Working from home could lead to more racism and other prejudice, report finds

Workers risk moving backwards and into more “isolated” thinking.


Charley Ross
Monday 16 November 2020 13:19

Remote working may be key to weathering the Covid-19 pandemic, but it could also damage efforts to combat racism and other prejudiced attitudes, according to new research.

The study was put together by polling company Survation for the Woolf Institute, which researches interfaith relations. It reports that out of those who work in shared offices, 76 per cent of workers – regardless of ethnicity – were in a setting that is ethnically diverse.

The shift to remote working is set to interrupt this socially cohesive norm. Workplace friendships have been found to be important in breaking down misconceptions about those from different backgrounds, so distancing employees from the office dynamic may damage efforts to minimise prejudice.

Alternative work set-ups to offices will not provide the same opportunities for “social mixing” between different ethnic groups, the report warns. The Wool Institute’s founder, Dr Ed Kessler, has said that an increase in people working from home will risk people moving backwards and into more “isolated” thinking.

“As people are forced to work from home during Covid, there is a risk that they go back into isolated silos,” he says. “Creating new opportunities for friendships should be a key ingredient of public policy.”

Those who were unemployed were also found to be twice as likely (37 per cent) to have no friends outside their own ethnic and religious groups.

When it came to the diversity of friendships in different parts of the country, it was found that people in the north east of England are 150 per cent more likely to have only British friends and 68 per cent more likely to have only British colleagues, in comparison to those living in London.

The Woolf Institute also delved deeper into conceptions of inter-racial and inter-religious pairings, and found that while nearly three-quarters of non-black or non-Asian respondents were comfortable with a close relative marrying a black or Asian person (74 per cent and 70 per cent), less than half (44 per cent) said they were comfortable with the idea of a close relative marrying a Muslim person.

The survey was undertaken by Survation on behalf of the Woolf Institute. Survation spoke to a nationally representative sample of 11,701 adults across England and Wales.

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