The modern day workplace is a kaleidoscope of resources from varied ethnicities, religions, world views and age groups. To be able to hold together such an amalgam of people to work in one solid direction is no mean feat. However, when it comes to working from home, things might not be as seamless as we’d like for it to be. Essentially, the biggest conundrum for any employer is whether to separate a person’s professional qualities from his or her personal situation. While at a common workspace it is easy to be more inclusive in the way we interact with each other, working from home is a whole different ball game.
Remember the good old times before the Coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on earth and people would entertain the idea of being able to enjoy lounging in their own houses while technically being at work, but today, everyone is beginning to realize the many downsides to it as well.
Inclusion in the workplace happens to be one of them. This new change in the paradigm of our working ethos has been difficult not just for the employees, but for the management as well. Keeping a track on progress, ensuring that work is being done not just for time stamp sake but for the quality that needs to be upheld and of course making it absolutely comfortable with respect to inclusions to keep everyone comfortable.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance, keeping a clear head and coping with the stress that comes with professional aspirations has only magnified with the pandemic looming over our heads. This is where inclusions come in place.
Without any more ado, let us get down to exploring the top 5 most effective ways to ensure that your work place is inclusive.
Policy for Workplace Inclusions
Every successful company runs like a well oiled motor only if there is a solid DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) policy in place. These policies are what make it possible for employees to have a very clear and concise idea of what is expected from them and in return what they can expect from their colleagues.
While many entrepreneurs still shy away from preparing proper manifestos because it might deem as laborious and tedious for them, one has to understand that a scalable company that continues to grow in size (which we are fairly certain you want your company to be) will continue to employ people from varied backgrounds. In a smaller sized group, it is easier to manage things but the moment the numbers of employees keep growing, relying on unsaid rules and regulations becomes not only difficult but practically impossible.
Think of it as an orchestra. There are different instruments and no matter whether it is the smallest harmonica or the biggest cello, each has its own value and significance in it. A written policy acts as the conductor of the orchestra. They help people become aware of things that are welcome and unwelcome in your office.
Now, typically, these rules are written with a common workspace in mind such as your company’s office. However, as things have changed to virtual office space, these policies need to be rewritten to accommodate any and all things that are now pertaining to this changed setting.
This is where your HR team comes into play. Just trust them and let them prepare a manifest that serves this purpose. Also, don’t forget to remind your employees, regardless of how long they have been associated with your company, to go through it and oblige.
Inclusion in Times of Crisis
While inclusion in a workspace should be the core ethos of a company and not just a remedial sprinkle now and again, paying attention to it during such disturbing times as these is absolutely non negotiable. We have to understand that people are employees later, and humans first. These times have resulted in mental fatigue on a whole new level which is varied for different people. Some are stuck with people they don’t like, some are stuck alone inside.
This is why, ensuring that everyone observes clear communication, effective reasoning and has someone to speak to (whether it is from the HR department or a team leader of sorts) is very important. Basically, sometimes people are in a default mood-setting because of whatever reasons that there might be. Casual office chatter is often an easy way to let people feel better, have something else to think about, and the most favorite one is to gossip and leave the conversation with a laugh.
Since all of that is no longer a possibility, it is important to keep open and clear communication channels. To this effect, you must sensitize people towards their colleagues and ensure that one’s psychological stress doesn’t end up affecting performance.
Celebrate Differences and Encourage Acceptance
On most occasions, the threat of not feeling included is only because of a lack of information and a feeling of being left out owing to certain differences in daily practices or ideologies. To ensure that this is never the cause for a rift amongst your employees, it is important to help them celebrate differences.
Keep an open mind and make sure that each employee or member of the team has an equal voice in sharing opinions, describing their customs, cultures and values from time to time. Acceptance begins with sharing and ultimately leads to safer and more inclusive work places.
Periodic and Regular Stand Up Meetings
Do you know why employees seem to be more efficient while working from the office than from home? It is because they are scared of ‘Stand Up’ meetings. These meetings are a window to measuring a team member’s performance by juxtaposing it with the time allotted to them, the scope of work, and how the peers have been handling similar projects.
With that gone, effectiveness has suffered. Conduct regular virtual meetings with the whole staff, teams and individually as well to trigger an urge in your employees to ensure that they are at their best performance mode. Accountability is the biggest motivating factor and trumps the reward and punishment gig.
Using Technological Tools that are Custom for your Business Requirement
Relying on Whatsapp and Gmail might not be the most effective solution today. Most companies have switched to collaborative platforms such as Trello and Slack to make sure that everyone can be on the same page when it comes to managing their projects.
Zoom has practically taken over the world today, closely followed by Microsoft because it enables multi user video conferencing, recording and so and so forth. However, if you believe that these tools are still lacking in one way or another and that you may benefit from something custom, do not hesitate to go for custom software. Even if it seems costly in the beginning, you will soon realize that it enhances productivity and helps you measure your employee’s performance
Apart from this, make sure that there is a very clear divide between professional chat channels and casual, informal office banter. This is to avoid losing out on important information that may be shared on different platforms. Sometimes, the professional stuff gets buried under casual gossip or even the fun chat that people indulge in.
If your office has a very large size of employees, you may benefit by allowing them to create channels based on hobbies or lifestyle preferences. This not only makes every individual feel welcomes and accepted along with their tasters and choices but is one of the best and clearest inclusion policies in virtual work spaces.
The equilibrium of the digital workspace is not as easy to maintain as the physical one. Inclusion is but just one parameter that can help make things better. However, the crux of everything quite simply boils down to effective communication. It hinges not only on our ability to clearly say things to people that work with us, but also to listen to and accept what they have to say.
When different people come together, there is no doubt about the fact that there will always be some scope for disagreement or dissatisfaction in the midst, however, effective inclusion with the right kind of written policies will help in finding a middle ground that is acceptable to all. Educating the leadership towards following DEI regulation in the workplace is another very important factor. Using multiple channels for personal and professional conversions over technological tools that you use for collaborative work will go a long way in ensuring that everyone feels included.
Encourage people to speak about their differences to educate the remaining of your team and be sensitive towards each other. The pandemic has thrown a mammothean spanner in everyone’s work and the only way to combat the stress of it all and enjoy the luxury of work-life balance is to keep a healthy, safe and inclusive virtual office environment. No one’s saying it is going to be easy. Especially if you have a huge staff to deal with, but it will most certainly be much more productive.