Why Remote Employees May Be the Key to Workplace Diversity

HR professionals want to fill their businesses with a diverse range of talent — but developing remote teams might be the key to a truly inclusive workforce.

HR professionals are looking to fill their businesses with a wide range of diverse talent — but developing remote teams might be the key to a truly inclusive workforce.

When you consider the most exciting trends shaping the modern working world, the growth of exclusively digitally-focussed careers is possibly the most intriguing. According to Aimi Walker at Success Digital, eight out of 10 of the most crucial digital positions didn’t even exist a decade ago.

Just imagine if 10 years ago, someone had told you that every company would have an employee whose sole responsibility was to post on “Facebook” and “Twitter” – you’d probably have been a bit skeptical to say the least.

Similarly, if that same forward-thinker had told you that the traditional office working model might soon be obsolete, you’d likely write them off as delusional. But like so many other long-established cornerstones of the working world, the traditional workplace has been disrupted by the digital revolution. As nearly universal internet access and seamless digital communication methods proliferate, the traditional office job has become untethered from geography – and the digital workforce is growing to meet this demand.

This new working model has something to offer everyone. Remote employees are thrilled with the increased freedom to set their own schedules and to work in the setting that they find most productive, as Pertempsemphasizes. Companies, meanwhile, are pleased by the lowered overhead costs for physical office space, but that’s just the start.

Diversity Issues

Organisations are slowly realising that remote working doesn’t just allow them to hire outside of their traditional geographical profile – it allows them to diversify their workforce by hiring outside of their typical employee profile as well.

Workforce diversity is a major problem across industries, but has been especially amplified within the tech industry. The tech world is famously skewed toward white male workers, particularly in the hotbed of California’s Silicon Valley – so much so that a recent survey about women in the industry focussed primarily on the bias and discrimination they’ve endured.

According to Business Insider, the UK-based tech world fares a bit better, but on the whole still struggles with diversity and inclusion – of the 1.1 million IT specialists in the UK, only 16% are women, and these low numbers persist across other STEM fields, as Huffington Post observes.

Since more diverse workforces are more productive (and because of the obvious legal and moral downsides of discriminatory labor practices), organisations should be doing everything they can to make their employee groups less homogenous – and hiring more remote workers may be the solution.

Changing the Game

While major tech companies are now making an effort to diversify their workforces and eliminate unconscious bias by implementing new programmes and employee initiatives, they might consider expanding their efforts to include contingent and remote workers.

PowerToFly, a US-based organisation founded by former digital head of The Washington Post Katharine Zaleski and former CTO of Avaaz.org Milena Berry, works to place women in remote positions around the world in order to stimulate workplace diversity on a global scale.

“It’s the total missing link,” says Zaleski of the remote working model. “We’ve spent the last 100 years working the same way. … We have to change the office culture to bring more women back into the workforce. Women are not going to change – they’ve already changed a lot. Offices were never set up for women.”

Zaleski cites the flexibility of remote work as a potential draw for women – especially in conservative countries like Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to drive. Remote work allows for improved work life balance for mothers who might otherwise struggle to balance family life with a traditional office job.

Similar efforts can help BAME workers find positions as well. As Zaleski notes, white male privilege pervades traditional hiring practices: “it helps to know someone who got a job with Google right out of college, someone you may have been in a fraternity with and who can help you get a job. These connections leave a lot of people out of the innovation economy.”

HR professionals should take note – these digital-first efforts can be truly effective for D&I. Using appropriate recruitment technologies to get a better feel for each individual candidate, such as video recruitment services, helps to bring the worldwide network of workers into the office without sacrificing the ability to identify right fit hires.

(Image credit: picography.co/Pexels)