Diversity & Inclusion, Learning & Development

Racial Disparities in Remote Work Preferences

Businesses around the world have been struggling to strike the right balance when it comes to remote work. Now that government-imposed COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are a thing of the past, there’s no longer a requirement that businesses allow workers to work from home, and companies are trying to determine both whether remote work is a viable long-term policy and the nuances of employee sentiments.

Finding the Best Workplace Model

Simply put, employees don’t universally favor remote work. Businesses are increasingly digging into the details of the disparities between employee preference for remote, hybrid, or on-site work.

Interestingly, there seems to be a distinct racial component to remote work preferences.

Racial Disparities in Workplace Preference

A Future Forum survey found that 21% of all-white knowledge workers wanted a return to full-time in-office work, but only 3% of all-black knowledge workers wanted the same. That’s a pretty significant difference.

Another Future Forum survey found that 38% of black men wanted a fully flexible schedule, but only 26% of white men wanted the same. Finally, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that half of all black office workers wanted to work from home permanently, while only 39% of white workers wanted to.

The solution for employers is obvious but not easy or simple: Tackle discrimination and microaggressions through an increased focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

A Focus on DEIB

Without a strategic focus on DEIB, companies may struggle to motivate many workers of color to return to the office. More importantly, it’s simply not acceptable in 21st-century America to have a culture in which certain groups of employees don’t feel welcome.

So, what explains the consistent discrepancies in remote work preferences between black and white workers? Sadly, the answer may come down to the way these two groups are treated in the workplace.

Black professionals still suffer from discrimination and microaggressions in the office. While that doesn’t mean that every single black person suffers significant discrimination at work, in the aggregate, it helps explain why fewer black workers are excited about returning to the office than white workers. White workers are simply less vulnerable to harassment in remote work.

What is the situation in your workplace? It pays to find out.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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