage and facilitate women returning to work after having had a baby or to work whilst caring for a family member. We know that women often reduce their hours, do not return or have to take lower grade jobs leading to reduced career opportunities. Flexible working also allows for the sharing of caring responsibilities, which means everyone is empowered to work and adds to the diversity of the workforce.
Succeeding in the workplace is also not easy for employees with physical or mental disabilities, who often face discrimination, especially in highly competitive industries. So the most obvious advantage of remote working is that it offers avoiding the commute to the office and is not reliant on recruiting from a company’s immediate commutable range. It also can assist where someone might need an environment with special adaptations, which their home already facilitates allowing for higher productivity and job satisfaction. It also empowers people with disabilities as they are seen for their work skills.
Remote working can also lead to greater opportunities and increased diversity in the workplace and encourage greater representation.
But when the crisis eventually passes, let’s hope that companies will not be too quick to fall back into their work-happens-at-work mindset, but rather incorporate remote work practices into their businesses for the long run which will foster a more diverse workforce, because remote work is good for diversity, and diversity is great for business.