❔ will remote work increase racism

How much will remote work change the global cultural exchange?

For starters, I don’t know the baseline of cultural exchange in the US. To what extent does your workplace impact your worldview? For many, I suspect their job is where they meet the highest number of people different from them. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the first Muslim some of my coworkers ever met. I am still looking for research into this, but in the meantime, let’s assume that the most diverse group of people you interact with regularly is at your job.

What does that mean for remote workers? If more white-collar employees shift remote, how will that impact acceptance and understanding?

One potential improvement is geographic diversity that may not have existed before. An HR specialist in Arkansas could have a coworker in Buenos Aires for the first time in his life (and vice versa). Spending 8 hours a day with people from around the world could provide the influx of cultural exchange we need.

On the flip side, what if it makes racism worse? The idea of “spending 8 hours a day” with a person is only true in a physical office. In a shared space, yes, everyone will know when the Arkansas native is fasting for Yom Kippur. And when the Argentinian opens a jar of chimichurri at the lunch table, it sparks conversation.

But remote work eliminates these happenstances. Happy hours are depressing, if they exist at all. The casual “Hey, want to grab lunch?” that once segued into a fasting conversation is no more. No one will notice the henna on your hands after your best friend’s wedding. Heck, apparently you can have an entire baby without telling anyone.

Not only is this an exposure issue, it’s an emotional attachment issue. How much do you know about coworkers you met prior to the pandemic? How much do you know about the ones you met after? How much you care about them? Do you feel like they care about you?

I worry that a decreased exposure to “otherness” will lead to a decreased tolerance for other cultures and perspectives. When you’re not seeing kimchi in the cafeteria or dreadlocks in the board room – when you’re not overhearing conversations about milking cows, does your world view contract? Will an emotionally & culturally flatter office impair cultural acceptance across the US? Or will the geographic diversity afforded by remote work increase our exposure to new perspectives instead?

Let me know your thoughts.


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Every post on this blog is a work in progress. Phrasing may be less than ideal, ideas may not yet be fully thought through. Thank you for watching me grow.