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Remote Working: A Diversity Booster?

What’s happening? Companies that have arranged for employees to work from home in response to the Covid-19 crisis should incorporate remote working permanently into their systems, according to Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi. She noted that remote working could foster gender and racial diversity, as well as provide more work for people with disabilities. Milanesi said that remote working is environmentally friendly and cuts the cost of business travel, but added that it is not a cure-all for workplace diversity. 

Why does this matter? With more employees mandated to work remotely due to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s possible many will seek to adopt flexible working in the future if they see any benefit. Companies seeking to improve diversity, inclusion and pastoral care of their workforces may benefit particularly, by giving employees more latitude.

There are many ways that allowing workers a greater degree of freedom could be to the advantage of organisations looking to broaden the representativeness of their businesses:

Gender: Since women typically take on more of the burdens associated with childcare, remote working could help talented individuals remain in the workforce while still being able to be home with children. This, of course, also rings true for working fathers.

Disability: Remote work could allow employees facing obstacles to remain in a friendly environment without having to navigate a daily commute or potentially hazardous workplace.

Social mobility: Remote work can allow companies to broaden the geographical scope of their hiring. Potential candidates don’t need to move to large, expensive cities to take up roles at prominent firms. A welcome side-effect may also be wealth returning to often-ignored areas of countries impacted by people moving away in search of employment opportunities.

On the other side of the equation, adopting flexible work can allow corporates to find talented candidates who wouldn’t ever consider relocating for a job. 

Lateral thought from Curation – Flexible work is not a panacea to solving diversity and can fall down at times. Gig economy workers, who often benefit from the flexibility their working arrangements bring, have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

These workers also often personify diversity – 94% of private hire drivers in London are from an ethnic minority background, while the gig economy also attracts older individuals and working parents. The demise of these jobs amid the virus outbreak may hurt firms’ diversity in the short term.

It's also worth considering whether it's possible to have conversations fostering diversity and innovation remotely, without the social interaction that comes with face-to-face meetings. This may be something to monitor if more organisations adopt virtual working more broadly. 

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.

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