We recently wrote about how to prepare for a post-COVID workplace. Remote work is a huge part of this. According to PwC’s January 2021 Remote Work Survey, 83 percent of executives say the shift to remote work has been successful, compared to 73 percent in June 2020. Almost 15 percent are ready to give up a physical office forever.
There are many benefits to remote work including:
- Greater access to a more diverse talent pool
- Work life flexibility for employees
- Easier access for people with disabilities
- Reduced overhead costs
At the same time, there are issues of equity and remote work. What about fields that do not support a virtual office? Healthcare, retail, and other essential workers understand this reality all too well. Their work comprises the more than 60 percent of jobs that cannot be done from home. If more of our country’s thoughts about work assume remote work, will those who work in person face hardships? Additionally, the University of Chicago found that those who tend to work in remote-friendly fields are more likely to be White and Asian, higher paid, and more educated.
As you prepare your organization to make a temporary remote practice more permanent, ensure remote work supports your equitable culture. Here are four questions to guide your new policies.
Do all employees have access to an adequate workspace at home?
Fast Internet, (occasional) privacy from children and pets, and a comfortable place to be productive are needed for a home office. Many of your employees may not have access to the environmental factors conducive to a positive remote work experience. For employees to thrive in this setting, employers must be flexible. This means allowing people who cannot find quiet in their home from nine to five, Monday through Friday to reallocate some of their working hours to nights or weekends. It also requires organizations to provide the resources for a strong Wi-Fi connection, desk and chair, and other office supplies as needed.
Do some people find remote work isolating?
While many employees are thrilled to work in their yoga pants and eliminate a 45-minute commute, some people miss the traditional office. Whether they prefer to keep work at a separate location or enjoy the socialization that such an environment provides, these employees cannot be overlooked. You may be surprised how many employees elect to meet face-to-face, even periodically. Any remote work plan must involve options for folks who request in-person interaction. Ensure your office plans account for a variety of remote work scenarios and provide a physical space for folks who may feel isolated or unproductive at home.
Does everyone feel safe sharing their home life with others?
Sometimes we overlook the importance of privacy. Some of your employees may not feel comfortable being on camera while Zooming. Some people may not want to grant co-workers visual access to their home. Whether they haven’t cleaned in weeks or feel unsafe letting others’ eyes into their personal lives, these concerns are valid. Set expectations with employees ahead of time so they can adequately prepare for meetings when they are encouraged to show their faces. Seeing your employee’s personal space may reveal information you need to confront. Do you have policies in place if you suspect an employee is abused or abusive? What will you do if seeing an employee’s office reveals confidential information about their health? Provide resources for those who need extra support to achieve a strong sense of psychological safety in this new normal.
Are you hearing everyone’s point of view?
When people are not meeting face to face, it can be easy for a manager to overlook some voices. It can also be tempting for an employee to check out of a conversation. Ensure your employees have equal access when contributing to a remote work project. For example, assign several team members to lead discussion for various content agenda items. Ask each meeting participant for their opinions at some point during the conversation. And point out the differences in opinion, showing how unique perspectives help your team avoid groupthink and become more innovative.
We are all learning how to navigate the post-COVID workplace together. How are you creating remote work policies that support your commitment to equity? Brighter Strategies would love to hear your ideas and best practices and support you in your journey toward nonprofit excellence in 2021. Contact us today to discover how we can help you build greater capacity this year.