Do remote companies build more inclusive cultures?
It's been almost three years since the pandemic had office workers hastily grabbing their laptops and heading home.
Remote working was the trend for a time, but now it seems that hybrid working is the norm, with many employees choosing to work at home on Mondays and Fridays.
Numerous studies have proved that working from home has its benefits, including, generally speaking, a better work-life balance and wellbeing.
But we'd go so far as to say that it can actually help create a more inclusive workplace culture. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why.
The inclusive nature of remote working
Flexibility is vitally important for many employees and this element is often a key factor when deciding on a job. And not just for working parents as you might expect.
Many neurodivergent employees find it difficult to excel in traditional office environments. Bright lights, constant overlapping chatter, and the pressure to perform during certain hours can be overwhelming.
These elements of a traditional office can feel very distancing and motivate someone to search for a job that allows the inclusive flexibility of remote working.
In contrast to the difficulties of a traditional office, working from home allows neurodivergent employees the freedom to define the parameters of their own work environment.
Many people need an atmosphere of complete quiet while others may require background noise that they can control, such as playing a song or TV episode in the background while they work.
Neurodivergent employees may also need more flexible hours so they can work during times when they feel most engaged and productive - this can be especially vital for employees with ADHD and autistic people.
So, when you allow neurodivergent employees this freedom, you’re not only being kind— you’re empowering them to do their best in the way that’s most meaningful and effective for them.
The same is true for employees with physical disabilities, many of whom struggle with commutes to work and inaccessible office plans. When they don’t have to battle these challenges, employees are free to relax and be their best, most engaged selves.
Isn’t that a win-win?
Many people are uncomfortable with the environment of traditional, in-person offices.
For introverts, neurodivergent people, and people with disabilities, in-person offices can be challenging, especially if they require you to dress or behave in a certain way.
For example, if you’ve ever seen the workplace sitcom American Auto, it’s easy to laugh at Wesley Payne’s horrific attempt to boost employee morale by creating a “fun office.”
Spraying champagne on people’s laptops, turning up club music during business meetings, and telling people they will be fired if they don’t dance on their desks is comedy gold for a TV show but it wouldn’t be so fun if it happened in your office.
Although this might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, that’s how “fun offices” can feel for some employees. Many people don’t want gimmicks like nap pods or Zorbing on their lunch break.
Instead, some employees would rather design a quiet work environment that suits their needs and calmly, and quietly do their jobs. Remote work is great because it allows people the freedom to do just that.
When employees are free to be authentic and work in an environment that best suits them, it can alleviate the stress, pressure, and insincerity that people often associate with work. And in place of all that negative stuff, you get authenticity, motivation, and genuine employee satisfaction.
Remote work is often inherently more inclusive of neurodivergent employees because people interact differently when working from home.
Many autistic people feel uncomfortable in social situations, especially those which require prolonged eye contact and the appearance of a professional demeanour.
But when you work from home, you’re more likely to communicate via text, email or Slack and a few regularly scheduled Zoom calls.
Many neurodivergent employees find it easier to express themselves through writing or voice calls so this option gives them the freedom to communicate in a way that’s less stressful and more effective for them.
Now, that's not to say that working from home isn't without its challenges. There needs to be a balance. Teams must make time for social interactions to build connections and prevent isolation.
Under the Equality Act, employers in the UK legally have to take positive steps to ensure that there are no barriers, physical or otherwise, that would inhibit an employee with a disability.
That's a given. But there's a big difference between an office that's inclusive by design and an office adapted as an afterthought.
And with the rising cost of living and the rise in inflation, the daily commute to the office for some is fast becoming unaffordable. Suddenly, the office doesn't feel as accessible as it once was. Remote workers don't have to worry about that.
On a slightly different but related note, remote companies have an edge when it comes to hiring and diversity.
A remote business is not strictly limited to a location-specific talent pool. They have the freedom and the flexibility to hire people across the UK and even abroad. That means talented individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life can join the business and make a difference.
A diverse and inclusive culture doesn't just positively impact employees but the business' bottom line too - various studies link diversity in teams to higher levels of creativity and innovation.
Working from home is more than just an alternative to an office environment. For many people, it’s a better option that offers inclusivity, flexibility, and authenticity which isn't always possible in an office.
So, if you’re the founder of a new startup, don’t be afraid to prioritise remote working! You might find that it brings out the best in your employees.
Start how you mean to go on, get real buy-in, and engage all your folk by giving them equity. That sense of ownership and a collective mission will foster a level of commitment like no other. Want to learn more? Book a free, no-obligation consultation today.