DEI Anywhere: How Work From Home is Reshaping Diversity in the Workplace

DEI Anywhere: How Work From Home is Reshaping Diversity in the Workplace

  March 28, 2023

Written by – Syeda Azad, SEB Marketing team

Working remotely quickly became a fan-favorite for employees during the pandemic, a time when many employees were asked to work from home to help control outbreaks. Now that things are returning to normal, many companies are opting to either keep the remote workdays or implement a hybrid model to have a mix of in-office and remote workdays.

However, mandating in-office days can translate to a stressful daily commute to the office for some workers, and disadvantages or excludes three major groups from the workforce; individuals with primary family care responsibilities (most of whom are women), those with physical and mental disabilities, and those who face geographical or housing limitations. Maintaining remote and hybrid positions within companies can therefore support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, creating more inclusive and accessible workplaces.

Canadian employees have displayed a favorable outlook towards remote work, acknowledging its advantages for both themselves and for fostering greater inclusivity within organizations throughout the country.

Here are 3 key ways in which DEI initiatives are supported through remote work:

Reduced Discrimination and Bias
One of the most significant benefits of working remotely is the mitigation of unconscious bias in the hiring and working process.  In the absence of physical proximity, there are limited chances for biases to form based on an individual’s psychological, physical, or social characteristics. These attributes may include but are not limited to their cognitive abilities, beliefs, social skills, age, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Remote work shifts the emphasis from an employee’s physical presence in the workplace to their ability to deliver tangible outcomes. Furthermore, it encourages organizations to focus on creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, where employees are valued based on their skills and competencies, rather than subjective and arbitrary factors.

Increased Access to Job Opportunities
Through the implementation of remote or hybrid work arrangements, employers can expand their reach to a broader pool of candidates who may have been previously hindered by physical, geographical, or mental barriers. This inclusive approach opens doors for individuals with disabilities, primary caregivers, and those facing other barriers, who may not have been able to commute daily to and from a physical workplace. Additionally, remote work enables employers to tap into a wider talent pool, as candidates are no longer restricted by geographical limitations. For employees, remote work offers greater flexibility and autonomy over work arrangements, allowing them to better balance their personal and professional responsibilities.

Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities
Remote work has been found to improve accessibility for employees with disabilities. Given the diverse nature of disabilities, both visible and invisible, working from home allows employees to customize their work environment to best suit their unique needs. For instance, some employees may require specialized equipment or assistive technologies to carry out their duties, while others may prefer a quieter workspace or reduced social interactions. The flexibility and comfort afforded by remote work allows individuals to design a workspace that accommodates their specific requirements, which is often difficult to achieve in a traditional workplace. Remote work also allows individuals with disabilities greater control over their work environment, allowing them to avoid exposure to germs and bacteria, and better manage their health. By working from home, these employees are less likely to be negatively impacted by environmental factors or illnesses, which can lead to fewer absences and a more consistent level of productivity.

With the rise of remote work during the pandemic, many companies are now opting to keep remote or move to hybrid work arrangements as they return to normal. Remote work has shown to support DEI initiatives by reducing discrimination and bias, increasing access to job opportunities for some individuals, and by accommodating employees with disabilities. This creates a more flexible and inclusive workplace experience and that resonates with Canadian employees.