Remote work: one secret to a diverse workplace

Geography doesn’t matter

I live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, where housing is becoming too expensive for public servants and tech workers alike. A junior engineer with a seemingly massive starting salary might still be unable to afford comfortable housing in Palo Alto. In many cases a job at a desirable company means a brutal commute from a more affordable community. Many gifted employees will opt out of consideration for jobs in expensive areas, which reduces the pool of talent available to these companies. In other words, as tech hubs become less affordable, diversity — in the sense of choice — drops off.

Accommodating disabilities

Some workers are perfectly capable of high performance in their professions, but would have difficulty commuting to an office every day. Physical disabilities can make transportation prohibitively challenging. Removing the requirement of on-site work opens up the field to talented employees who might otherwise be unable to consider a position. A survey by Think Beyond the Label found that 65% of workers with disabilities considered remote work the second most important factor when choosing a job.

Fighting bias

Greater diversity in the workforce helps shine sunlight on blind spots and biases. Remote-friendly companies don't focus on what a leader "looks like" but instead target real results.

Building trust

Most importantly, remote-friendly workplaces make employees feel trusted. Workers who control their environment have much higher psychological safety at work. There's no boss looking over their shoulders, and far fewer opportunities for workplace harassment.

How to do it

The first step in preparing to be a remote-friendly workforce is to change from measuring activity to measuring results. Instead of worrying about butts in seats, measure the quality of results. Be explicit about expectations. Your employees need to know how work is done and evaluated, how to communicate, and how to solve problems. Make employee evaluations anonymous and remove cultural and other cues that might introduce bias.

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Peter Conrad

Peter Conrad

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Peter Conrad is a writer and artist with a penchant for grammar and a knack for the technical. See his latest at patreon.com/stymied or vidriocafe.com