How to create a diverse and inclusive work environment for remote workers?
Many employers are wondering how they can ensure that they continue to serve ALL of their staff. This guide provides suggestions and resources to help business leaders in ways that are equitable and inclusive as they move to teach face-to-face collaboration remotely. There is a lot of information here, not all of which you should even try to implement immediately; however, having this information in the background as you plan your course will help ensure that what you do implement will follow best practices. The outline on this page has the high-level bullets while the specific sections provide much more explanation and links to additional resources. Feel free to skim through and digest a little at a time.
Also be sure to see many resources for more immediate training and support!
Best practices to maintain a diverse workplace in virtual work environments
- 1. Be Accessible.
- 2. Be Flexible and Open.
- 3. Be Identity-Conscious.
- 4. Be Proactive and Intrusive.
- 5. Be Relational.
- 6. Be Transparent.
1. Be Accessible.
There are three aspects of accessibility that are key here — accessibility for students with physical impairments that may create challenges for reading/seeing/hearing digital files and content, accessibility for students with psychological and/or learning differences that require certain accommodations such as extra time to process materials or additional work time, and accessibility for students with limited access to computers or stable internet service.
- Ensure all files, images, videos and other posted content are accessible (i.e., visual content can be clearly translated by a screen-reader and audio content has visual captions)
- Provide approved accommodations for students who present accommodation letters from the Student Ability Success Center
- Check whether content is mobile-friendly
- Consider variation in students’ access to computers and stable internet service
2. Be Flexible and Open.
A key aspect of equitable and inclusive workplaces, in general, is recognizing and working with the diversity of your employees, along multiple dimensions. As you move your course into a different modality, try to stay open to trying a few new things; you may find that one silver lining to this situation is that you discover new ways of teaching that are both better for your students and more enjoyable for you!
- Have flexible policies: Review your HR Policies and consider what changes might be needed to your grading weights, late policies and other departmental policies in order to accommodate this transition
- Think about alternative ways that employees can engage with their managers (flexible activities)
- Think about alternative ways that employees can show you what they have learned (flexible assessments)
3. Be Identity-Conscious.
A critical feature of equity-minded teaching is the acknowledgement that your employees are NOT all the same, that they come to us with sometimes vastly different experiences, and those experiences are often tied to their social identities (i.e., race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, first-gen status, etc.). In the virtual environment, and at this particular moment, there are several ways that you can incorporate that acknowledgement into your course in meaningful ways.
- Address microaggressions in virtual meetings, chats and other places where employees interact
- Consider integrating culturally-relevant materials
- Be aware of variation in employees’ capacity to manage remote learning
- Be aware of how the current situation is impacting different communities
4. Be Proactive and Intrusive.
A well-designed virtual course will build in a great deal of structure and accountability. In addition, designing for equity and inclusion means being particularly proactive about supporting employees who may need some extra attention.
- Pay attention to early warning signs that employees may be struggling and reach out proactively
- Use more formative assessment and make completion mandatory
- Know what resources are available for employees
- Prepare your employees for all-digital working
5. Be Relational.
While establishing supportive interpersonal relationships with employees is one of the most fundamental tenets of effective teaching, it can be particularly important for employees from traditionally under-represented backgrounds.
- Continue to have opportunities for live, synchronous engagement
- Talk to your students about what is happening
- Build / maintain community among students
- Provide students with support and resources
6. Be Transparent.
Being inclusive means being mindful that not all of our employees are well-versed in the working environment that managers may take for granted. When we throw in the additional challenges of distance working, we must work even harder to ensure that we are not making any unnecessary assumptions about what your employees know and are able to do.
- Structure, structure, structure
- Create transparent assignments