The COVID-19 pandemic changed the relationship between employees and their workplaces. Those who were able to undertake their jobs from home took part in one of the largest experiments of all time. Is a fully remote workplace possible? Over a year later, many would conclude that a lot of jobs can be done from home, yet it is unlikely we will know the full extent of the impact of working from home. Despite this, there are already competing narratives about the employee experience of remote working.
At ATOC, we are a data driven company where employees of colour anonymously rate and review their experiences in the workplace. Our aim is to use this valuable data to influence the way in which workplaces approach inclusion and equity. In the past few months, we have been particularly interested to use our growing platform to understand how Black employees have navigated their careers amidst the turbulence of a global pandemic, racial violence and protests affecting Black communities worldwide. We supplemented results from our online review platform with bespoke focus groups to gain valuable insights from Black employees, asking questions about their jobs prior to and during the pandemic.
In line with recent studies, the vast majority of the Black employees interviewed preferred working from home. However, our research also found that working from home had a positive impact on their career progression with more than half of the participants citing greater autonomy over their work and space as a key contributor. One participant remarked: “On zoom, we’re all the same height” speaking to how Black employees felt that virtual work levelled the playing field. The lack of physical interaction meant that there was a greater focus on the work produced, rather than the person who was doing the work.
In addition to increased satisfaction brought on by remote working, 26% of our focus group participants sought promotion during this time and succeeded. It was clear that for this subset of Black employees, the pandemic was the catalyst that propelled them into new jobs, more senior roles, supportive teams, pay rises and better employee benefits and forced them out of toxic work environments. However, our ongoing research shows that these success stories are still hard-fought-for Black employees.
For instance, a participant in our focus groups reported feeling “pigeon-holed into certain roles” while their white counterparts were placed on more exciting projects that could yield more promotion opportunities. These sentiments were also echoed in the large sample of reviews left on ATOC’s website where we find that:
Therefore, not only might Black employees be deprived of key opportunities to grow into their role, they may also lack the input from their coworkers to improve or take active steps towards their promotion.
ATOC’s platform provides us with a rich source of data to evidence the lived experiences of employees of colour. While the unique dynamic of remote work has had a positive impact on career progression of Black employees, this research also highlights ongoing disparities in how Black employees perceive their development and progression opportunities at work.
Further insights from ATOC will be released in our upcoming report on the impact of the pandemic on Black Employees.
More reviews are needed to gain broader insights so please leave a review of your own workplace and join our mailing list to stay informed.