One area organizations struggle with in general is inclusivity, but this is an even greater challenge while working remotely. As companies have transitioned to virtual world full of video conferences, increased phone calls, and multi-tasking between work and personal life due to COVID-19, we are quickly seeing a shift in what a “new normal” looks like for workplace culture. Although the work must continue, it’s important to not neglect your company’s greatest asset – your people.
The shift to a virtual environment has companies not only implementing or expanding their technology capabilities but also acclimating employees to working remote while simultaneously caring for families, homeschooling children, coping with illness, or managing shift in finances. It’s imperative that organizational leadership continue to create a space of inclusion for their employees rather than putting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on the backburner.
One of the ways organizations can continue to emphasize the importance of company culture is to think, “how can I promote inclusion and equity virtually?” In this post we are sharing some best practices for creative an inclusive culture while working remotely.
Working Remotely Tips:
Create a space for employees to voice their opinions
As we transition to a world full of phone calls and video conferences, we are faced with the challenge of not having the luxury of “reading the room” and leveraging context from body language and expression to aid in discussions. When working virtually it’s important to create a space where everyone feels empowered to voice their opinion. This can include encouraging the use of the chat function for those less extroverted and having trouble speaking up and consistently monitoring the chat for thoughts, ideas, and questions. Other effective strategies include using messaging that you value everyone’s opinion, even if they disagree and taking pauses (even when they feel uncomfortably long) to create an opportunity for others to speak up. Encouraging everyone to speak may take effort but will promote diversity of thought which has proven to be the group’s greatest asset and have synergetic effects.
Reinforce names and speak up for yourself and others
One of the biggest challenges of remote work is remembering who said what, knowing who all is on the call at any given moment, and giving credit where credit is due. As a meeting owner, you or a delegated facilitator, must serve as a conductor in mastering the group dynamics. Setting ground rules such as – “no talking over one another,” or going ‘around the table’ when discussing critical topics promotes equity. It is also important to credit ideas to prevent unconscious occurrences like “mansplanning.” Simply reinforcing others’ ideas in a respectful manner such as, “Yes I agree that Jane Doe’s idea of reduce trade spend would be effective,” goes a long way in creating inclusive spaces.
Practice inclusive language
It’s easy to slip into our comfortable, everyday language as we are working from home – the danger is that our casual language may not always promote inclusion. It’s important to continue to practice inclusive language by using coworker’s preferred pronouns, such as “he”, “she”, or “they,” and if you aren’t sure what an individual preferred pronoun are or are be sure to use the individual’s names. Just as it is best practice to use inclusive terminology such as “partner” instead of “wife” or “husband” with coworkers, it’s important to keep this inclusive language in mind when referencing individuals, you may see or hear on calls and video conferences when working remotely.
Leverage blurred backgrounds and background images
The shift to digital meetings has quickly become an invitation to coworkers homes, offices, and personal space; this can also invite our implicit biases and curiosity to make judgements about how our coworkers live. Technology platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom have functionality that can subtly conceal your background and focus while focusing on you or allow you to upload an image, like a company logo, to cover your background. Leveraging this platform can provide comfort for those during this time whose dedicated workspace may also serve as a school for their kids, nursery for infants, or doctor’s office for their loved ones.
Create space for non-work-related conversations
During these unprecedented times, many of your employees are being faced with increase pressures – from coping with grief and impact, pulling double-duty with work and homeschooling children, are balancing the impacts of unemployment or furloughs of their partners, or are working differentiated hours. Numerous companies have heightened their focus on corporate responsibility and prioritizing their people. AN easy way to create an inclusive space is leveraging platforms like Slack, SharePoint, or email groups to create opportunities to talk with others, support one another and get to know coworker can go a long way in easing anxiousness and creating inclusion. Example channels could include health & wellness, philanthropy & community support, working mothers, or homeschooling ideas.
Some strategies are simple, and others will take reinforcement from organizational leadership, but continuing to prioritize an inclusive culture while working remotely will pay dividends in keeping your employees engage and ensuring that they feel their voice and work is valued.
If you’re interested in other tips in working as a part of remote teams, employee trainings, or mitigating unconscious bias please contact us and we’ll be happy to connect you with more resources.