Working from home blurs boundaries, adds challenges for Black employees

June 24, 2020

Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) faculty affiliates Laura Morgan Roberts and Courtney McCluney write about authenticity challenges in the Harvard Business Review article “Working from Home While Black.”

The researchers note that Black workers—who often downplay their racial identity at the office in a practice known as code-switching—may feel particularly vulnerable as the boundaries between their personal and professional lives are blurred while working from home.

“Scrutiny of Black workers’ bodies, cultural aesthetics, and home life are heightened in the virtual workspace, and can exacerbate the already stressful conditions Black workers are experiencing during this (COVID-19) pandemic,” the researchers write.

Roberts and McCluney suggest that managers and co-workers enact inclusive practices to support Black employees who are working remotely. Their recommendations include: Welcome and respect boundaries, monitor implicit biases and adjust expectations for participation.

Roberts is a Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia. Her book, Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience, was published by the Harvard Business Review Press.

McCluney is Assistant Professor, Cornell University ILR School. She also is a member of the Academy of Management, Venture Capital Inclusion Lab, and the Harvard Business School Gender Initiative.