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Remote work and DEI: what is there to know?

Remote work has taken the employment world by storm, helping companies survive the Coronavirus pandemic. More importantly, it has enabled organizations to hire from diverse pools, including workers outside the country. Indeed, remote work is an excellent way to introduce diversity in the workplace. 

However, now that most countries are going back to "normal," it's time to reexamine the impact of remote work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and what it means for talent acquisition specialists. 

The Impact of Remote Work on DEI

Remote work allows employers to hire workers from different backgrounds, locations, and in some cases, even countries. Working from home removes geographical barriers and allows recruiters like you to source and attract the best talent across the globe. If you're thinking of promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in your workforce, remote work is a great way to go about it. 

As employers shift to remote work models, talent acquisition specialists are also adjusting their recruitment processes. Modern tools and data are helping recruiters listen and understand candidates to create a better hiring experience for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

Inequality in Remote Work Opportunities

While companies are taking up remote work, the transition process threatens to destabilize DEI in organizations. The democratization of remote work during the pandemic was trial-by-fire. Companies quickly realized that most of the workforce could work from home and were forced to set up systems that would enable remote work. 

However, lower-paid employees are now rescinding opportunities because companies are making policies that do not favor their work lives. Since the pandemic lifted, some workers have been suddenly called back to full-time office work while high-ranking company professionals still enjoy working remotely. 

Unfortunately, the work-life balance is harder for employees to achieve. Lower-paid workers are more likely to live far from the offices and major cities, which means they have longer commutes.  

What's worse, if both caregivers or parents are low-income earners, there's a high possibility that a couple would spend more time working to provide for the family and have less time for their relationship. The results could be long-term fatigue, divorce, and severed family ties. This is not to say that the results of working full-time low-income jobs at the office are fixed, but the results are rarely beneficial for the employee. 

As a recruiter, it's crucial to consider the disproportionate impact on-site work has on employees and DEI in the organization. Being diverse, equal, and inclusive begins with the policies you make. It's time to consider ways to attract talented employees that are quitting jobs that do not support remote work. 

Racial Impact of Unequal Policies

Unfortunately, policies against low-income employees have racial impacts.  Research indicates that 21% of white employees are more likely to return to on-site work, while only 3% of Black employees are likely to do it. 

Besides economic concerns, a majority of Black employees enjoy a healthier work environment at home. For example, 64% of workers report managing stress better, while 50% stated they felt a sense of belonging in their organizations through remote work. Evidently, working from home fosters employee retention. 

Another crucial fact to consider is the unequal loss of income among the Black and Latinx communities. Despite holding approximately 30% of the workforce, they represent 50% of people that lost their jobs in 2021 to care for their children. 

Furthermore, the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are three times more likely to be hospitalized because of COVID -19. As such, it's not surprising that employees in any of these communities aren't enthusiastic about on-site employment. 

Improving diversity begins with creating policies that aren't discriminatory to specific groups due to societal systems. If you want to promote diversity in talent pools, consider the impact of on-site work on individuals and communities. 

Women Quitting the Workforce 

The devastating effects of the pandemic on women in the workforce are undoubtedly disheartening given the continuous struggle to have more women in employment. 

According to research,  46% of women worked in low-income jobs before the pandemic with approximately $10 per hour earnings. Unfortunately, the pandemic eliminated millions of small jobs, thus rendering a significant portion of the women workforce jobless. Others quit work to become full-time caregivers as the government enforced home-stays and social distancing. 

Of course, the disruption of daycares and schools has been devastating for fathers too, but working mothers have shouldered the majority of the responsibility.  What's troubling is that the lost childcare centers may not come back, which means more responsibility for parents. The loss of more than 4.5 million childcare centers means that thousands of employees have to balance childcare and on-site work. 

It makes more sense to allow caregivers to work from home as they find ways to care for the kids. Furthermore, the cost of childcare has most likely risen due to the demand. As such, it's crucial to give people adequate time to find the best ways to care for children. 

As a talent recruiter, finding and encouraging employers to add benefits that favor working parents boosts the quality of potential candidates. For example, as part of the HR department, you can propose policies that encourage part-time remote work for parents and sufficient notice before returning to full-time on-site employment. 

Does Remote Work Always Promote DEI? 

While remote work has several pros, it also has disadvantages as far as promoting DEI in the workplace. Some employees may feel uncomfortable in the office because they're different and are exposed to speculation and judgment. Working at home shields employees from malicious workers and managers who take advantage of the physical space and proximity to bully others. 

However, employees from underrepresented groups are more likely to prefer on-site employment because it strengthens human connections. While isolation from other employees may improve comfort for some, it can also increase loneliness. 

The opportunity to ask a fellow employee a question while stopping at their desk may have more impact on a worker's well-being than you may know. It's harder to foster connectivity among employees with limited physical contact. 

In addition, now all employees have access to a quiet, clean environment with a stable internet connection, office furniture, and all supplies needed to accomplish their tasks. Working remotely means an employee has to work in their home environment, whatever it may be. People without internet in their homes, people with children, or living with multiple people may find it impossible to work remotely. 

Workers may also find it harder to focus on tasks if they're constantly distracted by people and activities around them. Offices are a work haven for some workers - allowing them to avoid distractions and focus on the task at hand. 

Best Practices for Hybrid Employment

Remote employment has both positive and negative impacts on DEI. Therefore, finding the right balance of remote and on-site models may be the best way forward. In hybrid jobs, employees can spend time in the office and another location such as the home. If your employees are productive both at home and in the office, consider applying the hybrid employment model to your organization.  

Provide sufficient notice before returning to on-site employment

Suppose you want to return to full-time on-site employment or establish a hybrid plan. It's best to give your employees sufficient notice to prepare for the transfer. A month's notice provides an adequate window for caregivers to find a suitable daycare and accommodations. It also gives your HR department enough time to reevaluate employees and listen to their requests. 

Recognize employee rights 

Remote work is a right for employees with disabilities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled workers need reasonable accommodations for their work, as long as they cause no hardship to the employer. In addition, employees who are pregnant and breastfeeding are entitled to specific accommodations. 

Forcing employees to work on-site may violate your workers' rights and expose you to lawsuits. Instead, providing sufficient notice and listening to your employees' needs helps you avoid legal pitfalls and retain talented employees. 

Create a customized hybrid model 

Talk to your employee, HR, and legal department to create a customized hybrid employment model for your business. Opening up the discussion allows employees to share their ideas and participate in their own employment. In addition, exploring the barriers your employees face may give rise to novel solutions that transform your business into a preferred employer. 

  • You can allow employees to split their workdays on-site and remotely throughout the week. 
  • Select specific days when employees must report in the office and leave the rest open. 
  • Allow employees to adjust their schedules based on seasons and demand as long as they fulfill their responsibilities. 

You can also select a single hybrid model for the entire organization or vary the model per department. 

Observe and Take Records 

Naturally, if your employees have the freedom to select a suitable employment model, they will choose a model that meets their needs. Likewise, you're likely to choose a model based on personal bias. Therefore, the best way to create a sustainable system is to observe the results. 

Take note of your employees' performance and how it shifts when working remotely and on-site based on factors such as workload, supervisor, personal issues, and health. Over time, you'll have sufficient data and for analysis and predictions. Look for patterns to see those who are favored by specific systems and those who aren't.

Find a suitable schedule for meetings 

As you organize weekly meetings, remember to create a model that accommodates employees at home and other locations. For instance, for a team in the same timezone, hosting virtual meetings in the evenings may be challenging with young children. 

The meetings may coincide with bus drop-offs, causing issues for your workers. Moving the discussion to school hours helps them focus in a quieter environment without immediate caregiver duties. Don't forget to negotiate suitable hours for workers in different time zones. 

How to Use Remote Work To Attract Top Talent 

Remote work is not a fading trend; it is here to stay. For example, 99% of participants in a Buffer study stated that they would continue working remotely. For a majority of the employees, having a flexible schedule is the most significant benefit of remote working. 

With this in mind, talent acquisition specialists can use remote work to attract top talent and improve diversity and inclusion in their workplace. The new workforce is on the hunt for jobs that allow them to have flexible lifestyles. Therefore, advertise the job with opportunities for remote work. 

It's equally important to interview candidates to understand the needs, objections, and barriers to remote work. Why? You can only advertise what you can offer. Second, collecting feedback from candidates allows interviewers and HR departments to find ways to perfect the hiring process. 

For instance, interviewing a potential employee virtually makes it easier for them to attend the interview on time, relaxed, and better rested. However, if a candidate cannot attend a virtual interview because of their living environment, you can compensate the candidate for attending the interview in person. 

Policies such as compensating candidates for their time and transportation costs allow your organization to tap into top talent facing financial barriers. It also increases the diversity in your interview pool. For example, compensating all interviewees for the distance traveled ensures that candidates from low-income communities have an equal opportunity to secure the job. 

Final Thoughts 

Switching to a hybrid model requires thoughtful planning. To ease your transition invest in an Employee Experience tool that helps you collect and analyze feedback for planning. Combined with a Candidate Experience tool, you have sufficient feedback to attract, interview and hire diverse candidates and retain them through inclusive employment models. 

Starred helps you hire better candidates and diversify your organization by providing a better Candidate Experience. Request a demo to discover how our tools can transform you into a top employer. 

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