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Flexibility for All

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There’s been a lot of talk about the advantages of remote work and flexible work arrangements over the past two years. Productivity jumps up, costs go down, and employees report being happier, healthier and more motivated—as well as more loyal to their employers.

Another, perhaps unexpected benefit of this flexibility is one that a recent New York Times article brought to my attention: a boost to diversity.

The article talked about how remote work and flexible arrangements were especially helpful for those who often feel marginalized—or, worse, alienated—by traditional cube life.

“There are people of color whose colleagues wouldn’t stop asking them how to work the copy machine. There are the introverts who never wanted to chat about fantasy football leagues,” the New York Times writes. Not surprisingly, “some of the companies now attempting to call their staff back are facing a wave of resistance from workers emboldened to question the way things always were — which is to say, difficult for many people.”

A survey conducted last year by Future Forum found that 86% of Hispanic and 81% of black knowledge workers in the United States said they prefer hybrid or remote work, while 50% of worker mothers globally reported wanting to work from home most or all of the time. That compares with 75% of white knowledge workers who said they prefer hybrid or remote work and 43% of fathers who said they wanted to work remotely most or all of the time. Since last May, sense of “belonging” at work has shot up for 24% of black knowledge workers, compared with just 5% for white workers.

The New York Times article offers the example of Kristen Egziabher, a project manager in Texas, who felt she was passed over for a promotion pre-pandemic because colleagues felt they only knew her work, and not her personally. Just a couple months after work-from-home mandates kicked in due to the pandemic, however, Egziabher’s work became the focal and she got her promotion (as well as an 11% raise)—but it was too little, too late. She eventually left that company for another one that offered her a full-time remote position where she could simply “focus on the work.”

Not only is broadening the diversity of our workplaces the right thing to do, it also makes the most business sense. More heterogeneous teams have been proven to generate greater innovation and creativity, and companies with diverse workforces are 35% likelier to experience greater financial returns.

As business leaders, our job is to bring out the best in our people. That includes creating an environment that makes them feel seen, supported and inspired. Hybrid workplaces and flexible arrangements have become an essential tool for attracting, retaining, motivating and championing the greatest talent around the world. Have you seen this at your company.

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