According to a recent study by the UK Office of National Statistics, remote workers put in more hours of unpaid overtime and take fewer sick days.
They are also less than half as likely to get promoted or receive bonuses as those who work mostly in-office. This is true even if you take age, industry, and occupation into account.
And if this weren’t concerning enough, consider why employees might elect to work from home. Members of federally protected groups could go remote to escape microaggressions, cover gaps in childcare, or work in spaces that better accommodate a disability.
If employers aren’t careful, they run the risk of further marginalizing these groups. This is wrong on a human level. It’s also risky from a litigation perspective.
Process is the New Sexy
The good news is that you can do things to keep your remote workers from becoming second-class citizens in a hybrid company. And it doesn’t even have to cost much. Creating an equitable office is more about retooling processes and mindsets than buying shiny software.
For example, think about how you hand out glamour assignments. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re the jobs that get people in front of leadership, and give them a chance to show high potential. In an inequitable hybrid workplace, a manager might see someone in the halls, and ask if the employee wants the assignment. The remote folks never get a chance to raise their hands.
A manager interested in equity has many different options. He or she might rotate assignments through the whole team. That way, everyone has a chance to participate. If you favour a more democratic approach, you can make a channel on the company messaging platform for upcoming opportunities, and post assignments that are up for grabs. If this option appeals to you, be sure to leave enough time for people who work flexible schdules to see and respond to the message.
This latter example is what we mean when we talk about an asynchronous, remote first workplace. And managers are often the difference between a company that says it’s remote first and actually behaving remote first.
Asynchronous Work Lets You Rob Peter to Pay Paul
The UK study mentioned earlier says that “homeworkers may be overlooked when being considered for a promotion due to reduced face-to-face interaction with colleagues and managers.” If you want to make sure your remote people get more face time with the people who can promote them, then you have to find the time for those activities somewhere.
Look at all of the meetings that you control. How many of them can be replaced with better documentation? If the information needs to be conveyed in a meeting, can that meeting be asynchronous?
Companies like Gitlab and Buffer have been using this type of meeting style for some time now. Gitlab says they use asynchronous communication for weekly announcements, new team member introductions, planning, quarterly team results recaps, and even as a way to cover workers who go on paid time off.
Use this reclaimed time to get your folks in front of leadership. Oragnize meet and greets, nominate your people for cross functional projects, or invite leadership to remote events to celebrate wins.
The Equity is in the Details
Making work equitable for your remote staff doesn’t have to mean taking big, splashy actions or spending a lot of money. Even something as simple changing how you push out announcements can have an outsize impact on equity.
Which is great, because that means you don’t have to wait for your company’s CEO to get on board before you invite that manager to your team meeting. You don’t have to wait before you tell your direct reports you’re going to try asynchronous weekly reports. With a little planning today, you can make your team more equitable, tomorrow.
What’s That Douglas Up To?
I have a 100 word story coming out in Scotland-based Epoch Press’ upcoming Transitions issue. I’ve started submitting to places with longer turn around times and I’m pleased as anything that I finally say that a story of mine is in a print mag.
Speaking of exciting developments, the trees are starting to change colour in earnest around my house. We’re always playing a game of Fall chicken in Vancouver. Will the leaves change before the rain washes them all away? Will the sun come out long enough for me to grab my kids and the camera? If everything aligns just right, tomorrow I’ll drag the kids into the forest so we can find some proper leaf piles to pillage. Wish me luck!