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Community Team at Fairygodboss

Mismanaging remote workers in the hybrid workplace isn't only devastating to productivity — it can be damaging to diversity, too. 

"Among college graduates with young children, women want to work from home full-time almost 50% more than men," according to Stanford Economics Professor Nicholas Bloom's recent article in the Harvard Business Review. "This is worrying given the evidence that working from home while your colleagues are in the office can be highly damaging to your career."

“We found that WFH employees had a 50% lower rate of promotion after 21 months compared to their office colleagues. This huge WFH promotion penalty chimes with comments I’ve heard over the years from managers. They often confided that home-based employees in their teams get passed over on promotions because they are out of touch with the office,” wrote Bloom.

With the delta variant of COVID-19 surging and the absence of a child-friendly vaccine, schools and daycares may shut down anew. Some parents may not feel comfortable sending their kids to school at all. Immunocompromised people may be taking stock of whether or not they'll be able to risk the commute. People caring for immunocompromised people may find themselves in the same situation. 

In other words, already underrepresented groups in business like women — who often bear the brunt of childcare and eldercare — and people with disabilities may find themselves working remote more frequently than other groups in whatever form of "return to work" companies undertake in the coming six months. 

With that in mind, there's an increasing need for managers to take ownership of supporting diversity efforts and ensuring bias against remote workers doesn't happen. Here are four ways they can do so, inspired by solutions HR leaders have already found.

1. They monitor compensation and promotion data.

Managers can create a method to track remote workers' salary and promotion data over time to ensure they're being treated equally to employees in the office.  Paul Wolfe, the head of global human resources at Indeed, told Sarah Kessler in the New York Times that his team is examining this data similarly to how they track diversity and inclusion initiatives.

2. They change their office culture.

Kessler also says managers can encourage their team to treat remote work like the norm instead of the exception to foster better inclusion. Ask team members to cap their in-office workdays — like the executives at Slack, who've agreed to work in-person no more than three times a week. Also, encourage team members to do away with rigid office practices that make remote workers feel noticeably "outside" the structure. Zillow did away with seating charts, for example.

Rethinking your approach to meetings is another way to make sure remote workers aren't excluded. 

"Instead of having in-office employees gather in a conference room while remote employees dial in, some companies are encouraging everyone to dial in separately on their laptop, regardless of whether they’re in the office," Kessler writes. 

3. They make space for conversation with senior leaders. 

Informal interactions with senior managers can mean a lot to someone's career trajectory. Kessler quotes a study conducted by Harvard Business School that found "virtual one-on-one meetings could make a difference in whether interns received job offers" and "when the meetings were with senior managers, it made a big difference." Managers can create opportunities, even casual ones, for their team to talk with their colleagues and their senior managers.

4. They're proactive communicators.

While you can't speak to a remote employee across the room or see with your own eyes that they're invested, they are available on whatever messaging or email platform your company employs. Brie Reynolds, a Career Development Manager at FlexJobs, says being a proactive facilitator is the primary job of any hybrid manager. Managers can make the effort to reach out and include remote workers in off-the-cuff conversations and decision making, and trust that they're invested enough in their work to want to be included. After all, taking stock of personal biases against remote workers could be an important part of making sure they aren't left behind. 

This article does not reflect the views of Fairygodboss.

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