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How does flexible or remote working impact diversity?

So we are starting to realise that it IS possible to work from home and Virtual Meetings, Webinars and Training are becoming the norm.  We’re now on our way to adjusting to this new way of life.

And I don’t think there’s any way back.

When Lockdown ends will people really want to travel to a training session, will the quarterly sales meeting take place at head office and will it be cost effective to have a 500-mile round trip for “an initial chat?”

Whilst your team will likely now be based remotely, it’s more important than ever to ensure your company is adopting an inclusive approach. It’s easy for someone to feel isolated when they’re not in the office environment or used to working from home. According to Investors in People 65% of all Stress-related absences are caused by someone doing a great job, but not being re-assured that they are.

I’ve seen a number of companies recently asking how flexible or remote working impacts diversity, equality and inclusion and productivity. The biggest realisation here is that it’s not just during these unprecedented times that EDI should be promoted, but during ‘normal’ times too.

Just today I’ve seen two headlines which discuss equality. One questions why a third of UK Covid-19 patients are of ethnic minority backgrounds and whether this is due to discrimination. Another discussing that business has failed to represent people of colour, particularly women.

It’s great that the conversation is taking place, so let’s look at how remote working could make or break your diversity and inclusion strategy.

Remote working has been on the rise even before the crisis hit, with predictions that more than half of workforces across the globe would be remotely working by 2020 anyway. The last few weeks have merely accelerated the process – albeit at breakneck speed.

Beyond staying safe at home, there are many benefits to remote working. Offices and shared workspaces do offer a sense of community that you may be lacking in your home office, however they’re also full of distractions that you can’t remove yourself from.

The biggest benefit is in my opinion the option to work more flexibly from home, cutting out unproductive time during the commute to the office and giving more freedom and control over the structure of your day. 

Work/Life balance is as important a factor as the amount on the payslip at the end of the month – indeed for many it outweighs the pay packet. My clients often tell me that they could go somewhere else for more money, but they wouldn’t have the flexibility their current employer offers, and we all know how Staff Retention is key to the success of an organisation.

With your team now dotted about in various areas it might seem hard to promote even teamwork, let alone diversity but these initiatives shouldn’t been seen as a burden. EDI is more than complying with laws or receiving an accreditation, it’s about ensuring your workplace, whether that’s physical or virtual, is inclusive for all employees.

We do also need to address the correlation of productivity and remote working. Naturally if a remote worker felt isolated and distanced from their team, their productivity and creativity levels would be impacted. It’s important to ensure your team are goal driven during their time working remotely.

This gives your team the ability to focus on the ‘what’ – their results. With the phone ringing or meetings taking place in the office it can quickly appear to be a busy day. However, don’t underestimate accomplishments over activity, track quality and value rather than focusing on quotas or quantities.

Put talent first. Every member of your team is equally ‘invisible’ and yet ‘accessible’ virtually. And who knew that we can have deep and meaningful, productive conversations online?! There are rules though and these are the ones I’d advise you enforce:

  1. You are entitled to a proper lunch break.
  2. Home Office hours should be agreed before employees start working from home. For some that may still be 9-5, but others with childcare responsibilities may well want to split the day differently.
  3. It is NOT OK to send someone an email or have a phone call outside the agreed Home office hours.
  4. Any request from a loved one which starts “I know you’re supposed to be working…” is immediately shot down with the riposte “No, I AM working”
  5. It is OK to run errands in your breaks as you would do if at work. Going to Sainsbury’s or having a two-hour dog walk is not possible at the moment and I would heartily discourage you from doing so on Company time once the current restrictions are lifted.

Remote work will become an even more important part of a diversion and inclusion strategy going forward. Whilst we are all in the same boat, and perhaps have more time on our hands than we usually would, I’d like to help you invest in the future.

If you’d be interested in a conversation and a free, no obligation ‘Health Check’ surrounding equality, inclusion and diversity, with the potential for a future accreditation, please get in touch with me here or via LinkedIn messenger.

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