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5 stats on how remote work affects inequality in the workplace

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June 15, 2022
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This story originally appeared on Firmspace and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

5 stats on how remote work affects inequality in the workplace

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, one-third of those ages 16 and older employed during May and June 2020 were engaged in remote work, according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means approximately 47,000 people surveyed fell into the category of remote working, which this group said was a direct response to the pandemic.

When restrictions lifted and attitudes toward the coronavirus pivoted, an October 2021 Gallup poll found 91% of those teleworkers surveyed in the U.S. hoped to continue teleworking, with more than half more interested in a hybrid model. The Spring 2022 Future Forum Pulse survey of more than 10,000 knowledge workers from six countries (including the United States) had similar findings. When surveyed between late January and late February 2022, those most interested in telecommuting included people of color and working mothers, with 58% of women and 48% of men preferring a minimum of three days of telework. More than 80% of working mothers preferred the flexibility of location.

Yet, despite remote work’s popularity across several demographics and countries, it can contribute to inequality in the workplace. Surveys over the last two years since the onset of the pandemic have exposed an increase in gender-related harassment, race hostility, and age profiling.

In a Project Include study, approximately a quarter of all respondents reported that they experienced an increase in gender-related harassment. Nearly 95% suffered more race-related hostility, and 23% of those ages 50 and up saw a surge in both harassment and hostility. Of those nearly 2,800 professionals surveyed between May 2020 and February 2021—across 49 countries, including the U.S.—the researchers of the survey determined remote work largely exacerbated currently existing problems in the workplace. Hostility and harassment manifest in different forms with remote work, along with spikes in mental health conditions like anxiety.

Amid the rise of remote work becoming a key part of American work culture, Firmspace scoured numerous studies to find key statistics highlighting ways inequality is impacted by remote work. Sources include LinkedIn, Future Forum, and Project Include.

Read on to explore the effects of remote work on women, Black men, transgender tech workers, and others.

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Women are 26% more likely to apply for remote jobs than men

According to a study published by LinkedIn in January 2021, women may be more inclined to pursue remote work because they’re already performing unpaid work in their daily lives, such as caring for their children or elderly parents. Specifically, women with a high school diploma, associate or bachelor’s degree are about 25% more inclined to apply for jobs that allow them to work from home.

By comparison, job seekers with master’s and doctorate degrees are less inclined to apply for work-from-home jobs. Typically, their advanced educations and therefore enhanced employment opportunities often allow them to shoulder the cost of child care. These jobs may also require them to work on-site. For instance, high-level health care professionals usually interact with patients in person.

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Roughly 80% of Asian, Hispanic, and Black workers would prefer to work in a hybrid or fully remote setup

The majority of workers of color preferred to work at home, according to a 2021 survey by Future Forum. Of the more than 10,000 participants surveyed over the course of a week in April and May 2021, most Asian (77%), Hispanic (78%), and Black (80%) workers prefer to telework—despite more harassment and microaggressions in remote work environments.

Project Include reported 94% of workers subjected to an increase in hostility were people of color. Although Asian, Black, Hispanic, and other women of color often experience racism in the workplace—such as colleagues’ inability to distinguish among individuals of the same race or thoughtless remarks about their personal appearance—97% of Black remote workers still want to continue with a hybrid or telework model, compared to 21% of their white counterparts.

And once given the opportunity to work from home, Black professionals experienced a boost in their ability to handle stress (an increase of 54%) and an enhanced sense of belonging (an increase of 50%). This may be due to the resiliency of women of color when it comes to handling racism in the workplace.

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57% of working moms want to work remotely several days a week

Working mothers preferred to work from home more than working fathers, according to the Spring 2022 Future Forum Pulse survey. The research consortium found that 57% of working mothers prefer to telework three to five days a week, compared to only 48% of working fathers. This represents a 50% and 43% increase, respectively, when compared to figures from November 2021.

That said, 26% of working mothers and 29% of working fathers have found themselves experiencing bias at work, a bit more when compared to people without children (23%). Although they may prefer to telecommute, working mothers are more anxious about advancing in their careers and companies than their on-site counterparts. This can also tie into the unpaid labor that comes with being a parent, meaning parents need to work more overall than their childless colleagues, which can lead to burning out more quickly and exacerbating anxieties.

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42% of Black men feel more included while working remotely—just 27% of white women say the same

Despite the percentage of Black men who feel more, not less, included when teleworking, just 15.9% of Black men wanted to return to their offices. Nearly double the number of white men (30.4%) expressed the same enthusiasm. The Spring 2022 Future Forum Pulse also reported that figures for Black and white women were nearly the same: 22.5% and 22.7%, respectively.

This reluctance to return to the office may be related to the need for people of color and women, in general, to “fit in,” adapting their behavior and use of language to a predominantly male, white culture. This typically includes the need to suppress emotions like anger or code-switching to appear more professional.

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36% of women and 42% of trans tech workers reported an increase in gender-based harassment while working remotely during the pandemic

Harassment and hostility refer to two different types of harmful actions that occur in the workplace. Harassment can include inappropriate questions, requests, and touching or yelling. Hostility usually involves reprimands; unrealistic demands relating to employee availability; unwarranted negative performance reviews; and most seriously, retaliatory measures against those reporting harassment.

Project Include’s study discovered harassing and hostile actions are often based on the identities, or perceived identities, of the targets. These identities include female or nonbinary employees, which accounted for 98% of the respondents who reported an increase in harassment when companies switched to a remote working model. Factors that may have contributed to this spike include inconsistent or absent goals, plans, and priorities; methods for documenting and sharing work; communication strategies; and most importantly, well-defined and well-explained boundaries between home and work.

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