The Impact of Remote Work on Inclusion, Diversity, and Retention
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to rapidly shift to remote work out of necessity. Fast-forward two years, and remote work is here to stay, as more than one-third of Americans are still working from home. Companies across the globe are re-evaluating their traditional work models to incorporate remote and hybrid work options, providing more flexibility for working parents and those who have caregiving responsibilities. At reacHIRE, we have always offered employees flexibility in how and where they work as we recognize its impact on work-life balance. As a remote-first company, we hope to shed light for other businesses on how integrating remote work can be a valuable way to foster inclusion, attract diverse talent, retain employees, and ultimately empower more women to thrive, grow, and stay in your organization.
The Decision to Offer Remote Work
The pandemic removed the stigma and doubts around remote work. Companies saw that employees could be just as, if not more, productive working from home. But, the decision to offer permanent remote work is influenced by organizational goals, the specific work that needs to get done, market trends, and employee preferences. Companies must be willing to listen to employees to create the best-balanced approach for how remote work options fit into their overall needs.
It is true, though, that companies who embrace remote work find that it enhances productivity, employee satisfaction, and work-life balance. And remote work can significantly expand the talent pool, enabling companies to recruit individuals from diverse geographic locations and backgrounds. The reality is that many of today’s workers prioritize remote or hybrid jobs in their job searches — so much so that remote jobs attract 4.4x more applicants overall and 4.5x more female applicants specifically.
Remote work can also have an impact on retention. A recent survey by The Conference Board found that 71% of respondents from organizations that are mandating an on-site work policy report difficulty retaining workers, compared to 46% for those who give workers a choice of where they can work. Turnover among fully on-site workers has also increased by 26% in the last six months, twice the rate of increase among fully remote workers. These numbers clearly exemplify the impact remote or flexible work can have on retaining talent.
Why Diverse Talent Prefers Remote Work
Remote work has become an attractive proposition for diverse talent, especially women, for several compelling reasons:
- Flexibility: Remote work provides the flexibility to balance personal and professional responsibilities. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for women, who often take on caregiving roles or face unique challenges in managing work-life integration. The availability of remote and hybrid jobs has supercharged the return of women back to work post-pandemic, with 77.8% of women ages 25-54 back into the labor force. Working dads can also enjoy significant benefits, illustrating that all parents, irrespective of their roles, stand to gain considerably from the enhanced flexibility.
- Inclusive Work Environment: Remote work appeals to diverse talent because of its ability to manage marginalization or “onlyness.” Being the only woman or person of color in an office can be exhausting. Remote settings allow diverse employees to focus on their work with less of that added emotional tax. It also removes some complex power dynamics that often can be found in office settings – allowing an individual’s talents, not identity, to shine. Women and minorities have found remote work as a path to reduce the unconscious biases that can arise in traditional office settings, thereby creating a more equitable playing field.
- Access to Opportunities: Remote work eliminates geographic barriers, providing access to opportunities for talented individuals who may be unable to relocate or commute long distances while balancing personal responsibilities.
Remote Work to Enhance Workplace Inclusion
Remote work has the potential to transform workplace culture and make it more inclusive in the following ways:
- Redefining Collaboration: Virtual collaboration tools promote equal participation, giving every team member a chance to contribute, regardless of their communication style or personality.
- Creating a Global Outlook: Companies with remote teams gain exposure to diverse perspectives and cultures, fostering a more inclusive and open-minded work environment.
- Inclusive Policies: Implementing inclusive remote work policies, such as providing support for caregivers and accommodating different time zones, demonstrates a tangible commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Attracting Diverse Talent through Remote Work
Remote work can also be a powerful tool for attracting diverse talent to your organization. It allows you to:
- Showcase Inclusivity: Highlighting your company’s remote work policies in recruitment efforts sends a strong message to potential candidates about your commitment to creating an inclusive workplace.
- Tailor Employer Branding: Emphasize how your remote work options empower women and other underrepresented groups to pursue rewarding careers without sacrificing their personal lives.
- Offer a Supportive Infrastructure to All: Ensure your organization has the necessary technological infrastructure and support systems to facilitate remote work seamlessly. Consider leadership development programs that are tech-enabled and accessible to all employees wherever they are located.
Potential Challenges of Remote Work for Women
Remote work can reinforce gender inequities if companies do not intentionally design an inclusive experience. So, it’s critical to clearly outline your remote workforce policies to ensure success. Companies need to be deliberate about setting schedules, including remote workers, offering equal opportunities for advancement, providing mentoring and development opportunities, and combating biases. With intention, remote work can open doors for diverse talent. Without it, old patterns of inequality may persist, if not worsen.
For example, women often take on more family responsibilities and may end up working longer hours without boundaries between work and home. There may also be assumptions that women work fewer hours or are less committed since they are less visible. In addition, it’s well known that mentoring relationships can be incredibly beneficial for female growth in organizations, which often benefit from in-person interactions in office settings. These relationships are often harder to develop in remote environments because there are fewer opportunities to connect informally with others.
There’s no denying that remote work has evolved from a novel concept to a transformative force in today’s workplace due to technology and the pandemic. By offering remote work options, companies can attract more diverse talent, empower more women and underrepresented employees, create an inclusive work environment, and help improve employee retention. Embracing remote work is not just a business decision but a commitment to fostering diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the modern workforce. HR business leaders must champion flexible work initiatives and seize the opportunity to build a stronger, more diverse, and inclusive workforce for a successful and sustainable future. Contact us today to learn how reacHIRE can help you attract, grow, and retain diverse talent for your organization.