Some CEOs Want Workers Back in the Office, but It Could Hurt Diversity

  • JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon recently said remote work isn’t ideal for many employees.
  • He’s one of several high-profile CEOs who are pushing for a large-scale return to the office. 
  • But remote work has benefited many people with disabilities, many Black workers, and others. 

Jamie Dimon seems invested in supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds. 

The JPMorgan CEO drove a $30 billion plan to advance racial equity in the US. He’s spoken about the importance of reducing inequality, advancing people from underrepresented backgrounds in leadership, and other social-justice issues

But Dimon appears more bearish when it comes to another measure that’s been shown to promote diversity: remote work.

“It doesn’t work for young kids or spontaneity or management,” Dimon said in a recent interview with CNBC.

Dimon isn’t alone in his assessment. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman this month said he wants employees back in the office at least three or four days a week. Citadel CEO Ken Griffin slammed remote work at a conference last year, saying innovation and creativity declines because of it. 

Dimon has also said that remote work can “help women,” given the caregiving duties that disproportionately fall upon them. “Modify your company to help women stay home a little,” he said. And he said it’s reasonable for employees who work in jobs like research and coding to work remotely.

But the push from some CEOs to return to the office could come at a cost to workforce diversity — something these and other chiefs have vowed to increase. Working from home doesn’t only help women who are caregivers, it can be life-changing for some people from underrepresented backgrounds. Remote work has opened career opportunities for many with invisible disabilities like depression or ADHD and those with physical disabilities. It’s also improved working conditions for some Black workers and some male caregivers

Opportunities for those with disabilities 

An October report by the Economic Innovation Group, a think tank, found that individuals with disabilities between the ages 25 to 54 were more likely to be employed in 2022 than before the pandemic. Disability advocates say this is because of the rise in remote-work options, which are a godsend to people who need more control over their working environment. 

“Remote work offers disabled employees the chance to work, but in their own homes, which provides greater flexibility, accessibility, savings in commuting time and expenses, and even privacy that may be needed to address medical issues that cannot be addressed in the workplace,” Arlene Kanter, a professor at Syracuse University College of Law, wrote in a Harvard Law School blog post last year. 

A woman in a wheelchair works on her laptop

Remote work has opened career opportunities for people with invisible disabilities like depression or ADHD and those with physical disabilities, advocates say.

Phynart Studio/Getty Images

“It’s been a total game changer,” Mason Ameri, an associate professor at Rutgers University who studies employment data on people with disabilities, told The Los Angeles Times in December.

The shift to remote work has been especially helpful for people with physical difficulties and mobility limitations. “The ability to get to work via this 10-second commute is to their advantage,” Ameri said.

Remote work can help people who are neurodiverse and those with autism or mental-health disorders be more productive, advocates say. Some benefits of working from home, like reduced stress and more sleep, extend to people without disabilities, too, according to an analysis published on the Association for Psychological Science’s website. 

Remote work can help rural workers and Black workers 

After Spotify adopted a remote-work option in 2021, Travis Robinson, the head of diversity and inclusion at the audio streamer, explained how the policy helps people living outside large cities. 

A person who lives in a low-income, rural area can now work for an employer based in a major city, where the cost of living might have prevented them from otherwise doing so, he told Insider. 

And while there are often benefits to seeing colleagues face-to-face, for some underrepresented workers, there’s a reprieve that comes from getting to work remotely. 

working from home

Some Black workers report facing less discrimination at work when working from home.

MoMo Productions/Getty Images

Some Black workers report facing less discrimination and fewer microaggressions working from home than when they’re at the office.

“I do not foresee myself ever returning to an office,” Leron Barton, a writer who describes himself as someone with two decades of experience in corporate America, wrote in a Slate essay titled “I’m Black. Remote Work Has Been Great for My Mental Health.” 

McKinsey & Co. reported in April that people from marginalized communities were more likely to prefer and stay at jobs that offer remote or hybrid-work setups. Black employees were 14% more likely than their white counterparts to say they would leave a job if remote work was not available, the consultancy said. LGBTQ employees, meanwhile, were 24% more likely to leave than their heterosexuals peers. 

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