With the current epidemic effecting every area of life, from social events, lockdown, reduced travel, even some shops closing their doors temporarily - the list goes on - and the one very pertinent area its affected is where you work. With the vast majority of those employed being forced to transfer their usual work habits to work-at-home habits, as the country went into lockdown. This made it even more critical, and more challenging for the HR department. Especially, as life smooths out once again, and maybe your fellow co-workers - or your employees prefer remote working, and the question is: How can you make sure that the culture of the office is inclusive for those working-from-home?
First and foremost, show empathy. You may never know it but your actions can have a significant impact on someone else's day, showing that little bit of interest can help them feel wanted and could give them the boost they need. Everyone has different situations that need to be faced in life, and by showing that you care could just brighten their day. The need for both managers and employees to have that mutual feeling of care for one another is a critical aspect of inclusion and encouragement. Knowing your team members on a personal level is vital so that you can understand their needs, acknowledge them and tailor actions accordingly.
Whilst the remote workers may feel like their needs are being catered for adequately, they might not feel very involved within the business as an organisation which is why it's important to encourage participation. With remote workers within the business, it allows for the potential of exclusionary dynamics to be amplified, without targeted intervention. It's important for team leaders to establish direct communication with workers, make a point to involve them in team discussions and ensure that all team members have an equal opportunity to contribute in virtual meetings.
Taking the time to re-evaluate the inclusion efforts is a step in the right direction. Re-assess how the organisation can further support inclusion, consider benefits, work-from-home resources and other offerings which would ensure that you continue to accommodate employees with diverse needs.
Working parents, employees with caregiving responsibilities, sick employees, quarantined employees, employees with disabilities and other talent segments may require new or different support as they work from home.
Give praise where its due - it could be easy for an achieving remote worker to feel forgotten about and neglected if you don’t show your appreciation for them, for example if they have surpassed a specific target which you know they have been working on for a long time. A small sign of appreciation goes a long way, maybe just a mention in a team meeting or sending them a personal email to congratulate them will not only encourage them and boost their confidence, but also motivate them to work harder within for the company.
Encouraging other team members to uphold the inclusive culture, and stimulate them to make their own inclusivity targets. Having a whole-team effort to boost this kind of culture, not only improves morale within the team but also prompts accountability as they share each target with team members. Some examples of targets are:
- Return the conversation to someone who has been talked over or interrupted.
- Pay attention to who is not speaking and actively bring them into the dialogue.
- Stand up for others if you see instances of non-inclusive behaviour.
- Set up an end-of-week reflection (or include one in existing meetings) to celebrate positive changes and areas for continued growth as a team and reinforce a more inclusive environment