Does Working Remotely Increase Equity and Inclusion?

Written by Aaron Ventresca, Intern

2020 has proven to be a chaotic year thus far. From a global pandemic to a highlight on the systematic, institutionalized racism within the U.S., individuals everywhere are facing instability and uncertainty like never before. In the workplace, these matters may often become exacerbated, as coworkers refuse to wear a mask or decide to show up when sick. As a result, many organizations have migrated their workforce behind the computer screen. 

In theory, remote work has the potential to increase inclusion practices. Employees may have the ability to adjust their schedules to achieve work-life balance to maximize productivity and can spend more time focusing on their given tasks. Remote work can also provide advantages and opportunities for individuals with a variety of abilities, as the home environment may incorporate established accommodations and a higher level of accessibility.

While there are many positive aspects of remote work, there are some diversity and inclusion roadblocks that may become exacerbated. Individuals in underrepresented groups often struggled to have their voices heard pre-pandemic; the addition of the stresses of our new 202 work atmosphere (global pandemic, mass economic decline, and our current social-political climate) may only worsen this phenomenon. Further, the ability to create inclusive workplace cultures is also significantly hindered, as the physical separation brought about by a global pandemic can further separate employees of differing backgrounds.  Equitable opportunities may be unevenly distributed if employers fail to consider the home environments of their remote employees; for instance, individuals may lack a stable internet connection, reliable devices to access their work, or childcare. When working from home, many individuals double as caregivers, parents, or guardians during daytime hours. Though flexible schedules may seem like a logical adjustment when transitioning to the home environment, meetings and virtual learning often dominate the hours between 9 AM and 5 PM. 

Remote work can have numerous benefits, but employers must approach this change in workplace with intention. Employers must strive to create greater equity in cyberspace and remote work environments to ensure all individuals are included and supported throughout these uncertain times. 

Photo Credit:  Remote Work by Daniel Foster