Can we use teleworking as a tool for anti-racism?

Can we use teleworking as a tool for anti-racism, is one of the questions Zoe Kinias (INSEAD Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour), Modupe Akinola (Columbia Business School), Erin Kelly (MIT Sloan) and Michael Norton (Harvard Business School) attempts to address in this research.

Given the world has been in lock-down since February/March 2020, the corona-situation has developed a ‘new normal’ in which most business (both externally and internal) is managed through a virtual environment, using Zoom, Teams or another online collaboration tool. While these tools certainly pose some limitations compared to ‘real world’ interaction, it also opens new avenues for collaboration and inclusion.

Some of the findings, that can assist to a more inclusive working structure are;

In the real world, the process of breaking into small groups and reconvening can be cumbersome and logistically difficult (necessitating a large enough room or several small ones, etc.). With Zoom’s “breakout room” feature, it can be accomplished in a few clicks.

For example, Adina Sterling a Stanford Graduate School of Business demonstrated one way of leveraging Zoom to maximize inclusion. Though it is a little-used feature, the platform allows you to “rename” yourself, i.e. customize how your name appears in the participant frame (try it at your next meeting). During the conference, Sterling suggested that the professors provide the phonetic spelling of their name and their preferred pronoun. This automatically takes away some of the “otherness” of having a name or identity that is unfamiliar to the majority.

Although, the above suggest that teleworking is a positive for inclusion, there might also be some concerns. When using Zoom or Teams e.g. for online teaching, not everyone will feel comfortable with having the camera on, as they might feel embarrassed and worry about not have a large room or house. Showing how you live can reveal social imbalances, that otherwise would have been easier to hide.

The background filters can be used for covering up a messy dorm room, but it is also a great way for businesses to display their logo or fancy lobby.