Women and minorities who have traditionally felt sidelined at work have new ways to lift their productivity and job satisfaction
The world changed significantly for women and minority knowledge workers during the Pandemic. It's vital for the survival and growth of talent in the corporation that Diversity Managers and HR departments grasp and act on this fact.
Many diverse staff felt more grounded working remotely, supportive of their families, and productive in their work than before. LinkedIn wrote, "'Black knowledge workers reported a 50% boost in their sense of belonging at work and a 64% increase in their ability to manage stress once they started working from home as opposed to going into the office most days."
Indeed, a Future Forum survey of 4,700 knowledge workers found a super-majority of staff never wanted to go back to the "good old days" of commuting into a central office. The survey revealed that only 12% wanted to return to full-time office work. Surprisingly, 72% wanted a hybrid remote-office model moving forward. A hybrid model involves working part-time at home and part-time working in an office with other staff. In the hybrid model, the "other staff" is typically team members who are working on the same project.
Significantly, about 97% of Black employees who had been working remotely during the pandemic wanted a hybrid or full-time remote work model in the future. Comparatively, 79% of white peers wanted to return to the old commute model, according to the same report. A root of much of the sentiment is staff marginalization.
"Women of color and L.G.B.T.Q. women were significantly more likely to experience these non-inclusive behaviors," according to a Deloitte survey, Women at Work: A Global Outlook.
The report says, "52 percent of women have experienced some form of harassment or microaggression in the past year, ranging from the belief that their judgment is being questioned because they are women to disparaging remarks about their physical appearance, communication style, race, sexual orientation or caregiving status."
Meanwhile, more than half (54%) of Black employees considered their sense of belonging at work “good or very good.” 70% of white employees were positive about their work environments.
Further, inability to “cover” one’s identity has been challenging for L.G.B.T.Q. women. These women are nearly four times more likely to say they have experienced jokes of a sexual nature than non-L.G.B.T.Q. women. They are also less likely than others in a company to view their employer as supportive.
Black knowledge workers reported a 50% boost in their sense of belonging at work and a 64% increase in their ability to manage stress once they started working from home as opposed to going into the office most days.
Future Forum research shows that flexibility actually fosters a better employee experience. Workers who have the option to work a flexible schedule report 53% higher productivity and 57% better work-life balance.
Future Forum also found that of those working remotely during the pandemic, 97% wanted a hybrid or full-time remote working model (compared with 79% of white knowledge workers in the U.S.). Only 3% of Black knowledge workers wanted to return to full-time co-located work (vs. 21% of white knowledge workers in the U.S.).
However, though marginalized workers may feel they can relax in a remote work context, they still may find abusive behavior from ill-informed staff. Habits developed in the social media space may pursue them into their living rooms.
HR and Diversity Management need to inform their staff that during virtual harassment sessions, be sure to document everything about the incident(s). Start with the date and time of the event, and detail the exchange. In extreme instances, depending on company policy in matters of virtual harassment, employees should explicitly have the right to Hit record on the Zoom console.
William R. Dodson is a contributing editor at EmployDiversityNetwork.com. His latest book is Virtually International: How Remote Teams Can Harness the Energy, Talent, and Insights of Diverse Cultures (Emerald Publishing Group, September 2021). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.