9 practices for your remote team to create an inclusive workplace

Why do you need an inclusive work environment?

Having worked for more than 12 years, I can tell you with certainty that having a sense of belongingness and feeling included can greatly impact the quality of work you do. That said, the reverse is also true — let us look at what can happen if you ignore diversity and inclusion.

1. Low job satisfaction

Inclusion at work never meant free coffee, beer Fridays, or employee of the month recognition. But even if you pretend that they are inclusion-worthy perks, most of these incentives are obsolete in the remote-first and hybrid world.

2. Shallow peer-to-peer connectivity and engagement

The fact of the matter is — managing a hybrid, or fully remote team makes it particularly challenging to know how to bring people together and build rapport across the company. With my first-hand experience from 2019 to now, I can certainly say that “forced connection” — such as virtual team bonding activities — can be counterproductive.

3. Decreased productivity

The biggest problem with diversity and inclusion programs at work isn’t that the management isn’t doing it, but they think they are doing enough. There’s a perception gap between the senior management and the employees who interpret workplace inclusivity differently.

4. Low employee morale

Low employee morale is like a virus — it’s toxic, highly contagious, and kills productivity at work in silence.

5. Impact on hiring and legal challenges

Diversity hiring is an integral part of building an inclusive work environment. But it doesn’t mean hiring more people of color or LGBTQ background just for the sake of diversity.

Here are 9 inclusive practices for your remote and hybrid teams

For making everyone in your team feel comfortable in their job, the senior management has to lead some initiatives to make inclusivity a part of the workplace culture. Here are some tips on how to go about it.

1. Formalize inclusion as part of your remote work policy

It’s not enough to say you have an inclusive workplace unless you have formal processes and policies to back up the claim. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich recently pledged $300 million to improve hiring talents from the underrepresented communities. That’s the kind of tangible action that every remote workplace needs to take to prioritize inclusivity as part of their work policy.

2. Make your hiring process inclusive

Given today’s remote and hybrid work environment — it is easier than ever to hire people beyond geographies, time zones, and other limiting factors we had with physical offices. So, it all starts with having an inclusive hiring policy. Of course, there are legal parameters like Equal Employment Opportunity and affirmative action to check and balance diversity hiring, but that doesn’t suffice diversity hiring unless you are mindful about it.

3. Make everyone an active participant

Inclusivity, by definition, means including everyone. All your efforts to build an inclusive workplace will fall flat on its face if it fails to take everyone together. What’s the point of a D&I program where the CXOs call the shots while others are subjected to bear the fate of what is being decided for them?

4. Facilitate open feedback and communication

Like a truly democratic setup, an inclusive workplace demands transparency and honest commitment to see it succeed. Implement open-door policies to encourage bottom-up discourse and not just top-down communication.

5. Give your employees a safe space for informal chit chat

Like on-site teams, remote employees don’t have the privilege of bumping into each other and carrying out water cooler chats. Such casual interactions are an important aspect of human dynamics because they let employees know each other better, build meaningful friendships, and recharge themselves from the monotony of work.

6. Practice empathetic leadership

The leaders in your organization need as much training in understanding inclusivity as an average employee. For them, it starts when they start practicing empathetic leadership. Remember, culture flows from the top — what the leaders practice trickles down to other levels of management — especially in the early stages of your startup.

7. Conduct frequent employee check-ins

Frequent 1:1 check-in meetings (at least once a month) are critical to driving employee engagement and inclusivity. A check-in meeting lets functional leaders interact with their team regularly and get updates from them on important issues.

8. Default to asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication is a paced-out, staggered, and relatively relaxed way of interacting with each other. Unlike real-time communication, the asynchronous communication style doesn’t compel you to be on your toes at all times. You have the luxury to reply at your convenience — depending on how urgent the situation is.

9. Keep all employee backgrounds in mind

You can’t have inclusion at work without diversity and accommodating the needs of a diverse workforce in your company culture.

Final thoughts

Making your remote workplace more inclusive and diverse often leads to high employee morale, increased team productivity, improved employee retention, and better revenue outcomes. But don’t just aim to make your workplace diverse — make it inclusive in a way that welcomes everyone’s participation in forming a healthy remote work culture and makes them comfortable in being themselves.

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