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How Remote Work May Impact Corporate Culture


Photo of kids pestering work-from-home mom
Image: famveldman -
We have a long way to go before our world emerges from the current coronavirus crisis, and we've already seen the pandemic, and people's responses to it, lead in unpredictable directions. No one can project, today, what the world will look like when we're on the other side of this tragedy.<br><br>
But when it comes to the workplace, I think we will have the opportunity to use what we've learned in this difficult time to make our workforces and cultures better. And a lot of these improvements may be tied to the necessity that the pandemic has created for all work to be done remotely and for teams to work virtually.
One benefit, if virtual teams become integral to most if not all corporate cultures, is that this new configuration could aid the cause of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. An enterprise that's located in a place without a very diverse population can now more easily build a workforce that more closely reflects the broader world into which that company likely is selling its products or services.
A bit more complicated is the question of whether a new, broader remote work culture will help or hinder the cause of women in the workforce. One thing that the current crisis has reminded everyone is that the burden of childcare or childcare arrangements still falls disproportionately on women. Many women have reported being overwhelmed by being expected to be the sole provider of care and even education for children whose school year has come to an abrupt end—and having to take on this role on top of being expected to do their full-time job from home at the same time.
If this is going to change — a huge "if," of course — then increased remote working will have to be a part of the solution. Not having to commute to an office is just a huge time-saver, potentially freeing up both partners in a two-parent household (in whatever matching of genders) to build a daily schedule that works for the whole family. And such an evolution would also give a single-parent head of household a flexibility that was unattainable if employees were expected to report to the office most days.
Finally, a broader remote-work culture can only help enterprises accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. Remote work may or may not be the right solution for a given employee with disabilities, but having the option available in all cases just increases the enterprise's flexibility and capacity to provide all employees with a fair shot at success.
In this time of pandemic, people are continuing to connect, virtually, even as they stay inside their own homes. That connectedness will remain after the shelter-in-place orders are lifted, and it will not only change how we work, but how we build our workforces.