One of the goals in diversity and inclusion efforts is to foster a sense of community and inclusiveness among staff. Now that many of us are working from home, it’s only natural to wonder if social distancing could undermine progress made and our future plans for encouraging diversity and inclusion at the workplace. While it’s certainly possible that diversity and inclusion programs might be pushed to the back burner so executives can focus on operational uncertainty, potential downsizing, mental health support, and the logistics associated with a remote workforce. However, it is important to remember that an organization’s culture of diversity and inclusion (or lack thereof) undergirds everything a company stands for.
The Time Is Right… Now
Societal inequities surrounding COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement make it more important than ever to promote diversity and inclusion at every level – even while working from home. As disconnected as employees may feel, many are hungry to do what they can to embrace differences and learn from one another.
Some people have been stuck at home for months, and any kind of activity or workshop will be more appealing than ever. Staff aren’t networking at lunch, rushing to a happy hour after work, and planning office get togethers. Many employees have more time on their hands than usual and can take immediate action to ask questions about equality, diversity and inclusion.
Use Technology for Inclusion
Digital technology has the potential to include and now is the perfect time to access the necessary tools your business needs to facilitate collaboration between departments, managers and executives.
- There are plenty of tools to help bring people together, including internal social media platforms and teleconference meetings. Get creative and coordinate virtual meetings, workshops and happy hours.
- Make multimedia materials accessible for everyone and include captions, transcripts, notes, audio, large-print handouts to help communicate effectively. Any remote meetings scheduled need to accommodate those who require interpreting services or extra time to mute or unmute their devices.
- Remote meeting technology—Conference calls are great, but research has shown that seeing the faces of others helps us feel more connected. Encourage your employees to use video whenever possible so they can feel more connected to each other during this time.
Look on the Bright Side
Working remotely gives you the opportunity for different kinds of diversity and inclusion activities.
- Virtual events—Individuals who would never attend an in-person training or diversity event may be much more likely to attend remotely. If you have the technology, use it! Host virtual diversity and inclusion events to keep everyone connected.
- An even playing field—When half of your meeting attendees are online and half are in the room, ideas coming from the online half are more likely to be ignored or disregarded. With everyone online, some of these imbalances are easier to correct. Homebound employees have a greater chance than ever of feeling important and heard, and those who find speaking up challenging may be more likely to contribute via chat.
- Online-specific training—Individuals who feel excluded in face-to-face meetings may feel even more excluded in online environments. Provide trainings or mock meetings to give people more experience speaking up and using the chat in online meetings, where the technology may be increasing communication barriers. Some of this training can carry over into face-to-face interactions.
Consider the Future
Instead of looking forward to the day when you can “get back to normal,” consider changing the status quo based on what you’ve seen during this time.
- Some employees are extremely productive at home—If certain individuals stay on track or increase performance from home, allow them more opportunities to work from home in the future. Flexible work policies can increase diversity and inclusion by offering folks with medical issues, family commitments, and other on-site work barriers to work from home when applicable.
- Some individuals disappear—Talk to people who seem to fade away. Chat with their team members to determine whether working from home should be an option in the future or if that individual is actually contributing when in the office.
- Mental health is important—These times have revealed the toll working remotely can have as well as the mental health struggles many employees face even in the best of times. Consider permanently boosting counseling and support services for all kinds of employees.
Get Expert Diversity and Inclusion Support
You may need new messaging. You may require a complete overhaul of procedures and programs. Whatever your needs, get professional help from diversity and inclusion experts. Mad Hat Maven can help develop a strategy to promote new kinds of connections that help folks understand how to work together, effectively. Now is the time to make sure everyone is heard and that everyone listens. Afterall, listening is the hardest communication skill.
Contact Mad Hat Maven today to get started with a diversity and inclusion plan tailor-made for your business