How remote working impacts diversity and inclusion


Diversity and inclusion can enhance a company’s success, says expert.

According to Paul Byrne, head of data insights at Saongroup Africa, inclusion, innovation and positive impact many successful businesses have identified three core aspects as part of their employer brand narrative: inclusion, innovation, and positive impact.

He says when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, diversity and inclusion have become huge priorities. “This is because candidates now look for companies with similar values that stay committed to their diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) policies,” Paul says.

Hiring individuals from varying cultural and socio-economic backgrounds is also good for business, Paul says. “Research suggests that more diverse organisations foster a culture of creativity and productivity as people from different backgrounds tend to use their shared experiences to develop stronger solutions to problems. If everyone in a company shared the same life experiences and came from similar backgrounds, it is likely that they would think alike more often than not, and fewer dissimilar opinions would lead to fewer ideas in terms of how to grow a business and move it forward.”

Paul says cultural diversity contributes to greater innovation and more profitability, which then leads to better long-term outcomes for a company. “Diversity and inclusion strategies in recruitment have been on the rise and will continue to become more prevalent in 2023. According to recent research conducted by Glassdoor, 76 percent of today’s candidates consider a diverse workforce to be an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.”

Paul notes that businesses are turning to technology such as artificial intelligence and workplace assessment tools to remove unconscious bias in the recruitment process and build diverse workplaces.

Remote or hybrid work, Paul says, can promote diversity, equity and inclusion, but it also comes with potential challenges.

D&I pros and cons associated with remote work

According to Paul, the flexibility that comes with the remote/hybrid model helps broaden opportunities for women, supporting the goal of employment equity in the workplace.

Employers can also tap into a wider talent pool when hiring for roles that are not geographically restrictive.

“Remote/hybrid work creates new opportunities for those who can’t afford transportation costs as well as for people living with disabilities,” says Paul.

However, remote work, he notes, can make some employees feel lonely and cut-off from their colleagues.

Employers may find it difficult to foster a strong company culture, common vision or sense of camaraderie.

“There may be barriers to work based on technological literacy, particularly for older employees,” he says.

“While the jury may still be out on this issue, it certainly appears that – from a diversity and inclusion perspective – remote working does more good than harm, more so when the hybrid model is used.

“In these post-Covid times, conversations about remote/hybrid models tend to focus on productivity and management, and about the fear that company culture will suffer. Yet remote work does offer great opportunities for inclusion, for example a single parent who needs the flexibility that these new models offer can now once again become part of the talent pool,” says Paul.

According to Paul, remote work can level the playing field for marginalised groups, removing barriers to entry for many candidates and providing employers with additional opportunities to create diverse teams within their organisations.

“Diversity and inclusion is not a ‘nice to have’,” he says. “It is essential to the long-term health of a company. And while not all work can be done remotely, using a remote/hybrid model correctly can positively affect ROI (return on investment).”

Critical questions

To ensure that companies are tracking the right metrics to help them align their diversity, equity and inclusion goals and hybrid strategy, they should consider the following questions:

• Who is working mostly at the office and who is working mostly
at home?
• Do your employees have equal flexibility in deciding when to come into the office?
• Does the amount of time spent in the office affect an employee’s opportunity for promotion?
• How are remote employees managed compared to those who
work predominantly in the office?
• In what ways is your hybrid policy positively or negatively affecting employee engagement and retention?

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