Inclusion, Equity, & Remote Teams

In response to Covid-19, organizations shifted employees from working in office to working at home. 

Overnight, Covid-19 disrupted workplaces in a way most people never saw coming. Perks like the office snack station, ping pong tables, and aesthetically  pleasing office environments were no longer relevant. Instead, staying connected through virtual methods has become top of mind for leaders.  

This past month of disruption should make you consider that your team literally did the impossible almost overnight. No one had had this experience before. As you faced this new experience together, take a moment to reflect on what you experienced as a team: 

  • What strength of a team member became more visible?
  • What skills did you learn your team needed?
  • What would happen if you lose a team member?
  • How is your workforce impacted by coronavirus – different demographics and geographic policies

You probably saw certain skills rise to the surface that you might previously not have seen in team members.  Skills like problem-solving, emotional agility, optimism, empathy, authenticity, chaos management, grit, resilience, creativity, and adaptability now rise to the top of skill sets required to manage through the Covid-19 crisis. 

Would it surprise you to learn that these crisis management skills are inclusion skills?  In addition, these inclusion skills have now played a critical role in teams surviving and adapting through core business disruption.  

The most successful teams weathered through this crisis by accessing a wide range of perspectives.  Your team brought forth their unique skill set and perspectives to manage through this disruption.  But let’s not stop there.  Now that our workforce is dispersed, leaders will need to consider the unique needs of their team members using an inclusive approach as they align with each diversity characteristics. The leader’s consideration of these needs should translate into behaviors that ultimately result in allowing team members to remain engaged and productive.

Inclusion still plays into how we operate our teams virtually.  An equitable approach recognizes that even in a virtual environment, not all things are equal.  Let’s consider parenting/caretaking for a moment. A well meaning leader might coordinate a weekly lunch or dinner meeting as a time for the team to connect with each other informally. However, a parent who is a caretaker or parent might not be able to attend because they use that time to coordinate or prepare meals for their children or aging parents. 

Let’s take a look at what socioeconomic/status may look like. Your organization requires employees to turn cameras on for meetings. One of your team members struggles financially and has been battling depression. During one of your team meetings, everyone is commenting on the appearance of each other’s home when you notice his. The paint on his wall is chipped, there are bars on the windows, and his room is unkept.

Or let’s simply consider geography. Imagine a member of your team temporarily relocated to the East Coast due to their roommate needing to be isolated. As a leader, you typically held your weekly check-in calls on Friday. at 4pm MST. Now that the employee has relocated to the East Coast, the 4pm MST check-in calls occur at 6pm EST.

As an inclusive leader, one of your goals is to cultivate an environment where everyone can comfortably engage.  Here are some ways you can promote inclusion with a remote workforce. 

  1. Build relationships with your employees to better understand their unique needs
  2. Collaborate with the members of your team to determine the best time and ways for you to meet or get work done
  3. Make sure meeting environments are accessible. Policies mandating video cameras during meetings may inadvertently serve as a barrier to inclusion. 
  4. Also for large broadcasts, consider closed captions or sign language where closed caption is not available.  Also consider vision impairment.
  5. Provide training for employees who may not be tech savvy but be embarrassed to ask questions about new technology.
  6. Acknowledge and thank your team members for exhibiting skills that wouldn’t normally be recognized – such as empathy, patience, and gratitude.

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