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3 Reasons Why Workplace Flexibility Is Table Stakes to DEIB

3 Reasons Why Workplace Flexibility Is Table Stakes to DEIB
Posted on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 by Marcy Klipfel

One of the most pivotal findings from our 2023 DEIB report is that in-office attendance isn’t necessary to drive a connected, people-first culture.

Each year, a portion of our State of Workplace Empathy study is dedicated to tracking diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts in the workplace. Not surprisingly, workplace flexibility once again topped the list of most empathetic benefits an employer can offer this year: 96% of employees say flexible working hours is a top empathetic benefit, closely followed by flexible workplace location at 93%.

As we look at our Empathy findings through a DEIB lens, it becomes crystal clear that the benefits of remote and flexible work arrangements run much deeper than work-life balance. So deep, in fact, it won’t be long before flexible work in all its evolving forms—from fully remote and hybrid work to job sharing, flextime, and even four-day work weeks—becomes table stakes (in one form or another) in most companies’ DEIB playbooks.

Our 2023 DEIB Special Report findings reveal three compelling reasons why:

1) Remote workers feel more connected and included

If you’re looking for evidence that empathy and inclusivity thrive in remote cultures, look no further. Our Empathy data showed that 67% of employees view their organization as empathetic—the lowest level ever recorded. Yet this number rises to 76% when filtered by remote workers. The gap gets even wider when comparing organizational empathy at the remote (76%) vs non-remote level (62%)—revealing a 14-point gap in organizational empathy perceptions.

Likewise, remote workers are more likely to view their CEO (69% vs 54%), manager (86% vs 76%), and HR professionals (69% vs 61%) as empathetic versus non-remote workers. But perhaps the most surprising, and counterintuitive finding, is that remote workers also have significantly higher feelings of inclusivity (87% vs 79%), belonging (83% vs 77%), and connectedness (84% vs 77%)—demonstrating that in-office attendance isn’t a requirement for inclusivity.

2) Remote work is a win for employees of minority ethnic and racial backgrounds

Our findings show that employees of minority ethnic and racial backgrounds who work remotely are more likely to feel a stronger sense of inclusion than their non-remote peers. Black and Hispanic remote workers, in particular, benefit from remote work environments:

  • 88% of remote Hispanic employees versus 76% of non-remote Hispanic employees say they can be their true authentic selves at work—a 12-point gap
  • 84% of remote Black employees versus 74% of non-remote Black employees—a 10-point gap

Data from Future Forum also found that remote work arrangements improve employee experiences, especially among Black knowledge workers. Compared to May 2021, Black employees are now reporting a greater sense of belonging at work (up 24%), higher value of relationships with coworkers (up 17%), and a stronger perception of feeling fairly treated (up 21%).

3) Leaders have much to gain from fostering workplace flexibility

Our Empathy data found that 63% of employees say they feel connected to their leaders at work, but this number rises to 70% when filtered by remote workers. Combine this finding with record-low employee feelings of empathy toward CEOs, and it’s clear the C-suite has much to gain from remote and hybrid work environments.

A study by DDI supports our counterintuitive findings around remote work fostering greater inclusivity and belonging, revealing that leaders who work remotely overall feel a much stronger sense of inclusion at work compared with their peers who work in person or hybrid.

Likewise, women leaders who work in person are significantly less likely to report that their organizations feel inclusive. And leaders from minority ethnic and racial backgrounds who work remotely are also more likely to feel a strong sense of inclusion than those who work in person or hybrid.

Flexibility Has Moved Beyond a Pandemic-Era Experiment to a Table Stakes Imperative

This data should evoke an aha moment for leaders who believe in-person work is the impetus for employee engagement, connectivity, and people-first cultures—because our findings tell a different story: Remote workers are thriving on the DEIB front.

For remote workers of color, for example, microaggressions and code-switching (i.e. changing one’s behavior to conform to the dominant culture) become less of an obstacle to doing one’s job. The same is true for people with disabilities, mental health challenges, the neurodiverse, and LGBTQ+ employees.

Recognizing the value of flexible work to all employees is not only empathetic, but essential to a strategic and successful DEIB program. Workplace flexibility has moved beyond a pandemic-era experiment to a table stakes imperative in every employer’s toolbox. Organizations that foster flexibility will win on the talent front and be rewarded with employee loyalty and engagement.

Dive deeper into our DEIB data. Read the latest insights from this year’s DEIB Special Report: