As we move into our next year of remote working, we’ve learned through trial and lots of error what works and what doesn’t. We’ve learnt that the most used sentences were ‘Oh sorry I was on mute’ or ‘Sorry you are on mute’. And while traffic was no longer our biggest challenge, internet connectivity seemed to have replaced it.
Every person in an organisation in whichever role has had their tough moments in this past year. With the new strain coming in and lockdown restrictions staying and in some places tightening, it’s time we relook at what really helps in building an inclusive workplace when working remotely and in isolation.
The Ground Reality
The women in the workforce have been the hardest hit with the current situation. With many forced to drop out of the workforce for multiple reasons and less likely to be hired, India fell 28 spots on the 2021 Global Gender Gap index to 140th rank. Re-looking at how inclusive your virtual workplace is, to allow more flexibility is one step towards building an inclusive workplace.
Primary care-givers whether for children or elderly members, or persons with disabilities (PWD) have also been impacted quite significantly with the current situation. For both care-givers and persons with disabilities, the risks of contracting Covid 19 is much higher. This adds to the mental burden of taking more precautions than the general public.
Persons with disabilities encounter daily challenges but with the current climate and break from routine, this has made it harder for them leaving them with a higher risk for depression and loneliness. People with intellectual disabilities find the social and physical distancing a lonely experience.
When re-looking at how to better the virtual workplace by making it inclusive for all, it is important to evaluate what is working and what is not.
- Establishing Core Working hours
The lines we all know between personal and professional life is now a blur. Our home is now our workplace and there is no real signing out of work at 6pm. While some jobs require teamwork, some can be completed alone. For those who are primary caregivers a flexible work schedule will allow them to attempt to balance work and household requirements.
Establish a core working hour time where every member of the team is available incase of collaborative work. Refrain from reaching out the team members beyond this time unless truly urgent. You may set up guidelines for what counts as urgent and what can be addressed the next day.
2. A Peer to Peer system
Loneliness has been most felt in these times of isolation. Acknowledging that each person’s workload has increased in these current times, assigning people in the organisation to someone else in order to do a 15 minutes weekly talk might help address this. Assign people who live in close proximity to each other so incase of emergencies they may be more accessible.
Since the virus this time round has been spreading twice as fast, you may learn about many cases in your own organization. A peer system to help those infected or those looking after family members infected will help ease the stress that comes when tackling the virus. It might be a listening ear or asking your assigned colleague to buy groceries. Having a person you can reach out to in the organization will allow for each person to feel part of the workplace.
3. Employee engagement
Countless organizations have been trying to engage their employees through various activities like treasure hunts, karaoke, bingo and others. The common complaint we hear is the lack of participation. Employee engagement is a great way to bring back the friendly banter we engaged in when we were in the physical workplace. We all miss our lunch break and chai time with our colleagues and employee engagement is one way to bring that back.
Avoid scheduling the activities in the late second half of the day when employees are tired from the workday. Preferably set up these activities between Monday and Thursday. Friday, for most people brings in the much awaited weekend, so having fun activities on a Friday evening may not bring you the participation you expect. If you do have to have it on a Friday evening then allow for employees to attend with family members. This is a great way for those who are shy to attend. Allowing participation with family members makes it easier for those who feel like they have to choose between work and family.
As we begin to move into what most now call the ‘New Normal’ it has become imperative that our workplaces do not leave our team members and employees feeling isolated and replaceable.
About the Author
Bianca D’Costa is a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. After graduating from St. Xavier’s college, Mumbai in Political Science, Bianca D’Costa worked in hospitality for 5 years with Emirates airlines, learning and experiencing multiple cultures while working with people from across the world. This experience gave her an understanding of personal and workplace best practices for inclusion.
At Serein Bianca heads employee engagement and wellness trainings with global teams. She implements these by studying and researching various forms of art that showcase diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) from where we can learn to be more empathetic and inclusive. In the present mandatory WFH situation where teams are struggling with burnout, wellbeing and team bonding issues, Bianca designs interactive online content, employee wellbeing trainings, employee engagement sessions that build inclusive work environments and promote belongingness.
To learn more about Bianca’s work on –
- Diversity, equity and inclusion
- Inclusive leadership trainings
- Gamified unconscious bias trainings
- Unconscious bias trainings in India and with global audience
Please reach out to email@example.com