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26 sep

How Embracing Remote Work Makes Companies More Diverse

Do you want a bigger rate of women candidates applying to work at your company? The solution might be to embrace remote work - especially if you are in the technology industry.

The full range of benefits from recruiting for remote positions goes beyond women. Remote jobs help embrace variety. Hiring for remote positions allows you to find good employees that wouldn’t be able to perform to their full potential under standard office conditions.

That was my case. I would often experience social anxiety in my previous workplaces. It is a weird thing to explain. Most people perceive social anxiety symptoms as a lack of confidence. Lack of confidence rooted in a degree of uncertainty in how one’s abilities measure up.

But it doesn’t work like that. It’s more like a conversation you’re always having with yourself. It’s a little voice inside your head that is always looking around and telling you how everyone else is judging you.  Even when I was sure that I had done everything right, a small part of my mind would be whispering “Are you REALLY sure?”

There are plenty of logical counters, of course. The very idea that everyone around is thinking about you and the actions you take doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In truth, we all know that the people around us are too busy worrying about their problems. They are too busy judging themselves to think about us. But that’s the thing about anxiety - it’s a physical and emotional thing. It doesn’t respond to rationality.

 

And Then I Found Remote Work

The idea of working from home appealed to me when I signed up to work as a Remote Office Manager. But I didn't know that it would be a game-changer. I was in for a huge surprise. It changed everything.

Office Manager is a role that I’ve always wanted to do but never dared to. Being an office manager means being a facilitator. You're the person finding roadblocks that keep people from doing their best work. Then, you cooperate with them, helping them remove those barriers.

Doing this job requires a lot of interaction with other people. Asking uncomfortable questions is something that comes with the territory. Doing it in person would make the anxiety go into overdrive.

A good deal of this goes away when you remove physical proximity. I’m not saying that working remotely cured my anxiety, but it sure as hell made it 100% more manageable.

Having no people around when you’re doing your job means that your mind can focus 100% on the work. You can stop worrying about the voice inside your head making you judge yourself. You don't feel that the people walking by are looking at your screen, wondering if you’re earning your paycheck.

 

Listening and being Listened to

One of the best things about remote work is that it evens out the communication playing field. Surely you’ve met the “quiet genius type”? That kind of person that has some great ideas to share but ends up not doing it. Why? Because everyone else in the meeting is louder and quicker to speak.

Virtual meetings are a much more friendly space for these people to expose their ideas. Colleagues tend to mind their tone and loudness a lot more when speaking to a screen. Everyone is standing at a non-threatening distance. The very nature of online meetings is friendlier than that of a face to face meeting. The fact that each person gets her discreet window is more conducive to a round-table format. Each person gets her turn to speak and manages to have her say.

 

Tearing down bias.

There’s also a powerful equalization effect when hiring through virtual communication technology. It’s important to do it by video, of course. You still need to get a feel for the human on the other side. But visual perception is only a part of it, right? When you’re not in the same room, you start paying a lot more attention to non-physical factors. Things like accomplishments, previous work experience, etc. become the focus.

The same proposition holds for evaluations. When considering someone for a promotion,  you’re often influenced by their physical presence. Remote work helps you see a different picture.  You don’t feel that person's proximity, so you’re less likely to judge her on how she makes you feel when she’s around. The focus will be on the work that she’s been delivering.

 

Being Remote Makes It Work

The workplace used to make me feel anxious and stressed out. Thanks to remote work, I went from that to becoming an actual remote office manager. I now work for a company that employees over 30 people worldwide. I deal with a lot of individuals on a daily basis, and it’s easy. It feels like the way it should - like flow.

That’s why helping companies embracing even entry-level remote jobs seems like the next step in the pursuit of diversity. It facilitates the work-life balance that so many women wish for. It helps reduce gender discrimination and cognitive bias, focusing instead on the quality of work. And it lets less aggressive personality types bring their ideas to the table