Overcoming Roadblocks to Inclusivity in Remote Workplaces

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In our post-COVID world, some companies are beginning to move back operations to in-office work, while others have kicked brick-and-mortar buildings to the curb and stuck with remote working for the foreseeable future. However, remote working doesn’t eliminate the need to build and maintain inclusive work environments for everyone. Let’s go through the five most common problems that remote teams face when trying to keep an inclusive culture and how you can solve them. 

Communication barriers and lack of face-to-face interaction

Remote work can lead to communication and collaboration issues. Team members may need help with misinterpretations, delayed responses, or difficulty accessing critical information, which can hinder effective teamwork and inclusion. 

Some strategies to put in place are: 

  • Set clear communication expectations. Figure out mutually agreed-upon cadences for meetings, check-ins, and response times. Do you use a project management framework that requires daily stand-up meetings, or do you feel comfortable with more casual check-ins on Slack? Whatever your choice is, ensure it’s adequately communicated to all staff and keep it open to change when necessary. 
  • Use the right communication tools. Invest in communication and collaboration tools that suit your team’s needs. On Team SGO, we rely heavily on Slack, Zoom, and Asana in our day-to-day operations to keep each other in the know of what we have on our plate, where we need support, and what project statuses are. 
  • Recognize that different people communicate differently. Some people are fantastic on Slack but abhor Zoom. Some love a good audio note, others are big fans of email. Learn your colleagues’ different communication styles and recognize that each of us can flex our styles as needed.

Time zone differences

Time zone variations within remote teams can create challenges in scheduling meetings, understanding each other’s work styles, and accommodating different cultural norms and communication practices, potentially leading to misunderstandings and exclusion.  

Some strategies to put in place are: 

  • Allow for flexible scheduling. Flexible scheduling accommodates different time zones and different styles of working. If you have members of your team who find that they’re more productive between certain times, allow them the flexibility to schedule their meetings or most time-intensive tasks during that time to maximize their productivity. Work shouldn’t be about butts in seats, but about getting the work done.
  • Set core working hours. We use a strategy here at Team SGO to establish core working hours that overlap for all staff. These core working hours are set during a timeframe where anyone, regardless of which time zone they’re in, can be online. 

Isolation and loneliness

Remote employees may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation due to the lack of social interactions that typically occur in a physical office. This isolation can result in decreased engagement and a sense of exclusion from the team. 

Some strategies to put in place include: 

  • Creating virtual social activities. Organizing virtual team-building activities, such as virtual happy hours (with non-alcoholic options), games, or casual chats, can foster a sense of belonging. It’s also important to make them optional and at a variety of times to accommodate people’s interests and schedules. 
  • Casual communication channels, where possible. On whatever communication platforms you use, include a few channels where casual conversation can happen. On Team SGO, we have a general chat to talk about what’s going on in our lives or pop culture. And we also have a channel where people can share photos of our pets! 

Technology challenges

Technical issues can disrupt remote work and make it difficult for team members to participate fully in meetings or access essential resources. With remote work, there’s a higher demand placed on different systems to streamline work processes, and the learning curve to understand and use these platforms is varied.

Some strategies to put in place include: 

  • Provide technical support. Ensure that remote team members have access to reliable technical support to address any issues promptly. Consider offering stipends for home office equipment. 
  • Training and onboarding. Offer comprehensive training and onboarding to ensure all team members are comfortable using the necessary tools and platforms. On Team SGO, we have a knowledge base of resources to help team members complete everyday tasks in our work. Having this database in an easy-to-get-to-place can help everyone feel more comfortable and confident in completing their work.