More and more companies are becoming aware of the need for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I), and many companies want to get better at this, with good reason. Companies who are in the top quartile of cultural & ethnic diversity are 36 percent more likely to be above average profitable.
Having a diverse workforce means that you diversify the skills and ways of thinking, meaning you can stay ahead of your competitors by being more creative. Reflecting the customers you serve in your employee base helps you serve your customers better. Companies with an inclusive culture are eight times as likely to achieve better business results, 3 times as likely to be high performing and 2 times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. But other than a business case, it is also about doing what is right and treating people equally.
This June is Pride month, a month to commemorate and celebrate LGBTQIA+ activism and culture. It's a moment to start a conversation about how to be a more inclusive company far past the month of June. Therefore it's the perfect time to learn about all the ways that employing remotely can be a tool on the long road to be an inclusive company.
Hire from a diverse talent pool
As a remote company, you are not bound to searching for your candidates in only 1 location. You do not have to worry about the costs of relocating people. While hiring remotely does not take out all biases in your hiring process, it does take out location and relocation biases. You will be able to dip your toes into a pool of candidates that´s larger than anything you´ve ever imagined. Is it hard to find female candidates for that CTO position? Expand your candidate pool to every female CTO in the world and try again!
Create an accessible work environment
By offering permanent employment from home, you make it easier for a large group of people to work. Think of those who live in economically disadvantaged areas. People who have not been able to find employment due to economic difficulties in their area now also have a larger chance at employment. Think of parents who need to take care of their children. Think of those who are not able bodied, such as those with walking difficulties, severe allergies etc. Traveling to the place of work, as well as moving around the office can be difficult. Some may need to lay down or receive care every once in a while, which can be uncomfortable in an office setting.
Think of those who are neurodiverse, who may have nightmares from just the thought of working in an (open) office. Think of those who unfortunately may not feel safe in a traditional working environment: a recent study by Stonewall showed that 1 in 5 LGBTQIIA+ people have received negative comments due to their sexuality, and, even more shocking, 1 in 8 trans people have even been physically attacked in the one year before filling out the survey. Until active work succeeds in creating a safe space, these and other groups of people may prefer to work from home.
Consider offering flexible working hours
Offering employment remotely with flexible working hours can also help with creating inclusion, as it enables people to work in their own preferred rhythm. A parent may want to work when their child is sleeping, or taken care of by someone else. Those taking care of others may need to take frequent breaks in order to care for them. Those in different time zones can work what are regular office hours for them. Some people may just perform much better taking a long run/nap/dog walk during a prolonged lunch break.
Build a thriving company culture instead of uprooting your employees
Employing people remotely will allow for your employees to work where they feel a sense of community and belonging. They are not forced to move to a country where they do not speak the language, do not feel safe, or do not feel they belong; if they do not want to do that. On the other hand, it allows people who like to move around and discover new places to do so as well. It can also be difficult for certain passport holders to obtain work visas for certain places and remote work can be a way for them to still find employment. It may also simply be too costly for them to move. Relocation is often not needed and can be very difficult both emotionally and logistically.
Not working together in one office does create an even bigger need for building an inclusive culture. Being a diverse company does not equal being an inclusive company. Make sure to have a strong DE&I strategy in place and hold each other accountable to make sure it actually happens.
Provide Mental Health support
Working from home takes out the stress that work-related commuting can have. Not having to commute also leaves more time for recharging that internal battery, spending time with loved ones, or practising hobbies.
Working from home can create a quieter environment as employees are disturbed less by colleagues or distracted by office noises. Many feel at ease being surrounded by their pets, or having a personalised place of work. If an employee is not feeling well, they can close their laptop and take a private moment, rather than running to the bathroom for some privacy. It does mean that there is a less clear boundary between work and home life, and companies should consider and actively work on enabling that work-life balance.
Dress codes can also be a cause of worry for employees. Though some companies do have dress codes for people working from home as well, companies are increasingly deciding against this. This means people have to worry less about their appearance. HRC found that 1 in 5 LGBTQIIA+ people in the US have been told by their colleagues that they should dress more masculine or feminine, or may even have been told so by their dress code. Many transgender and nonbinary people report having been harassed at work for entering a bathroom that is not assigned the sex that they were assigned when they were born.
That said, remote work is not the only solution to solving these problems. Remote work brings its own challenges to mental health. Companies need to actively work on being diverse and inclusive, there is no short-cut and it is a long process which requires hard work from every part of the business. Offering remote work opportunities can however be a great means towards the goal to be a diverse and inclusive company.