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4 Tips for an Inclusive Remote Workplace That are Backed by Science

The COVID-19 pandemic vastly accelerated the number of employees working remotely. Even as pandemic restrictions in the U.S. ease, many companies are keeping remote work practices for the long term. While remote work can mean more flexible work arrangements that can benefit diversity and inclusion efforts, many employees are concerned that widespread, permanent remote work may actually increase challenges to inclusion. In fact, the majority of surveyed employees currently do not believe that their organization is doing enough to create an inclusive virtual workplace. 

How can your organization support an inclusive virtual workplace? Below are four science-based tips for building an inclusive remote workplace.

1. Divide speaking time in virtual meetings

Research shows that employees from traditionally marginalized backgrounds face extra barriers when trying to make their voice heard in organizations. It can be even more challenging in virtual meetings, where social cues are harder to read and speaking up seems riskier. In a recent survey, women report higher levels of being overlooked or ignored in video conferencing. To combat this, use fair practices for dividing up speaking time during phone or video conferencing so that all employees have a chance to speak. For workgroups where a pattern of interruption is hard to break, leaders can require all participants to use the hand-raising function before speaking. 

2. Provide networking opportunities for remote employees

Remote work not only increases social isolation but also exacerbates the difficulties that employees from traditionally marginalized backgrounds face when socializing and developing important professional relationships. For instance, women in male-dominated organizations encounter barriers when networking informally in virtual workplaces. To create a more inclusive remote workplace, companies should provide networking opportunities through initiatives such as formal networking events and virtual mentoring programs. These efforts can expand professional networks and reduce feelings of exclusion among women and employees from underrepresented racial minority backgrounds. 

3. Reduce video conferencing fatigue  

Zoom fatigue”—the exhaustion people experience from prolonged video conferencing—disproportionately affects women and people of color. Among women, this may be because the “self-view” function in video conferencing makes them hyper-aware of themselves and how they appear. When possible, organizations should limit the frequency or duration of video conference meetings to reduce fatigue. Some companies, like Citigroup, have instituted “Zoom Free Fridays” to tackle this issue. If prolonged video calls are absolutely necessary, encourage some Zoom fatigue-reducing practices like minimizing the video window, using the “hide self-view” function, taking audio-only breaks, and adding distance between yourself and the camera.  

4. Address unequal workspaces for remote workers

Employees from traditionally marginalized backgrounds may face more obstacles in creating or maintaining a “home office.” For example, lower-socioeconomic status neighborhoods have disproportionately high noise levels. To build an inclusive remote workplace, organizations should equitably distribute company resources (e.g., technology) or reimburse home office expenses to address these unequal barriers. This might look like paying for employees’ home Wi-Fi to address the digital inequality in internet access, or like giving employees noise-canceling headphones to offset the inequality in neighborhood noise.

Remote work has changed how people interact with others, prompting a need for organizations to adapt and expand inclusion practices for this new, online work environment. In addition to existing inclusion practices, companies can cultivate an inclusive remote workplace by dividing speaking time in meetings, providing formal networking opportunities, reducing Zoom fatigue, and addressing inequities in remote workspaces. 

See how Cangrade can help you build a more equitable workplace. Contact us today.