Organizations these days are melting pots of cultures, ethnicities and personalities. Bringing together such diversity, employers are constantly faced with the challenge to foster inclusive work environments. Throw in COVID-19 and the current work-from-home situation into the mix, and the need to ensure inclusion is greater and more demanding than ever.
An analysis by Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, indicates that a 20% increase in organizational inclusion can lead to a 6.2% increase in on-the-job effort, a 5% increase in employees’ intent to stay with the organization and a nearly 3% increase in individual employee performance.
Earlier this year, as workplaces transitioned en masse to work-from-home, there was a scuttle to turn dining rooms and basements into offices. Children, who were no longer going to school, had to be tucked out of sight from video meetings. With shared or limited access to Wi-Fi, special family circumstances and a potentially life threatening virus going around the block, employees were stressed out like never before.
Keeping up, organizations have started redefining the work code for remote work. They are offering new tools to work from home and attempting to foster a sense of belonging, despite physical separation. Crescendo, a diversity education platform, has introduced ‘Weekly Wins’ on Fridays, where team members recognize each other’s accomplishments, big and small. This helps boost employee morale and achieve employee recognition, even while working from home.
Another major concern with remote work is the lack of effectiveness and inclusion in virtual meetings. A study by Project Management Institute shows that virtual meetings are not as effective as in-person meetings, because of distractions like emails, background noise and technology issues.
Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer and Employee Engagement at Google suggests making remote meetings more inclusive and productive, by giving opportunities to quieter team members to speak. Having a moderator can be useful in this endeavour. Calls may need to be conducted keeping in mind participants with listening or visual disabilities. Using stories and visuals can keep people engaged while having an agenda and clear roles can make virtual meetings more effective.
Inclusion in smart-working is an even greater need with minority groups, whose unique circumstances could potentially be putting them through immense stress. Google is promoting virtual connections among employees, by hosting talks, yoga sessions and community resources for LGBTQ, Black, Latino and Asian communities.
In these unprecedented times, there is an expectation from employers and bosses to be sensitive towards employees’ new needs and situations. A study by the Adecco Group in Spain suggests that employees are now seeking flexible work options, supportive leadership and the possibility of moving permanently to a hybrid work option, where they will combine remote work with occasional physical presence in the office.
As the world inches towards normalcy, remote work strategies and work code will continue to evolve. Organizations can foster inclusion and allay anxieties regarding returning to the office, by offering flexible work hours and making allowances for special family circumstances.
While the shift to work-from-home was abrupt, the return to the old way of life will have to be a lot more gradual; because in this new era of smart-working, remote work is here to stay.