New research shows that working from home could lead to a rise in racism and prejudice.
New research from the Woolf Institute, a research institute aimed at improving relationships between religions and faiths in UK society, has found that workplaces are a vital place for integration and cohesion when it comes to improving attitudes towards different races, nationalities and religions.
The report finds that workers are likely to be “worthy ambassadors of their own ethnic, national or religious group” which allows the breaking down of stereotypes to take place. The research states that when this happens, employees help to combat prejudices or discrimination that could have formed without mixing within the workplace.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in remote working, the report found that there could be an increase in prejudice and racism if remote working continues to be implemented by companies over a long period.
The research found that over three-quarters of workers in the UK (76 per cent) worked for companies which have an ethnically diverse setting, meaning that it is a critical space for barriers to be broken down among certain groups.
However, the study did also find regional differences. Workers in the North East, North West and Wales are up to 70 per cent more likely to work with only British colleagues than workers in London. Conversely, workers in East Midlands are nearly four times as likely to work with colleagues from the same religious background in comparison to workers in London.
In terms of non-diverse workplaces, White workers were found to be the ethnic group most likely to work with no other ethnic groups with one-fifth of this group doing so (20 per cent). However, British Asians are the minority group that are most likely to work in non-diverse places with only one in 12 working with another Asian colleague.
The report also uses the term “workplace solos” to refer to a person who is the only representative of their ethnic, religious or national background at work. One in five British Asian workers work with no other people from their background whereas for those who describe their as ethnicity as mixed, this rises to one in three (33 per cent).
The report calls on employers to tackle inequality towards promoting diversity. Specifically, it calls on them to consider “workplace solos” more often and reiterates the importance of the workplace for combatting stereotypes and establishing new norms of social mixing amongst different faiths, races and nationalities.
Dr. Ed Kessler, founder director of the Woolf Institute, said:
As people are forced to work from home during Covid, there is a risk that they go back into isolated silos.
Creating new opportunities for friendships should be a key ingredient of public policy.
In addition, Dr. Ed Kessler and Shabir Randeree, the Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Woolf Institute, said:
There has been general agreement that, in today’s society, it is essential not only to take diversity seriously, but also to reflect on the significance of how we view one another. Indeed, it is only with such an understanding that we learn how to get on together.
We believe this is an important report and ask that its findings, which takes into account an extensive range of different views, be widely considered across the political spectrum by policymakers, government officials, religious and community leaders and the wider public.
*This research was taken from the Woolf Institute’s report ‘How We Get Along: The Diversity Study of England and Wales 2020’ which was published in November 2020. It surveyed 11,701 adults across England and Wales, asking about their attitudes towards diversity in British society as a whole and in local communities.
Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.