First, though, it’s worth considering what a diverse workforce looks like – and why it matters in the first place. While many may think of ‘diversity’ as simply a checkbox exercise of ensuring that one or two people from each classic minority group are present, it’s really about two things. The first is ensuring that you truly have the best people working for your firm, and are not unconsciously influenced in your hiring choices by irrelevant matters which do not affect competency to do the job, such as ethnicity or gender.
Secondly, diversity is about ensuring you have a wide range of perspectives contributing to decision-making. Not only will this help you consider a problem from all angles and help you choose the best, it also helps match your perspective to that of your clients out in the world. Here, diversity of thought, personality, and life experience are important. However, this is unlikely to be properly achieved if employees are all identical in things like gender and socio-economic background.
Ok, so much for what diversity is – where does remote working come into it?
Remote work can encourage focus on performance metrics alone
Here’s an interesting notion about office work: if we see someone sitting at their desk all day long – perhaps even staying an hour or two after work, and chatting in an easy-going manner with their boss – we assume the person is doing fine and working away. In fact, however, time spent at a desk is not necessarily correlated with productivity or output. Indeed, in many workplaces, it’s actually fairly easy for a person to coast by while doing very little, and to get away with it for quite some time by displaying all the external markers of a competent employee.
In a remote workforce, though, this isn’t possible. Rather, the actual work produced and received becomes what is most visible about the person. This is relevant to diversity because in remote working some of the external cues and signs that can lead to subconscious bias are no longer as prevalent, which will hopefully lead to an increased focus on matters relevant to performance.
The highest paying jobs tend to be in firms in a small number of cities – generally those along the coasts. Naturally, these are the cities that are the most expensive to live in. Of the top ten most expensive cities in which to live in the US, five are in California (San Francisco, LA, Oakland, San Jose and San Diego), four are along the east coast (New York, Boston, Washington, and Miami), and the other is Honolulu.
But what about all the talent that lies in the vast swathes of the country outside these hubs? And what about those people who live near them, but are unable to afford either the cost of setting themselves up in the city or the time to spend hours each week commuting (perhaps due to childcare commitments)? Remote working allows you to take on talented employees wherever they live.
The best thing about remote working from employees’ point of view is the flexibility that it offers them. Of course, this is important for those with children. This matters for both men and women, but given the burden of childcare still falls more on women it is particularly important when it comes to bringing on female employees, and ensuring that they maximize their potential – which will benefit both employee and firm.
The new era of increasingly widespread remote working which we appear to be entering – at least when it comes to office-based jobs – has both its pros and cons. It’s up to firms and employees to try and embrace the advantages while finding workarounds for the disadvantages. Keep in mind the plus sides of remote working for promoting workplace diversity, and you’ll be giving your business a great head start.