At this point, it’s probably safe to say that if you’re a learning and development (L&D) leader, you are making (or at least trying to make) diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a priority. You probably offer some kind of unconscious bias training to your employees. Maybe you’ve brought in some speakers on racial justice or gender equity for lunch-and-learns.

But, if your company isn’t offering some form of flexible or remote work, are you truly being inclusive?

You may not have direct control over these policies in your organization, but you have control over the DEI training you provide the people who do. Below, I outline some considerations you can include in your inclusive leadership training to build the case for flexible and remote work.

The Impact on Parents

The recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is the first in history that caused fertility rates to increase rather than decrease, according to economist Hannes Schwandt, who co-authored a working paper released last fall exploring the topic. He and his co-authors believe that this baby boom is at least partially attributable to the rise of flexible and remote work. The rise in birth rates was especially pronounced among college-educated mothers (who are more likely to have a job that can provide remote and/or flexible work) and first-time mothers.

Unfortunately, many of those mothers, whose children are now demanding toddlers, are facing return-to-office demands and a walking back of flexible work policies. Meanwhile, child care issues have, by and large, not been resolved, and many mothers miss the ability to flex their schedule to feed a baby, go to a school event, or see a soccer game.

Perhaps this is a driving factor in surveys finding that more than one-half of women say that having flexible work hours is very important to them and that 80% say that the ability to work remotely is one of the most important factors when considering a new job.

It’s not just women; fathers, too, have benefited from the ability to work wherever and whenever they prefer. A New York Times survey found that almost one-half of employed fathers make flexibility and control over their schedule a top priority when it comes to a job. Many of these fathers have taken on more homemaking and child care responsibilities, creating a more equitable distribution of labor for dual-career couples.

Hopefully your company has or is working on implementing good paid parental leave. But making sure that parents have the time and flexibility to be parents after their children leave the newborn stage is important, too.

The Impact on Racial Equity

It isn’t just parents who benefit from remote and flexible work options. Research from Handshake, a network of universities and employers, found that women, Asian, Pacific Islander and Black applicants were more likely to apply for remote jobs. And research from Future Forum by Slack found that of Black knowledge workers who are currently working remotely, a full 97% want a fully remote or hybrid work arrangement.

Future Forum researchers attribute this preference at least in part to the fact that remote work reduces the need for “code-switching,” reduces microaggressions and discrimination, and improves Black professionals’ ability to recover from those incidents when they do occur. And, of course, if they are parents, these professionals experience the same benefits as other working parents from the ability to be more present to their children.

The ideal scenario, of course, would be to eliminate racism in the virtual and in-person workplace so that bias plays no part in anyone’s preference in how they work. In the meantime, however, remote work is a good option to offer.

The Impact on Workers With Disabilities

Many people with disabilities were frustrated at the beginning of the pandemic, when employers who for years said that remote work wasn’t a reasonable accommodation suddenly started expecting it from their workforce. For many disabilities, remote work can be a game-changer in someone’s ability to have a good job.

In fact, by mid-2022, the employment rate for people with disabilities had risen to its highest level since at least the Great Recession. While not all of this increase is attributable to the pandemic, experts have pointed to the rise in remote work as an important factor. The pandemic has also increased the number of workers with disability, thanks to long COVID, making the prevalence of chronic illness and disability both higher and more visible.

Doubtless there are many other people for whom remote and flexible work can be a great benefit. Of course, there will be a learning curve as managers learn to lead remote teams, employers learn to avoid proximity bias, and executives learn to balance the needs and preferences of remote workers with those of employees who would prefer in-office work. Still, considering remote and flexible work to be a key element of DEI initiatives will benefit organizations and their people in the long run.