Business enterprises from all across the world and almost all industry sectors had to undergo a rapid evolution in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With governments enacting strict rules and social distancing laws, companies of all types – from startups to the biggest corporations – quickly left behind the classic in-office work model and shifted to a fully remote workforce. Many established businesses voiced serious concerns about the potential adverse effects of this change, but the vast majority of these pessimistic expectations have been disproved.
Indeed, remote work has proven to be beneficial for both the company and the majority of its employees. It promotes a healthier work-life balance, eliminates the wasted hours spent in daily commutes, and boosts diversity and inclusion in the office. It should be noted that one factor that has remained as relevant now as it was before the pandemic is implementing a background check step in your hiring and recruitment process.
Employee background checks, known as DBS checks in the UK, facilitate the making of better recruitment decisions while ensuring a more safe work environment. Businesses can avoid risks associated with the potential hiring of candidates that are unsuitable or have been barred from working in certain regulated activities, especially those involving children or vulnerable adults. If the position involves activities with a high degree of responsibility, performing a background or DBS check could help choose the best candidate out of the eligible applicants.
Benefits of Remote Work for Diversity and Inclusion
While some initial skepticism was present, remote work has helped many underrepresented groups of people have a proper shot at being contributing, full-time employees. Parents with small children that cannot afford daycare, people with dependents, the disabled, and veterans are all now viable and promising job candidates due to the ability to work from their homes.
The pandemic has led to a major shift in the way we work, with more and more people working remotely. This change has been particularly beneficial for women, who are more likely to want remote work than men. According to a recent study, women want their preferred workplace after the pandemic to be remote rather than in-person. This preference is most likely due to the fact that remote work allows women to use the time they would have lost commuting, making it simpler to balance their jobs with family obligations. Because of the pandemic, millions of women have chosen to leave their jobs in 2020 to look after their children or elderly relatives. Furthermore, women of color are overrepresented in these statistics. Many women have found that the ability to work remotely has been a vital lifeline during the epidemic.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26% of American employees have a disability. This indicates that for many people, getting to work may be difficult. However, remote work offers disabled individuals the chance to join teams and contribute meaningfully. Working from home might make certain disabilities less obvious to colleagues, allowing disabled persons from discriminating. Finally, remote work allows employees to work from home and earn more control over their time. This can benefit people with disabilities who may struggle to get or keep a job because of their schedule or working conditions. Disabled persons will be able to have greater access to the workforce and contribute to society as more businesses embrace remote work.
Remote work also eliminated the physical need to only look for and apply for jobs that are within a reasonable distance from the person’s residence. Now, job hunters are able to prioritize other, far more important factors when choosing for which positions to apply, such as the offered benefits, growth opportunities, or internal programs for developing their professional skills. Even if most companies settle on a hybrid work model in the post-pandemic environment, having to be in the office just a couple of times instead of every single day would be a tremendous improvement for these underrepresented segments of our society.
Challenges Posed by the Remote Work Model
As organizations continue to adapt to the new reality of remote work, it is important to consider the potential implications for equity and inclusion. In the past, many organizations have used pay, promotions, and attrition as indicators of equity across different demographic groups. However, with more employees working remotely, there is a risk that this could become an intervening variable. For example, if men spend more time working in the office, they may advance more quickly. This is not an insignificant issue – bias against working parents who ask for flexibility has been shown to exist in the research. As a result, employers must be concerned about this problem and take measures to ensure that all workers have equal opportunities for advancement.
Unfortunately, remote work comes with its own deficiencies in sustaining the already achieved levels of diversity and inclusion. One of the main problems that marginalized or underrepresented employee groups face is the lack of visibility, no proper acknowledgment of their efforts, and having their opinions disregarded. In a remote work environment, all three problems could be further exacerbated as the members of these groups could find themselves in increasing isolation from the rest of their co-workers.
Isolation in the workplace manifests as having difficulties staying connected, establishing work relationships with colleagues, and feeling like a part of the company culture. With any chance meetings and casual conversations no longer a routine, keeping in touch requires deliberate effort. Naturally, people will reach out to those they are most familiar with, which often leaves out people from already marginalized and underrepresented groups. To stop such occurrences from becoming the norm, managers must pay equal attention to all team members.
In fact, regular communication between managers and employees is now more vital than ever in preventing workers from feeling left behind and out of the loop about current company events, initiatives, and the business’ general state. If left unchecked, this perceived isolation could lead to lower productivity, reduction in the quality of the delivered results, and decreased motivation.
Resulting from the remote or hybrid work model, managers may need to get additional training or get accustomed to using new communication and collaboration tools. They should pay attention to who are the active members during online meetings and calls and try to find ways to get the more passive ones to become involved as well. Employees may also need support. Some may require assistance with setting up their Wi-Fi network correctly, running a corporate VPN program, accessing the online resources provided by the organization, and more. They may also need additional clarification on the more effective ways to voice their feedback, contact their manager, participate in planned corporate activities, or contact support for potential software or hardware issues.
Maintaining Diversity and Inclusion Is a Continuous Effort
Companies stand to gain a lot from having a diverse and inclusive workforce, such as receiving fresh new perspectives and ideas for problems that would otherwise have proven to be far too tricky. However, businesses could easily slip back down and start glancing over their less-represented employees. Management should consider what internal programs or changes could eliminate such possibilities. Forming an internal committee dedicated to building a more inclusive organization could be a good starting point. The committee’s role should be to help the organization set specific goals and then propose actionable plans on how to achieve them.
Diversity and inclusion should also be integrated into the core principles and the overall business strategy and culture of the company. A considerable problem that is often reported by minority or underrepresented groups is that their company’s HR department often fails to address their complaints or suggestions. Company management should ensure that their HR representatives are well-informed about these issues and that steps are taken to mitigate them. Employees should be able to communicate their expectations regarding inclusion and diversity, and management should be held responsible if they fail to implement the appropriate strategies to achieve the expected results.
To truly make an impact on diversity and equity in the workplace, it is important to go beyond simply hiring employees from diverse backgrounds. Companies must also focus on creating an inclusive work culture where all employees feel valued and supported equally. This means ensuring that workers are treated fairly and equally across every aspect of their experience—from onboarding processes to performance reviews, training sessions, and workplace communication channels. Only by making equity and inclusion a top priority throughout all parts of the employee journey will organizations be able to achieve meaningful change. After all, real organizational transformation only happens when everyone feels welcome and has a genuine opportunity to succeed. Ultimately, what’s good for diversity is good for the bottom line—and that’s something we can all benefit from.