Diversity and inclusion are ethical imperatives, of course, but they also happen to be good for business. A 2018 study by consultancy McKinsey & Co. showed companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to enjoy above-average profitability than those in the bottom, while companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely, as The Independent reported. Luckily for the business world, remote work can make—and is making—the workforce more diverse and inclusive.

For starters, remote work can help companies attract and engage employees from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Perhaps these workers come from cities where long commutes discourage them from applying to certain jobs. Perhaps they live in rural areas and want to work for a company in the city but can't relocate to an urban center. Or perhaps they have strong cultural ties to their communities and don't want to relocate for a job for which they are uniquely suited. These folks shouldn't be excluded automatically due to their geography—especially not when remote workers are proven to be as productive if not more so than those who report to an office.

Remote work also allows people with disabilities and chronic conditions to join and stay in the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 17.5 percent of people living with a disability and 16 or above were employed as of 2015, and many of these people are able and wanting to work. One document control administrator, as we previously reported, had to leave her job after she was diagnosed with pudendal neuralgia, and she didn't think she’d be able to return. Perhaps if her employer were more flexible, she'd still be able to contribute to that company's business goals.

And remote work also helps leverage the talent of women—especially since women often find themselves in the trailing spouse role as their partners accept jobs in new locales. Sometimes, in dual-income households, women have to backtrack or give up on their career ambitions when their partners are relocated. This issue is especially evident among military spouses. Statistically, military spouses are mostly women, and they face the prospect of relocation every two or three years. If they have remote jobs, they don't lose momentum in their careers.

Werk's research—a survey of nearly 1,600 white-collar workers across a variety of demographics and firmographics—found a clear correlation between flexibility and increased diversity and inclusion. Employees with access to flexibility were 20 percent more likely to believe they work in an environment that fosters diverse points of view and 26 more likely to believe their company is doing what it takes to improve gender diversity.

Diversity and inclusion efforts focus on many other demographics, too, but the mission is universal: to ensure everyone who wants to work can work.