4 effective ways to make your virtual workplace more inclusive

posted on July 17, 2020

July 15, 2020

By Giselle Defares, The Next Web

Let’s be honest: pre-pandemic, working from home was a dream. After COVID-19 forced almost everyone to work remotely, we’ve discovered the new virtual workplace encompasses more than Zoom calls, virtual coffees, and cat memes in Slack.

Tech companies did not exactly embrace working from home before the worldwide lockdown, despite studies showing working from home increases employee productivity. Skilled remote workers are also happier employees that are 9% more engaged and 50% less likely to quit their job.

The crisis disproved the perception that working from home was counterproductive. By mid-May, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey emailed his employees that the entire workforce was allowed to permanently work from home – Slack followed suit in June. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft recommended their employees work remotely until October or for the remainder of the year.

Work-life balance, mental health, and diversity and inclusion were already important subjects pre-COVID — and those problems have certainly not gone away now that our offices are virtual.

The sudden shift to an online work culture has highlighted the glaring issues companies have when it comes to a company-wide fair work environment — but it also presents an opportunity where all team members can reflect on their contributions to a toxic work culture, and grab the chance to do better.

Virtual workplace practices need to stimulate productivity while also upholding a culture of inclusivity where every employee is treated like a valued member of the team.

But how do companies create an inclusive virtual work community?

These blurred lines: balancing home and work-life

The migration to the virtual workplace created challenges for employees trying to manage their work-life balance during the workday. It’s not that strange because the workplace is now the same environment where we eat, sleep, and nestle on the couch for a Netflix-binge.

A recent survey by Monster revealed that roughly 50% of respondents who were working from home felt burned out. And 52% of respondents didn’t have plans to take any time off. Furthermore, business closures ensured limited opportunities to relieve Zoom fatigue with a spinning class or to eat that suffocating ‘work never ends’ feeling away at your local Italian.

Is anyone getting it right? It takes reprioritization and clear communication to bring everyone together and to ensure that employees’ personal needs are met, so they don’t get swallowed up by their workload, and keep a healthy work routine.

Though it turns out companies with a balanced work culture experienced a less drastic shift during their digital transformation.

Mike Blackman, Managing Director of Integrated System Events, the world’s largest AV and systems integration show, said that his staff of around 30 people – spread out between the main offices in Amsterdam, Munich, and Barcelona with home offices in the UK, Spain, and Germany – adapted quickly to the new reality. “We are very used to remote working. Video calling is the prime means of communication within the organization, and we have a full team call every week. When the crisis hit, everyone took their laptops home, and we carried on working in much the same way as before.”

Other companies upped their company-wide communication and actively changed their workplace practices to keep a healthy work-life balance in the new normal. Sonita Uijt de Haag, Director of People at scoutbee, a digital procurement platform, said the company — with a staff of 132 employees — “shared resource documents on remote work, then later built out a library that included articles for remote work as general management advice.”

To build an inclusive virtual work culture Uijt de Haag and her team “used surveys and round tables to crowdsource which activities the People team can facilitate to help people feel included. General changes included frequent casual coffees led by team leads, bi-weekly all-hands, and bi-weekly company events.”

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