Remote work options are a new trend since the coronavirus. However, the “digital divide” prevents some from working remotely. It’s up to business leaders like you to help your team bridge that gap.

The Impact of the Digital Divide

What is the digital divide? When people do not have access to the technology they need, it creates a gap. Necessary tech for remote work includes fast internet services, computers, and cell phones. That gap may lead to poor results in the job market.

A new study shows the power of this divide today. If people have basic computer skills, they are more likely to have a job in any field. In other words, people without technology may struggle to find work.

Who lacks these services? The FCC says that only 65% of people in the rural U.S. have access to high-speed internet. Native American areas have less than 60% access. In total, nearly 30 million Americans don’t have these services.

Race can play a factor too. A 2019 survey shows that Black and Hispanic adults were less likely than White adults to have a computer or internet services. In 2020, other research showed that Black and Hispanic college students worried about working remotely. Some lacked private work space while others had slow internet service.

The digital divide also affects online schooling. Workers may lack access to classes that can advance their careers. What can you do to ensure that your employees have equal access to the technology they need? 

Finding the Right Solutions To Bridge the Gap

Remote work trends are growing. However, many industries, like medicine or construction, still require onsite employees. Other companies need to offer remote work options to new employees. These employers can take the following steps to bridge the divide.

First, ask current employees how they feel about remote work. Are there any problems they have? These include slow data services or limited privacy for work.

If your staff worked remotely during the coronavirus, use this data. You can add these issues to your survey. When you’re finished, you are ready to come up with solutions. 

1. Your Team Wants Remote Options

You can now plan your hardware and software needs. First, replace your desktop computers with laptops. Offer smartphones to staff members that need them. 

Effective meetings need good quality high-speed internet. Some team members may not have a fast enough connection. Perform an analysis to see if upgrading their home service is affordable. 

Work with your IT staff to develop data security measures. Next, sit down with human resources. They should write rules for use of these devices and services.

2. If Your Staff Does Not Want Remote Work

Do you want to lead an effective virtual team? The first step is to help your staff bridge the gap. Uncertain or uncomfortable workers will struggle.

To put them at ease, start slowly. Offer limited remote work options. Provide them for those who want to work from home for health or safety reasons. This can be a starting point.

Next, run a test meeting with a brainstorming session where you can discuss some of the concerns up front. In brainstorming sessions like these, Lucidspark suggests ensuring you have a meeting facilitator, an agenda, and so on, to ensure everything gets properly discussed. Be sure this event is not highly critical. This test will help you discover what you need to move forward, as well as help you find remote challenges. Does anyone appear to be left out? Were people struggling to be heard or understood? Provide support for those team members.

Keep testing with slightly higher stakes. Work out any challenges. This will help you increase remote work options little by little.

Remote work options are important in today’s world. However, leaders must recognize that the digital divide impacts work-at-home success. Solving these problems makes you a leader in bridging the gap.