BY CAROLINA MILANESI
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the conversation around remote work has been growing. It started with companies encouraging employees to stay at home. Within two weeks most companies, especially in tech, were mandating employees to work remotely and to suspend any business travel.
Right now, the boom in remote work is due to social distancing, the necessity for people to keep their distance from each other to slow down the advance of the coronavirus.
But there are many other positive impacts from remote work beyond just not catching a virus. Working from home cuts commute time, which is often wasted time. It’s green, since it reduces the fossil fuel burn and carbon release of car commutes. It erases the high cost of business travel.
Remote work can benefit businesses in other valuable ways. It can improve diversity. Any major company, especially in tech, will tell you that one of its top business concerns is a lack of talent. Attracting and retaining good people is critical. Remote work can open the door to talent pools that are more diverse in three key areas: gender, accessibility, and race.
Flexible work and remote work, in particular, can help women return to work after having a baby or while caring for a family member. According to a 2015 AARP report on caregiving in America, 6 in 10 caregivers are women. This ratio has been pretty stable over the years, and with the 65+ population in the U.S. projected to almost double by 2060, the number of women expected to care for others will only grow.
For a long time, moms returning from maternity leave have had very little choice in balancing their new duties at home with work. The best option has often been a reduction in hours, which, more often than not, has led to reduced career opportunities. Remote work allows women the flexibility to be part of their children’s lives, while also maintaining a consistent presence at work.
Remote working empowers women to pursue a career, not just employment. Often, women coming back into the workforce were limited to service and support roles, such as administrative jobs. Technology advancements, coupled with a higher degree of acceptance for digital services, have started to open new career opportunities for women in fields such as education, medicine, data analysis, and marketing.
According to the 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, just over 19% of people with self-identified disabilities are employed. Succeeding in the workplace is not easy for employees with physical or mental disabilities, who often face discrimination, especially in highly competitive industries such as tech.
The most obvious advantage remote work offers to people with disabilities is avoiding the commute to the office. Depending on location and type of disability, a commute can mean a lengthy and stressful process of finding van pools and wheelchair-accessible public transportation. Remote work positions look more appealing to people who don’t live within a reasonable commute distance and who don’t relish the thought of relocating.
Being able to work in a home environment, already designed around the needs of the individual, allows for higher productivity and job satisfaction. Working from home also allows the employee to fit doctor or physiotherapy visits into their schedule without disrupting their work and adding more commute time to their day. Lastly, being on their own turf empowers people with disabilities by letting them be seen for their work skills more than their physical disability.
The level of ethnic and racial diversity in America differs dramatically from state to state. This means that companies in less diverse places might need to recruit from outside the area and expect new employees to relocate. But new hires might not like the idea of moving to a less diverse place. They might find themselves struggling to fit in both at work and in the community.
Originally posted on Fast Company