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Employees Need More Remote Work Options and Workplace Transparency, Not Return To Office Mandates

Employees Need More Remote Work Options and Workplace Transparency, Not Return To Office Mandates

A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that most bosses are not happy with remote work and believe it negatively impacts workplace cultures. This study has surfaced after Google officially became less accepting of remote work, updating its hybrid work policy and getting more strict about in-person attendance. This is the wrong employer mindset because major shifts in the U.S. workforce require a transformation of how companies recruit, hire, onboard, and retain talent from marginalizedhistorically oppressed, and systematically underrepresented communities.

Return To Office policies are at the center of this transformation – but data is fuzzy at best. While agile companies, like Yelp, in the early COVID months sold off their physical real estate and went fully remote – retaining and recruiting new tech talent; other large employers are clamming to return to normal. But remote work should remain as a new normal across organizations.

As a  neurodivergent data scientist and transman, I have held six desk jobs in the last eight years – ranging from data coordinator to research director, in academia, the federal government, and industry. I’ve experienced the best and worst of hybrid work policies and the downstream consequences on retaining diversity, equity, and inclusion talent.

As companies are strategically building diversity into their board roomsemployee roster, and leadership team, more attention is needed to not only recruit new employees but retain existing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) talent- ensuring a greater than a net zero-sum game. DEI employees bring more than just your requisite skills. We offer creativity, resilience, and contemporary communication skills – attributes the whole workforce benefits from, directly or indirectly. Here are the three common themes that are barriers to retaining first-generation, non-native, DEI talent.

While executives continue to debate the future of our work, data science employees welcome remote work above all else. We are an odd bunch, disproportionately presenting with autism spectrum disorder and other sensory issues, who welcome process, reproducible code, and achievement above all else. In fact, in dynamic agile, our Way of Working (WoW) centers delighted customers as our number one principle. Customer-centered employees are a top priority for most companies, and a strategic priority for the federal government.

Working from home as a DEI recruit also ties to psychological safety and the opportunity to manage social interactions. It is taxing to be a diversity, equity, and inclusion flag hire who everyone wants to meet and connect with.  Doing so constructively via select zoom meetings allows us to manage our professional environment and take note of key overlaps that can benefit future collaboration. Note-taking while in-person or at one-on-one meetings can be considered rude in many U.S. work cultures, but discrete note-taking on zoom is acceptable, if not best practice, behavior.
Without doubt – there are benefits to working in an office such as more collaboration, mentoring, and stimulating the local economy. But international companies have successfully demonstrated collaboration for two decades – working in a fully remote environment. Since COVID-19 expanded virtual mentoring, critical gaps are being filled as mentoring reaches from inside companies to other professional organizations. Additionally, remote work is a more equitable approach to sustain local economies adjacent to employees’ homes instead of an employer’s physical location.

To be sure, committing to remote work and workplace transparency is an important ingredient for success for all new employees, especially the younger generation of workers. However,  being a DEI hire does not constitute special privileges. However, there is a holistic appreciation that DEI employees have overcome significant barriers to be qualified, which means future-oriented companies should rebuild their onboarding to ensure an effective and ongoing pathway for employees.

Lower operating costs, boosting tech retention, employee satisfaction, and productivity, allowing for accommodations (which is especially important for people with disabilities), and lowering greenhouse emissions are some of the critical benefits of remote work. Dynamic companies know this, and the most dynamic ones shift with the times. For example, Yelp, the San Francisco crowd-sourced local business review and social networking founded in 2004, understood this early and acted swiftly. Framing hybrid work as a living hell, Yelp’s CEO Stoppelman, took decisive action.

Signals point to a brighter future as the University of Washington (UW) has now embraced remote research scientist roles, post-COVID – with talent not required to reside in the state of Washington. Yet, the process of onboarding and signing the UW I-9, the employment eligibility verification form, was a two-week endeavor and countless hours of effort on my end, navigating local, reciprocating university HR offices without an explicit process and UW resources.

At the system-level, trade organizations are leading with progressive policies that advance both patient access and provider reach. In behavioral health, the PSYPACT legislation now allows out-of-state practitioners to treat patients via telehealth– expanding the requisite talent pool while simultaneously resolving a vexing access issue for patients. Relying on contemporary tools is critical to overcoming such barriers. Asking new first-generation DEI employees, already with disproportionately fewer resources than those who come from lineages of professionals, to navigate such inefficiencies, is hurtful.

The tide has turned and we are flipping from an employee to an employer-driven labor market – but companies should not pull back on their transparency and process improvements. Quite the opposite. Future-leaning companies know their next fiscal year will only be as effective as their new talent’s contributions. These companies will benefit from not only securing top talent but retaining DEI talent; that with time and opportunity will build diverse, resilient, and agile management teams.

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