The business case for a more diverse and inclusive workplace has been long-established and the advent of widespread remote working is a move that has the potential to enact positive change in this area.
Having a strong emphasis on D&I initiatives produces numerous benefits. Quite simply, more diverse and inclusive cultures foster greater innovation, produce better ideas, and new solutions.
According to Glassdoor, more than 50% of employees demand a diverse and inclusive employer and 70% are looking to join a diverse team.
Prior to Covid-19, D&I will likely have been a key agenda item. But the reality for many HR teams is that D&I may have found itself on the back burner in recent months. In a study of D&I leaders, 27% reported that all or most D&I initiatives had been put on hold for the time being as businesses focus on continuity measures.
But as many organisations start to move away from crisis management, it's the perfect time to reflect and revisit D&I, especially the benefits of operating within a remote working environment.
In our own recent survey of 150+ HR leaders, over 75% respondents answered that Covid-19 presents opportunities. When asked to expand, there were a number of common themes - the opportunity to improve culture and team dynamics, and to remove longstanding silos.
Remote working can certainly help contribute to achieving these aims, so long as certain questions can be addressed. For example, how do you prevent remote workers from feeling isolated and excluded from company culture?
Here’s four ways remote working can add value to a D&I strategy:
1. Better access and support for more diverse talent
A quick and easy win for HR teams looking to achieve greater diversity is to widen candidate talent pools. Remote working allows HR teams to hire and support those outside of their traditional geographical profile as well as their typical employee profile. There’s no longer a need to hire those who live within a commutable distance of the office or are available Monday – Friday, 9-5. Greater flexibility and technologies to help employees flourish regardless of their individual circumstances fosters a culture of inclusivity, collaboration and communication.
2. Reduces bias
One of the major challenges facing HR teams as they look to prioritise Diversity & Inclusion in their business is bias - a positive or negative belief about a particular person or category of people. It usually has negative connotations and is considered to be unfair. However, in a remote environment, there's less chance of biases playing a part in business decisions. Employees will be judged based on productivity, effectiveness, and the value of their work.
3. Widens networks
The pandemic has forced businesses to be more agile and collaborative, and there have been widespread changes to roles and remits. The result is an increase in cross-departmental working, the widening of networks, and the strengthening of relationships between staff whose paths may never have crossed had it not been for Covid-19. Remote working is the perfect way to maintain new relationships formed outside of our usual work circles. A win-win for diversity, as working in an office limits our interactions with people in the wider business and can often cause silos.
4. Be yourself
Remote working helps facilitate an environment in which people feel more comfortable being themselves. For those who would normally take a backseat or would find it difficult to share their thoughts and opinions face-to-face, remote working makes it easier to speak up and have a voice. Remote working also makes it easier for employees to share difficult feedback or to speak up if they feel marginalised.
Remote working: an opportunity
As HR teams look to streamline and refine new ways of working, there's an opportunity to define what the future looks like. It's the perfect time to focus on D&I, to ensure that you have the tools and technology to support all employees, regardless of their situation or circumstances. It's an opportunity to maintain heightened levels of communication and collaboration. And to ensure that outdated working practices, which may have previously marginalised individuals, are permanently discarded.
Covid-19 has shone a light on people, their personal situations and needs. In response, HR teams have been flexible and have made adjustments. They have supported the workforce and helped people flourish under difficult circumstances.
It's crucial that we don't lose momentum and revert back to old ways of working. There's a real opportunity now to use remote working to successfully drive a more diverse, inclusive and kinder workplace.