DE&I stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion – concerns that some feared might get lost in the flurry of adjustment to COVID-19-driven work-at-home (WAH) operations.
However, although results are difficult to nail down to numbers, as yet – since widespread remote working is still relatively new – observation and experience indicate that WAH has been beneficial in this regard due to a few factors.
But first, let’s agree on what DE&I breaks down into:
Diversity, in the realm of business, means sustaining policy, environment, and culture that embrace people of all ethnicities, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and more, including those coping with physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges.
Equity means fair treatment and access for all. The aim is that no one gets preferential or prejudicial treatment because of their background, and compensation and opportunities for advancement, in particular, are based on demonstrated merit.
Inclusion means making all personnel feel equally valued and welcome to participate. This goes beyond diversity, being mindful of issues like men talking over women or employees of one race favoring those of the same race at the cost of others.
How WAH Helps
In remote working scenarios, the bulk of work and meetings takes place online, which is really what has fueled the improvement in DE&I, through changes such as:
Lowering of Logistical Barriers – People who were previously unable to physically go to an office due to geographic or personal limitations are now finding employment much more readily. This includes single parents, the differently-abled, and many more.
Clearly-Explained Expectations – Since leaders are no longer able to micro-monitor their employees, they’re compelled to provide instructions and targets that can be easily understood by all, minimizing shorthand that can cause cultural miscommunication.
Attention to Detail – Now that everything has to be documented, and everyone in a videoconference becomes a small box, it’s far less likely to overlook a quieter employee. Videoconferencing also reduces people’s tendency to interrupt or speak over others.
In many cases, these have been almost accidental benefits to DE&I. But as the new normal creeps slowly yet hopefully toward real normalcy, it’s worth noting how these developments have helped and how companies might sustain these advancements, even if and when they choose to return to standard brick-and-mortar operations.