The rise of remote work is the critical push we need to level the professional playing field. It’s my opinion that companies that support remote work provide added opportunities for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Not sure you agree? I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder —better known as ADHD. Let me share with you how working from home has changed my life for the better.
Remote work provides greater opportunities for DEI
My personal experience is a modest snippet of how remote work can provide greater opportunities for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
When a company successfully structures itself to truly accommodate remote workers they not only give themselves access to a diverse talent pool, they also open up the doors for so many talented individuals that can’t otherwise participate in the workplace.
There are people that need to stay home to take care of children or relatives, people that are highly skilled but struggle to get to work due to a lack of reliable transport, people that struggle with chronic pain issues and need to carefully manage their energy, and countless others that have a lot to offer but are held back from barriers that can readily be addressed by supporting remote work.
The basic toolkit for remote work – a stable internet connection and a laptop – is far more accessible than the costs associated with working inside a traditional workspace.
Think about how much it costs to be employed:
- Commuting costs including time, vehicle maintenance, and gas
- Purchasing and maintaining a professional wardrobe
- Dining out more often as a result of social and time pressures
Remote work provides people with the opportunity to live where they want to — or where they can afford to. By not being forced to relocate they can live in a low cost of living area, remain with their families, and apply for positions based on their genuine passion and skills rather than being swayed by the convenient location of the company.
Should you be working from home?
After getting my first taste of remote work I can whole-heartedly say that I’m never going back to the office. Okay, more realistically I would weigh a position that supports remote work far more favorably than one that didn’t. But it would take a lot of convincing to force me back into a typical office environment.
It’s great for me, but let’s be honest here. Working from home comes with great perks, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
If you’re fortunate you get to spend your workday sitting in a slice of living space that you’ve dedicated solely to your work. It is sacred. Untouchable. Nobody dares to encroach on your realm without dire need. You are a machine that has been meticulously engineered to crush that assignment, tear through that to-do list, and ultimately emerge victorious.
Realistically, there are plenty of opportunities for distractions to come your way. Memories of that dirty sock that missed the laundry bin as you were rushing to get changed after rolling out of bed 10 minutes before the start of your workday. Your enthusiastic roommate that needs to tell you something right now. Maybe a disgruntled pet that’s not too thrilled that you forgot to feed them this morning in your haste.
These are all very real distractions you’ve likely faced as you adapted to working from home. I know I’ve certainly had my fair share of distractions.
Here’s the thing – I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. After getting my first taste of remote work less than a year ago I’ve been absolutely hooked.
Why remote work matters to me
Just as I was starting college I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD. Specifically the “predominantly inattentive” subtype, but the specifics of that is for another article. With this diagnosis my world as I knew it suddenly made sense. All of the struggles I’ve had with emotional regulation, maintaining prolonged attention, keeping organized, controlling my impulsive behavior, and other key executive functions suddenly had a name.
If you aren’t already familiar with ADHD, I’ll do my best to not butcher this explanation. The most succinct way I’ve heard it described is in a quote from ADHD coach Brett Thornhill: “it’s like your brain keeps switching between 30 different channels and somebody else has the remote”
ADHD presents itself differently for a lot of people. The stereotypical image of the hyperactive child staring off into space may have some merit but it’s not like that for everyone. One of the key themes is that people with ADHD struggle with what is known as executive functions.
Tasks that rely on executive functions:
- Organizing, prioritizing, and activating for tasks
- Focusing, sustaining, and shifting attention to tasks
- Regulating alertness, sustaining effort, and process speed
- Managing frustration and regulating emotions
- Utilizing working memory and recalling memories
- Monitoring and self-regulation action (impulsivity)
My struggles with working memory, attention span, and memory recollection make standard office environments difficult. Live meetings are a nightmare. I constantly lose details even speaking one-on-one, let alone in a team environment. While remote work has its fair share of video conferences it is so much easier to get important items in writing when everyone is used to collaborating digitally.
Conforming to the norms of the professional world is a hassle when you have ADHD. It feels like everyone needs you to be quiet. To stay in your seat. To follow a set schedule. All of these expectations are completely counter to how my brain is wired.
The working style that makes me my most productive isn’t necessarily compatible with the standard office. My neurodivergent behavior can be a distraction to others. I’m constantly pacing around, making strange noises, or tapping out rhythms on my desk. Anything to try and keep myself focused and engaged. This stimming is great for me but not so much for those around me.
Even the slightest break from my focus can throw me off my flow. The flexibility offered by remote work lets me structure my day and my workspace in a way that lets me work my best. I can schedule my work periods so that I can disengage and take a short break to regain my focus. If I’m heavily engaged in a task and flowing well when I’d normally take my lunch break I can choose to take advantage of that flow and take my lunch later.
When I’m working from home I have a dedicated solo space where I can work in a way that sets me up for success. I can manage distractions by checking Slack and email at set intervals rather than having my flow interrupted by a colleague dropping by. I can also far more easily tune out the relative calm of my apartment building compared to the hustle and bustle of a traditional office space.
Mind you not all of these perks are unique to remote work. I’m sure there are plenty of companies that give their employees the autonomy to work in a way that makes sense for them. Fortunately for me with the power of remote work I don’t need to leave my hometown or buy a car that I can’t afford just to find these companies — they’re readily available to me.
I know that the option to work remotely is going to be a crucial perk for me as I progress through my career. I am fortunate to be able to work in a traditional office if I absolutely need to, but I know that I excel when given the opportunity to work from home. For countless others that would otherwise be excluded from the workforce remote work opens doors that are otherwise closed to them. It is my hope that post-pandemic more companies begin to shift to a remote-first mentality in order to provide greater opportunities for those that need it.
Dale Strickland is a 2019 RBC Honorary Fellow recipient, and a 2019 VFC Fellow. He is the Marketing Coordinator at CurrentWare, a digital media marketer, and a cybersecurity and technology enthusiast.
Be like Dale. Be a Fellow.