Providing a space for everyone, regardless of background or demographic, to do their best work and contribute to organizational success requires learning how each individual expects to be valued and included. Leaders must be empathetic, aim to understand the struggles of their team, and respond in ways that foster diversity. While COVID-19 has made this goal more difficult, we’ve developed a few steps to creating a welcoming, inclusive workplace even when you can’t be in the office.
Promoting Inclusivity in Remote Work Environments
Connecting to others looks entirely different today. In their personal lives, people are experiencing virtual connectivity more frequently than they did before the pandemic. This environment does not, however, guarantee more inclusion at work. Non-inclusive dynamics between in-person teams, without specific planning and intervention, might be heightened in a remote setting. For example, many people within a workplace have a habit of interacting only with familiar team members, rather than building new connections. According to research from McKinsey & Company, that habit is even harder to overcome when impromptu, in-person interactions are no longer possible. This is especially true for employees who already feel like outsiders.
Nichole Rouached, manager of communications and projects at OrthoWorx, emphasizes the importance of establishing best practices within your organization, and she provides three areas to assess while taking steps to promote inclusivity:
1. Internal Communication
How do you engage with your team? Does everyone feel safe to share their opinions in meetings? Remote communication is exceedingly difficult because you don’t get the advantage of reading visual cues such as nods of encouragement or questioning looks. Everything from your email interactions to your instant messages should convey respect and empathy for people on your team, ensuring them that they can come to you if they have questions or concerns.
2. External Communication
Staying aware of community events and news headlines will keep your company at the forefront of the movement toward change. Show your dedication to eliminating systemic racism by making sure the people in your community know your business is devoted to diversity initiatives. This could involve hiring a diversity specialist, participating in local events, or honoring various cultural holidays.
3. Physical Space
Creating space for diversity and inclusion involves two distinct parts: First, you must open the door to fresh thoughts and opinions by inviting your team members to speak up, both in one-on-one meetings with company leadership and in group gatherings. Second, you should be conscious of your team members’ desires. Don’t assume that people with diverse backgrounds will automatically want to lead your inclusion initiative. Give them space to consider the opportunity—and be understanding if they decline.
As Nichole Rouached says, “Inclusion shouldn’t just be a policy, but a practice.” Each of the above areas requires an audit of communication to ensure your company’s language is appropriate and accessible.
Our current moment in history provides unparalleled insight into the experiences of others. Are you prioritizing diversity initiatives that make people of all backgrounds and demographics feel welcome? If you want to launch some inclusive practices within your company, we wrote an entire eBook about the steps you can take—download it here.