Diversity in Remote Work— Moving Towards More Inclusive Teams and Organisations

Maya Middlemiss
The Startup
Published in
6 min readJun 12, 2019

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“Diversity” is a value you will find in many corporate mission documents and policy statements, and includes aspects of equal opportunity mandated by law in many parts of the world, as well as commitments to inclusive behaviour extending well beyond legal obligation in many cases. Beyond the sometimes flowery and formulaic wordings of organisational intent, most employers have long since realised the benefits that a diverse workforce brings to the success of their organisation — alongside the remote working policies which have a complex and interesting relationship to this area of leadership practice.

Better recruitment

The immediate diversity gains of an office-optional working policy are obvious. Being able to hire in a location-independent world means a greater chance of diversity-by-default, decreasing the likelihood of hiring in one’s own image simply due to coincidence. Looking at a hiring need from a global perspective immediately requires an objectification, around skills and aptitudes, rather than a ‘who do we know that…’ approach, and means we are likely to learn about a candidate from their application than recommendation. So we are more likely to initially communicate and judge them, perhaps even assess them, over the work itself — before invoking biases we don’t even know we have about their age, race, accent, appearance, religion and so on (try the Implicit Association Test if you want to learn more about your own biases or believe you haven’t got any, or read Gladwell’s Blink).

Remote working can be criticised for a lack of human touch, but humans cannot help but bring cognitive biases, so removing them from early assessment stages promotes true meritocracy, which benefits the organisation: “More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity — for example, in age, sexual orientation, and experience (such as a global mindset and cultural fluency) — are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain such diverse talent,” writes Vivian Hunt, McKinsey &…

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Maya Middlemiss
The Startup

Freelance author/journalist/consultant, creator of Healthy Happy Homeworking, obsessed with the future of everything: Work, money, business, collaboration…