July 28, 2020
By Jason Richmond, Forbes
Many organizations have found unexpected benefits since the forced implementation of remote work strategies. These include increased efficiency and productivity, enhanced work-life balance for employees and reduced costs. Employees, for the most part, seem to enjoy the opportunity to work from home. No one misses hour-long rush-hour commutes, and many workers appreciate not having to dress for the office. The community at large also benefits, realizing decreases in pollution and traffic congestion.
Unfortunately, many companies remain in crisis mode and feel diversity is not an urgent initiative. It is important, however, for employers to continue to sustain their diversity and inclusion initiatives, taking into account both risks and advantages of remote work.
First, let’s look at the risks. One of the challenges faced by diverse, marginalized or underrepresented employee groups is being visible, being listened to and valued for their input and contributions. When employees are remote, the potential for exclusion, especially for these groups, can increase. In general, isolation makes it harder for employees to feel connected, to build relationships and to feel part of the company culture. Chance or casual conversations are no longer routine. Therefore, managers and employees must make more of an effort to keep in touch with each other.
Managers who are not experienced with or adept at establishing face-to-face regular communication with employees will struggle even more when employees are out of sight. In fact, it is not uncommon for remote employees to feel out of the loop compared with peers who work in the office. One would think remote work for all would level the playing field, but we are creatures of habit, and many managers fall back on their go-to employees even if they, too, are out of sight.