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Slack poll points to “white and male” post-pandemic offices

Findings may alarm diversity champions.

Ian McCawley

in-person
Credit: ANDREEAS via Twenty20.

Unleash Your People Big decisions remain to be made as employers figure out a return to in-person work.

  • 30% of white male workers are keen to return to full-time, in-person work.
  • Just 16% of Black male employees feel the same.
  • Experts suggest this will mean a less diverse in-person workforce in future.

As the world attempts to reopen safely while the pandemic progresses, a new survey from Slack sheds light on what the in-person workforce of the future will look like – and it doesn’t appear to be diverse.

According to statistical analysis hub FiveThirtyEight, white men are keenest to return to in-person work, with 30% professing a preference for full-time office work.

Just over half as many Black men, 16%, feel the same. White and Black women waver more about returning to the office, with 22% of each group keen.

return TO DIVERSITY?

More than 100 million Americans transitioned from in-person to remote work during the pandemic, meaning there are a huge number of decisions to be made about their future place of work.

Of course, this will have a bearing on how businesses plan to reopen their premises. It also comes alongside calls from some organizations for employees who wish to work in-person to be fully vaccinated before coming back.

The survey was conducted amongst more than 10,000 global knowledge workers recruited by Future Forum, a research consortium run by Slack.

It included more than 5,000 respondents from the US, and around 1,000 additional participants in each of Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK.

There are some other eye-opening insights alongside the stats pulled out above, some of which relate to diversity in the workplace.

For example, working remotely helps some demographic groups more than others. This is particularly true for Black men, with nearly half (47%) reporting their sense of belonging at work is slightly or much better than in-person.

Working remotely also helps alleviate work anxiety as well: 64% of Black men reported less work-related stress and anxiety in a remote setting.

Meanwhile, 64% of non-Hispanic Black women working remotely said they are treated fairly at work, compared to 76% for non-Hispanic white women.

For non-Hispanic Black men, the figure is 72%. Non-Hispanic white men feel the best about their treatment, with 81% saying they are treated fairly.

The new diversity dilemma

These findings raise further issues about how organizations should recognize and deal with emerging diversity issues as they plan an office return.

L. Taylor Phillips, an expert on workplace equity at New York University’s Stern School of Business, believes there are reasons why remote work benefit employees of color.

They tend to suffer aggression, abuse and harassment more than white employees in traditional in-person settings.

“Remote work may offer people some chances to protect themselves from some kinds of discriminatory treatment,” says Phillips.

Ultimately, if people’s decisions follow the divisions in Slack’s poll, there could be fewer people of color, women and mothers working in-person when the pandemic recedes.

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