Pre-pandemic, remote work was already gaining in popularity. Now, as business leaders consider how a return to normalcy may look, remote work has gone from a temporary stopgap to a long-term reality.
Driving the continued growth of remote work are benefits such as cost savings, improved employee satisfaction, and greater productivity. However, another major boon of remote work is its potential to promote greater diversity in the workplace. With diversity an increasingly important asset for successful enterprises, more and more businesses are now paying attention to this less mentioned remote work benefit.
Recently, a McKinsey & Company “Delivering through diversity” report established a direct link between diversity and profitability.
More diverse companies are up to 33% more likely to outperform their competitors on profitability.
They’re also more likely to attract top talent, secure their license to operate, and improve employee satisfaction, customer orientation, and decision making. However, even though most companies tend to make bold claims regarding diversity, many could do a lot better. Concluding their study, the consultancy firm reported that “Gender and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated with profitability, but women and minorities remain underrepresented.”
Why Are Remote Companies More Diverse?
Remote work is a powerful tool for breaking down barriers to diversity within forward-thinking businesses. Here are just some of them.
Remote companies eliminate location bias
Geography has been shown to play a crucial role in diversity for more than two-thirds of workplaces. While a central location can attract and retain a more diverse workforce for some workplaces, many employers find themselves unconsciously screening out countless employees due to where their office is placed.
By separating “work” and “workplace,” remote and hybrid working environments break down these kinds of geographical barriers. For thousands of businesses, remote working significantly broadens the population of potential workers that they can employ.
At the same time, with location taken out of the equation, employees with their own location requirements or at different stages of their personal lives can be empowered to stay in the same role for longer — taking their job with them as they move. Artificial divides like rural/urban don't exist when employees can work from anywhere.
Remote hiring processes reduce interviewer bias
As much as HR departments try to deny their existence, unconscious biases continue to hold back diversity in many organizations. Although remote working does not remove the potential for a bias towards a certain type of person to sway a hiring manager's decision, remote application processes certainly have an important role in reducing hidden biases that may affect the hiring process.
The results-focused nature of remote working itself helps take bias out of the hiring equation. Because remote interviews help employers center on the individual's work and experiences, interviewers have less opportunity to pass over talented employees who happen to come from non-traditional backgrounds.
Remote work opens doors for workers with disabilities
Diversity initiatives often overlook people who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments. While the vast majority of organizations now promote diversity, only around 4% consider how to include disabled people.
Remote work offers organizations a chance to change this paradigm. By breaking down some of the obstacles that prevent disabled people from thriving in many workplaces, remote work gives countless individuals an opportunity to consider jobs they may have found otherwise inaccessible.
Remote organizations can help LGBTQ+ employees feel safer
Even though an individual's sexual identity is now more widely accepted than ever, people that identify as LGBTQ+ still experience significant amounts of harassment both within the workplace and on the street. For employers, this results in a significant population of talented individuals that may hesitate to relocate for a job fearing problems that range from difficulty achieving social acceptance to physical violence.
By allowing workers to remain wherever they have already found comfort and support, remote work can help vulnerable individuals thrive. Remote work also enables individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ to access geographically wider peer networks and reduce the feeling of “onliness’ that can foster in office environments.
Remote work attracts highly skilled stay-at-home parents
Highly educated and frequently underemployed stay-at-home parents are one of the greatest untapped human resources for modern businesses. A recent study from Pew Research found that “a quarter of dads who are at home to care for family have a college degree” and “among stay-at-home moms, 29% of those who are caring for family have a college degree.”
For a long time, at-home parenting was a commitment that necessitated a full departure from the workforce, but with the advent of the remote workplace, tapping into this qualified population has become much easier.
Benefits of a Diverse Workforce
The case for diversity is clear-cut. Diverse companies are more innovative, more productive, and ultimately more profitable. Many of these benefits might seem intangible but have a clear impact on the bottom line. According to a recent BCG study, diverse companies produce 19% more revenue than their homogenous peers. This “diversity dividend” is no surprise. Diversity in all forms comes imbued with powerful economic value, not least a greater propensity to try new things.
Diversity drives innovation partly because collaborating with people different from oneself challenges innate biases, forces the brain to overcome static ways of thinking, and makes workers consider a wider range of perspectives. Teams who prioritize inclusive decision-making processes come to decisive conclusions quicker and more efficiently.
More diverse companies may also find themselves better in tune with their customers and clients' needs as they gain greater insights into broader and more varied segments of the global population.
Diversity at the leadership level of a company has a demonstrable effect on the company's overall success. The McKinsey study mentioned earlier found that gender-diverse companies perform 15% better. Similarly, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to succeed. In general, earnings rose by almost a tenth for every 10% improvement in gender and ethnic diversity among senior executive teams.
Essential Technology to Support Remote Workers
Companies that allow remote work enjoy many benefits, including improved diversity and inclusion. Nonetheless, there are potential drawbacks — like decreased employee visibility and communications gaps — to going remote with your workforce, as well. Luckily, overcoming remote work challenges isn’t impossible, especially if you have the right technology in place.
Virtual work software tools like RemoteHQ can simplify remote hiring processes, improve collaboration among distributed teams, and help you ensure that remote employees feel connected and included.