Fostering inclusion in the workplace has been a priority for HR since long before COVID-19 began. And as the global workforce continues to withstand unprecedented challenges from the ever-changing pandemic, a strong and sustained focus on organizational belonging is becoming more critical than ever.
With many employees experiencing an influx of stress as a result of extensive social isolation, cultivating an inclusive remote workplace can help bridge the disconnect between HR and employees and enable targeted efforts to bolster empathy and vital support.
Here are 5 ways HR leaders can cultivate and sustain inclusion in the world of remote work (and beyond):
Pause to Reassess Overall Inclusion EffortBefore moving forward, it’s wise to reassess how things worked (and perhaps didn’t work) in the past. Take advantage of the combined year end/pandemic pause to reevaluate ongoing inclusion efforts and identify how initiatives can be further supported in 2021.
Which benefits best correlate with these efforts? How will these offerings be communicated to employees with a diverse range of needs – from working from home or in-office to being in quarantine, dealing with illness and disability or conducting caregiving and homeschooling duties? Each employee segment should receive targeted benefits communication and their required level of support should be adequately examined for the year ahead.
Communicate with Empathy
Belonging – the need for employees to feel like their colleagues and managers care about them – is a central component of an inclusive and empathetic organizational culture. In the world of remote work, demonstrating care can’t be accomplished in person, so it must be thoughtfully communicated.
Leaders and managers should consistently check in on their team members’ physical and emotional health and share their own experiences to connect on a more personal level. Empathy helps leaders walk in their people’s shoes, making it easier to advocate for the right solutions and demonstrate just how much they belong.
Strengthen Team Building and Social Networking
Since in-person interaction is not a common option currently, virtual socialization is essential to fostering inclusion from afar. From virtual happy hours, game nights and online competitions to livestream orientations, video meetings, yoga classes and celebrations, HR can host a wide variety of virtual events that offer easy remote participation options and fuel employee inclusion across the social distance.
Encourage and Facilitate Employee Participation
Without targeted intervention efforts, the effects of exclusion can be particularly magnified for remote employees. Managers and leaders should establish direct lines of communication with their remote team members and use them to reinforce participation in key inclusion efforts and events like the ones mentioned above.
Prioritize Learning and DevelopmentIn a time when employees are increasingly overworked and stressed about the status of their employment, offering opportunities for mentorship, learning and development can channel their mental energy into a more hopeful professional future. Regular face-to-face meetings between managers and direct reports can be used to discuss individual goals and determine the best opportunities for training and professional development in 2021.
These five inclusive practices not only reinforce the connection between HR and remote workers, but also unlock the potential of the entire team.
What challenges the organization changes the organization, and as we enter 2021 with an all-too-familiar sense of uncertainty, it’s through the powers of technology, communication and collaboration that we can achieve great things… even when far apart.