As companies revive return-to-office plans, they may face resistance from Black employees who prefer working from home.
A Future Forum/Slack survey of 5,085 workers found that 81% of Black workers wanted a flexible working schedule with the ability to work from home. About half 50% of Black entrepreneurs said remote work lets them better pursue their interests, according to a February Linkedin/YouGov poll of 1000 Black entrepreneurs, while 46% of Black entrepreneurs started their own business to have more work flexibility.
Two key reasons Black workers prefer a work from home arrangement are work-life balance and an escape from workplace racism, remote work experts told Yahoo Money. Companies should take note if they want to foster diverse workforces.
“In order to be competitive, particularly as more companies strategize to attract and retain talent amidst the Great Reshuffle, employers should help to create spaces that allow professionals to thrive inside and outside of the workforce,” said Rosanna Durruthy, LinkedIn’s global head of diversity inclusion and belonging.
Break from workplace racism
While she didn’t explicitly experience racism while working in the office, Gabrielle Pickens, CEO of consulting firm Pickens Creative has experienced fewer microaggressions since she started remote consulting work with Upwork, an online freelancing company.
“While I've never been blatantly mistreated due to my race at work, I have been in situations where my Blackness was a topic of discussion,” Pickens told Yahoo Money. “It seems as if remote work provides a veil over the thing that divides us most—skin color. Remote work is the future.”
Pickens also noted that many Black remote workers can do their work without distractions because they don’t have to deal with workplace bias, echoing another Future Forum/Slack survey of 3,480 remote workers that found that Black workers had a 64% increase in better handling stress like microaggressions once they started remote work.
“Everything from name bias, to hair bias, Black women are performing better because we don't have to compromise cultural parts of our identity in order to ‘fit in’ at work,” Pickens said. “We're safe at home, in our element, getting things done.”
More work-life balance for Black working mothers
Dondrea Owens is CEO of online accounting firm Creative’s CFO. She started the firm in 2017 to help artists manage their finances. Owens found it easier to transition to working online before the pandemic and grew her business through social media, so working remotely came naturally to her.
“I never was a paper-based accountant, so [working remotely] made my job easier,” said Owens.
A Brookings study found that since Black mothers are more likely to be a family’s breadwinner and can’t leave work as often, they have the hardest time finding and affording childcare services. Owens said that working from home enabled her to more easily take care of her two young children.
“It makes a difference for me as a mom, '' Owens said. “Working from home allows me a bit of calm because I’m not at a central location.”
Remote work helps Black entrepreneurs have more autonomy
Pickens and Owens show that working from home can empower Black workers in ways companies haven’t before. Pickens noted that although she misses working at work sometimes, the flexibility of remote work fuels her creativity that she didn’t feel within the confines of an office.
“As we all know by now, working remotely has its fair share of benefits and challenges. One greatly missed facet of office life is the office chatter. Brainstorming with others can help achieve goals faster and add color to mundane days,” Pickens said. “However, the freedom and flexibility of working remotely can provide limitless opportunities for inspiration.”
Durruthy noted that companies that invest in remote work can create more inclusive and culturally sensitive workplaces for Black workers.
“This has been a time where Black employees everywhere have been reimagining not just where they work, but how and why they work as well,” Durruthy said. “We’ve learned that organizations investing more heavily in remote work appear to be creating more equitable and psychologically safe work experiences.”
Ella Vincent is the personal finance reporter for Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @bookgirlchicago.