A new report from the LA Times said black employees are taking remote work options over physical job locations, even at a pay cut, to avoid "racism they faced on the job."
LeRon Barton, who worked as a network engineer in a San Francisco hospital, took a $5000 pay cut in order to not return to an in-person work environment. The LA Times cited a "reprieve from racism" for his and others' decision to not go back into the office.
"Working remotely during the pandemic showed him a whole different lifestyle: no commute, more time with his family and a break from the onslaught of microaggressions and other racist behavior he’d had to endure," the outlet wrote.
The sentiment to stay out of the office is apparently shared by other black workers who have gone remote. The shift, according to the LA Times, is to "prioritize your mental health" over "endur[ing] for the sake of your career."
Barton said he was willing to trade the networking opportunities in the workplace and happy hour for his "peace of mind." In a 2021 study, only 3 percent of white-collar workers who are black wanted to return to in-office work full-time. Workers in similar fields who are white, on the other hand, wanted to return at a 21 percent rate.
The study said, "Black employees experience stress associated with working in a predominantly white workplace, which contributes to a lower sense of belonging."
A 35-year-old paralegal in the Midwest, who asked not to be identified, said remote work "as a Black employee and someone who is neurodivergent, it’s just better for me."
"I’m able to be more productive. I’m able to focus better. I get so much more work done here in my own space where I’m able to be who I am and think."
Another explanation proposed by the study and talked about by the LA Times was that black workers did not need to worry about "code-switching," or adjusting their behavior depending on what environment they are in.
A "career expert with LinkedIn" said that when people do not have to "code-switch" because they will feel more comfortable not doing so.
"Professionals that have the opportunity to be in these remote environments and not experience microaggressions at work or not do as much code-switching or all of those things have now said, 'Oh, that was great for my mental health' or, 'It helped me be a little more authentic at work,'" said Andrew McCaskill, a career expert with LinkedIn. "And a lot of employees and workers just don’t want to give that up."
With remote job options shrinking post-pandemic, the outlet said that eliminating such options could hurt companies’ ability to "recruit a diverse workforce."
"Companies have to recognize that if they really want to meet their commitments to diversity and inclusion, one of the best levers they can pull for that is remote work," said McCaskill.
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