Remote work has changed the name of the game when it comes to creating a diverse and collaborative workplace. Here’s what you need to know.
Creating a diverse workforce has always been imperative for me. As the CEO of U.S. Money Reserve, I value the collaborative and creative solutions that my team comes up with as a result of their diverse backgrounds, education, and beliefs—and I believe this process is essential to the company’s success. As a leader, I am continually trying to find new ways to encourage collaboration across our diverse workforce, especially in the brave new world where we’re all figuring out how best to work with the ongoing pandemic. The question I’m continually trying to answer is:
How do you keep your employees connected in the new world of remote work while continuing to encourage collaboration and diversity?
The answer is tricky at best, but here are the five ways I encourage a collaborative and diverse workplace in the middle of the global pandemic.
Understand the True Value of Your Diverse Workforce.
I’ve written pieces before about the incredible value of a diverse workforce . A workforce composed of a variety of people with different backgrounds, experiences, thoughts, and even training can make a world of difference when it comes to success and failure in business. More voices mean better decisions, better products, better offerings, and better customer relationships. Now more than ever, as we all navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s vital to have a variety of people at the table because their thoughts, opinions, and ideas make companies more resilient.
It’s also really important to recognize that diversity encourages much better teamwork and creativity. During difficult times like these, it’s vital to find creative solutions—and having a diverse workforce really helps this happen.
Don’t mistake diversity for a conflict-free workplace, however. Know that bringing a variety of voices to the table will inevitably fuel some friction—but that friction shouldn’t be feared. In fact, in my opinion, it should be encouraged because it can create a fire that kindles innovative solutions and creative, outside-the-box thinking. It’s what keeps companies at the forefront of development, and in this day and age, it’s what keeps companies alive. After all, there’s a reason people say that when a company stops innovating, it dies.
Finally, if you were to distill the real value of diversity down to its core essence, you’d find that having a diverse workforce is profitable. If you can gather the best minds and creatives in the world in one room, you can imagine that the solutions and innovations they come up with will be some of the best out there—and that will always translate to a solidly performing bottom line.
Understand How the World of Work Has Changed Permanently as a Result of the Pandemic.
It’s of the utmost importance to consider how the pandemic has irreversibly changed the world of work for both employees and leaders. Gone are the days when we were all required to be in person and in the office for every meeting and event. Thanks to COVID-19, the remote work revolution that had been gradually happening for years transpired in a short 12 months, and it’s forced leaders and employees to rethink how they interact, how they engage, and how they manage.
Thanks to the pandemic, everything from the benefits that employees want to the requirements around hours and locations has changed. That, in turn, has profoundly altered the entire rubric around how we work, what we value, and how we create a workplace culture. It’s important to consider these factors to better understand how to encourage diversity, inclusion, and collaboration in this new environment.
How to Encourage a Collaborative and Diverse Workplace During COVID-19
While the environment has changed, the way we as human beings want to interact, be treated, and feel in our day-to-day work hasn’t. Many of the tenets we followed during pre-pandemic times apply now as well. The difference lies in how these core values are demonstrated, used, and distributed throughout the organization. Here are five ways to encourage a collaborative and diverse workplace in this new world.
- Recognize and Reach Out to Those Who May Not Be Speaking Up in This New Environment.
The first thing to do when trying to encourage diversity and inclusion in this new semi-remote work world is to recognize those who the pandemic may have marginalized. Working mothers and primary caregivers have been particularly hard hit during this pandemic because much of the work of child-rearing and homeschooling has fallen on them. The demands of raising kids and working full-time are already challenging enough. Add in online schooling, remote learning, and working from home, and you’ve got a perfect storm that may cause some caregivers to withdraw from the work conversation. The most important thing managers and leaders can do is identify and recognize those who may be struggling to balance work with home life and those who may have been increasingly isolated or marginalized as a result of the pandemic.
That’s not to say that you should publicly call these workers out and embarrass them—but take note of who may be markedly absent, whether you’re holding a Zoom happy hour or simply trying to get through the day on Slack. If you do notice that someone on your team or in your organization has become less involved in the company’s day-to-day operations, you may want to reach out privately to find out if there’s some way you can support them and invite them back to the table. This kind of awareness can help build a culture of inclusion by making those who feel unseen seen, which is crucial in building an inclusive and collaborative environment.
- Offer Support for Those Who Need It.
The next step in creating an inclusive, collaborative, and diverse workplace is to offer support for those who need it. Recognize that support can come in many forms, whether that’s tech support, mental health support, or even physical support through HR offerings like online education or fitness classes. This support needs to be a part of every company’s core offerings for their employees. The tools should be easy to access, easy to use, and affordable or (even better) free to those employees seeking support.
- Communicate Clearly and Often.
As I said earlier in this piece, many tools we already use in real life may not need to be changed to adapt to this new online and remote work world. Communication is one of them. Any good leader or manager should have stellar communication skills. I’ve written it before, and I will write it again: Being open, honest, clear, and direct can be the best tool you have to encourage inclusion, diversity, and creativity regardless of whether you’re working online or working in the office.
Working remotely means that managers and leaders will need to simply check in more often and offer time to employees individually, rather than, say, passing by their desks to see how they’re doing. It means that managers and leaders have to become better listeners—and I don’t just mean when talking to other employees. Leaders should be able to read between the lines of emails, Slack messages, and other forms of communication that employees are using to connect today. This kind of listening requires an empathetic ear and an open and honest demeanor.
This kind of communication also requires transparency. That means leaders and managers should expect to be clear and open about what’s really going on within the company, whether it’s good news or not. The more honest a leader or manager can be, the more likely employees are to want to weather any storms that may arise as we all navigate the ongoing pandemic.
- Take Time to Celebrate the Wins, Big and Small.
It’s important that leaders take the time out to celebrate the wins. These can be large or small, but each win should be recognized, especially during such trying times. Remote work can make many employees feel isolated, stressed, and underappreciated. Celebrating the big and little wins, even by simply acknowledging them, can make a world of difference to someone who is feeling excluded.
- Set Boundaries and Examples.
One of the keys to being a great leader is setting an example. Be an example for your reports, your staff, and your colleagues. Part of that process is setting clear boundaries around everything from working hours to the ways in which you communicate. The boundaries you set will trickle down through the organization and help those who report to you and those who work with you know what is expected of them and when.
For example, if you make it a policy not to answer emails on weekends or late at night, your reports and employees will likely follow suit. No one likes having to work on a weekend or take time out from a family dinner to deal with a work issue. Treat yourself the way you want your employees to treat themselves, and your example will set the tone for your organization and your staff.
The Bottom Line on How to Encourage a Collaborative, Diverse Workplace
While translating your in-office skills to the remote working world may seem challenging, it’s not nearly as difficult as you may think. The truth is that it’s business-critical to ensure you continue to encourage and develop a collaborative, diverse workplace, especially in this time of COVID-19.
These are difficult times, and your employees and your staff need support. By communicating clearly, setting clear boundaries, taking time to celebrate the wins, offering support for those who need it, and connecting with those who may be struggling, you can ensure that you’ll build and encourage a collaborative, open, honest, and diverse workplace.
Written by Angela Roberts
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