Since childhood, many have carried a Swiss Army Knife in a pocket or purse—always. Before the days of Visa credit cards, a pocket knife was the one thing any prepared adult couldn’t leave home without—because no matter what problem happened to arise, it was the tool that would inevitably somehow provide or create a solution.
In fact, in my family, we even had a code word: “fourteen.” When our father heard it, he would immediately retrieve his own trusty little red multi-tool to open a box, pick a lock, gut a fish, remove a sliver, clip a fingernail, clear a clogged drain, cut flowers, tighten a wobbly wheel, or solve any other inconvenient conundrum. Like so many, our family came to rely on its usefulness—so much that to this day you’ll always find three things in my purse: keys, phone, and a pocket knife.
Remote work is simultaneously solving a variety of concerns in global business dynamics.GETTY
In the modern digital business world, professionals may not frequently encounter physical concerns (such as slivers or blocked pipes) but they certainly encounter barriers which hinder efficiency. In a virtual environment, most of these blocks are related to workforce productivity. Motivating, equipping and supporting workers is absolutely essential to success, but remote professionals are getting blocked by the same concerns: diversity and inclusion.
When workers feel isolated or targeted, their ability to produce consistently high-quality results declines. The lack of varying perspectives in the workforce is crushing brand creativity, credibility and quality. It’s a big problem which requires an innovative solution, and some companies have discovered a multi-tool that may prove to be the just the right solution.
Remote work offers many benefits to workers and business alike, but the feature that may be just the right tool for everyone:
Physical supervisory methods are impossible on distributed teams, so remote-friendly teams often use results-based tracking models to measure the performance of their teams. It turns out that when teams are focused on the what of results, suddenly the who, when, and where don’t matter. This means that in an offsite role, discriminatory factors like these are removed for professionals:
- Profile – No employer should care about a worker’s age, race, gender, or sexual orientation (and workplace discrimination is a serious legal issue) but all employers care about the ability of their workforce to consistently deliver high-quality results.
- Schedule – Daytime obligations as a parent, caretaker, or patient often prevent workers from obtaining the crucial visibility that they rely on for career development. But when everyone on the team is equally invisible and accessible online, securing coverage and taking a quick break for an appointment isn’t such a big deal.
- Communication – Introverts rejoice! In results-based operations, it doesn’t matter who went golfing with who; a worker’s output and teamwork speak for themselves. Even better—most communication records are equally accessible to the whole staff, so if discrimination does occur it’s visible to the entire company.
- Salary – When team members live in different regions with a variety of cost-of-living rates, distributed companies have methodsof calculating salaries to ensure fair compensation remains a priority. These formulas aren’t personal and do not reflect favoritism or bias. Instead, they are invaluable to the process of determining and providing the fairest wages possible.
- Accessibility – Location flexibility is a great benefit for professionals who don’t want to commute but think about the impact for workers that can’t commute. When someone is isolated in a rural area, homebound due to a physical disability or is required to relocate, their location doesn’t affect their professional qualification to fulfill a role. This is a game-changer for many.
It’s hard to deny— . However, converting an entire organization to be 100% virtual is not always feasible. Whether or not you plan to enable your workforce to work remotely, here are six strategies you can adopt from distributed companies that can help strengthen your company’s diversity and inclusion policy:
1. Update measurement criteria. The productivity of the traditional office environment is often measured based on sensory criteria, such as, “I can see a meeting happening in the conference room and hear phones ringing on the sales floor—it must be a busy day!” Activity is an inaccurate measurement of accomplishment. To track true output, update your project management tools to measure results—not just quantity, but also quality and value.
2. Hire from various regions. If you want an expanded market to be interested in your product, you’ll need to expand the input on your product development. From hiring temporary freelancers as project assistants to using virtual beta testers, there are a variety of ways for you to incorporate virtual workers into your operations without going fully remote.
3. Anonymize evaluations. Many equal-opportunity employers are great at removing profile-relevant fields from job applications and the screening process but haven’t yet updated the daily operations of the company to be so fair. Consider all of the instances in which workers are evaluated during their employment lifecycle—daily standups and quarterly performance reviews, for example—and develop ways to make those experiences as culturally-sensitive and equitable as the initial interviews.
4. Adopt a flexible working policy. Employees with discriminatory factors such as being a parent or having a medical issue often fall behind in their work due to schedule obligations during core work hours, or simply don’t have the flexibility to impress the boss by coming to work early. You can empower them by designing a policy that allows for off-site or evening work, provided that certain rules and expectations are met.
5. Open communication channels. Discriminatory behavior is less likely to occur if it has nowhere to hide. Siloed departments and closed-door conversations are breeding grounds for diversity and inclusion offenses. Increase visibility on the interactions of your staff by standardizing communication channels to a single platform with high transparency. Fact (and unsponsored recommendation): Slack is currently the most popular collaboration and communication tool in the remote work world.
6. Formulate a salary calculator. Eliminate subjectivity in compensation structures by developing a simple formula to determine pay rates based on equal factors such as tenure, local cost of living, and national averages.
Virtual jobs may prove to be the Swiss Army Knife of diversity and inclusion the business world benefits from— but only if forward-thinking Human Resources professionals and corporate leadership teams lean into the incredible benefits of embracing flexible work and diverse team models. Workers are also capable of leading the way by raising awareness on teams of distributed workforce benefits to all team members.
Whichever role you’re in, the odds of solving for true diversity and inclusion greatly improve when everyone is aware, informed and looking for the future in the same direction.