4 Tips to Maintain an Inclusive Virtual Workplace During COVID-19
When crises like COVID-19 strike and normalcy is interrupted, it’s critically important that we still honor our commitments to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Research shows that diverse teams are more agile and innovative, and in times like these, companies need innovative thinking. Although most businesses have been disrupted and many employees are working remotely, employers should continue to be intentional and consistent in their efforts to attract and retain diverse talent. Additionally, they must continue to cultivate an inclusive environment where they can leverage everyone’s unique perspectives and ideas. Here are four tips for maintaining an inclusive work environment during these challenging times.
- Stay the Course – Now more than ever, it’s critical to reinforce your commitment to diversity hiring and workplace inclusion. Remind everyone about their role and your expectations for respectful communications and creating belongingness for others, especially during a crisis. Continue to be intolerant of “excluding behaviors” (disrespect, bullying, racial/gender slurs, harassment, discrimination, inequity).
- Manage Talent Effectively – Stay mindful of the impact of stress caused by the crisis (fear of loss, isolation, lack of control, interruptions, impatience, boredom, family challenges, depression of the immune system, etc.) and make adjustments as needed. Interrupt your unconscious biases by intentionally questioning your assumptions and the decisions you make about people, such as assuming people with children at home are not working as hard as those without. Lastly, be clear about goals and expectations. Be flexible about individual needs and how and when tasks are completed based on the individual’s role. For example, tasks for client-facing roles may be accomplished at different times than tasks for roles that are not client-facing.
- Be a Sensitive Communicator – When employees are working remotely, you must enhance inclusion and psychological safety by taking extra steps to connect. One way to do this is to use audio and visual technology to have more frequent face-to-face meetings with individuals and teams. Solicit input and tell people that their thoughts and ideas are important to you. Be open to and respectful of diverse ideas, workstyles, communication styles and needs, and adapt your communication style to engage others. If inclusion issues arise, be honest, address and quickly solve them just like you would in the office. When people are remote and isolated it’s critically important to communicate frequently until issues are resolved.
- Provide Recognition – Rewarding employees for their hard work can help enhance office culture and foster belongingness. Regularly give recognition and praise and value people’s diverse and unique skills, abilities and contributions during the crisis. Avoid micro-affirmations by ensuring that you acknowledge everyone’s contribution and value in one way or another. Everyone is valuable in different yet equally important ways. Create ways for people to recognize each other virtually, whether it be an email or a shout-out during a virtual meeting.
While times may be challenging now, they won’t last forever. When we achieve the new normal companies will need experienced employees to get business operations up and running quickly. If employers drop the ball on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion commitments during the crisis, they’ll lose key talent and find themselves struggling to run at full capacity. For additional information on achieving an inclusive environment or on managing teams during COVID-19, visit our website.