The benefits of diversity and inclusion inside the organisation are more apparent than ever. From better problem-solving, and a better understanding of the customer base to increase overall performance, diverse teams are something every business strives for. In a world where the landscape of the market is changing faster than ever, how does diversity and inclusion fare with working from home?
Diversity leads to better financial results
Data from McKinsey research about the importance of diversity shows that companies with more diversity focus (age, race, gender, cultural fluency, etc.) not only can attract more talent but also perform better financially than their market competitors.
From 366 public companies across the United States, Canada, the UK and Latin America, the result shows that the likelihood of financial performance above the industry median is:
- 35% higher for companies with higher ethnic diversity
- 15% higher for companies with higher gender diversity
Overall, if you combine gender and ethnic diversity, the likelihood of better financial performance is higher, around 25%. Coming to the new decade with the current turbulent economic climate, can any organisation ignore such a proposition? Not really.
And, if you add excellent HR management that applies the best practices for an inclusive environment, you get the right work culture that supports creativity, cooperation and unity. An environment that attracts people of skill and quality, and out-of-the-box solutions are the much-required remedy for troubling times.
Homeworkers on the rise
Working remotely used to be an option for many. The pandemic came, and suddenly remote work is a necessity, a requirement.
For example, Twitter announced that employees could work from home “forever”. It comes with no surprise since moving the software-based office work to the home environment does not require any drastic measures, but a similar movement is observed in manufacturing as well.
PIA Automation US, the producer of medical supplies, claimed that while the possibility of moving 65% of employees to remote work would be a challenge, around 30% would be easily manageable.
What looked like a temporary solution at first is becoming a long-term solution for businesses as (unsurprisingly) benefits may outweigh inconveniences.
Scope of the change
In the UK, there were 1.7 million home workers, roughly 5% of all UK employees in 2019. At the moment, that number rose to around 14.2 million remote workers due to the ongoing pandemic, and for many of those millions of people, that is a permanent shift.
Harvard Business Review claims that remote workers are more productive, as they work four more hours on average than on-site workers. Homeworkers are praising time saved as less travelling is required and fewer interruptions to their workflows; business is saving money by eliminating overhead costs for workspace and other facilities.
This is a winning formula: more outputs with fewer inputs - is the ideal economic scenario.
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Impact of remote work on workplace diversity and inclusion
Like with every change, there are opportunities and risks.
Access to talent increased exponentially. When there is no pressure to fill expensive office space from Monday to Friday, where the applicant physically lives is no longer relevant.
This realisation makes building diverse teams more accessible since millions of people are gaining remote work skills, which means the pool of people to choose from is getting bigger every day.
International expansions can benefit from this state, as hiring local experts and people with specific skills or cultural experience is now the same as hiring anyone else. This change levelled the playing field for everyone. It is easier than ever to embrace diversity on every level.
Another study conducted by Basex Research shows that even customers love when a company provide more diversity. For example, they can have access to customer support in their time zones, and they can have someone who understands their values and needs because they share a similar background.
Control over the workplace culture in risk
When all the employees are inside one building, the interactions we have with each other, such as trading handshakes or small talking next to the coffee machine, are somewhat easier to increase dynamics and create an inclusive environment for every member of the team.
Since office space is an abstract idea for many remote workers, represented by chat on the Microsoft Teams, most of that atmosphere and team flow is lost. For those that are part of the minority due to their different cultural backgrounds or even time zones, it is very easy to feel disconnected from the main group.
Especially when an individual is fresh and ready in the morning, to have a video conference with colleagues, only to find them “yawning” because their office day just ended. The nature of remote work causes separation from missing out on team events/relationships. It is not intentional, and inclusion suffers even when people themselves are very inclusive.
A study from the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research found that the effect of growing diversity in terms of nationality can negatively impact job satisfaction and productivity. Therefore, it is the role of the managers to introduce measures to prevent the creation of separated groups among the team.
Delivering inclusivity online
In the January Issue of Rewards, Recognition & Employee Engagement Excellence, it stated emotional safety is one of the pillars of an inclusive space, even online. It is essential to show every employee how their contribution matters, respect their voice and celebrate individualism as each member is unique. Treat everyone with fairness and equality.
Different practises can be adopted to help to nurture a healthy digital culture, but an essential part is to listen carefully to individuals. Without sufficient knowledge and evaluation of the ongoing struggle, any further steps towards inclusion may be disrupted. Every person is unique; therefore, the approach must be tailored to fit each specific case.
Here at TRG, we have many employees and interns coming from different places. In addition to usual work-related online meetings, we regularly meet online on less formal occasions. We celebrate individual successes, promote cultural exchanges between team members and have daily informal check-in calls. We have an open-door policy, and everyone is encouraged to present their opinions and feedback because only through honesty and trust, the organisation can stay true to its cultural values.
In the end, the ability to adapt to the ever-changing business landscape is the key to success. The promotion of diversity, in combination with remote work, is an achievable task if it is managed correctly with empathy and inclusion in mind.