Diversity and inclusion: Why it’s more important than ever in the new era of remote working

Charlotte Nicol
Published on 27th August 2020
4 min read

What does remote working mean for diversity and inclusion?

The global pandemic has resulted in many businesses shifting the way they work from being either partially or wholly office-based to remote.

While many organizations have moved to this new way of working with very little disruption, there was one that was unforeseen – the impact remote working can have on diversity and inclusion.

So what can HR and People leaders do to make sure diversity and inclusion is still top of the HR agenda? Let’s take a look and explore some of the ways HR and People leaders can continue to root bias out and make people feel included.

Remote working vs in-office: what’s the difference?

Your remote working and in-office diversity and inclusion initiatives should have the same sentiment and motivation behind them but by nature of remote working, they may be different.

While it’s easy to think that employees from different backgrounds would all be equal behind a screen, in fact it makes it harder for HR and People teams to root out any discrimination and, in turn, support those who are falling victim to it.

It’s therefore important that you take a look at your D&I strategy and consider how you can include flexible and remote working. Here are five ways to get started…

1. Host a company wide meeting to discuss inclusion

Listening to your employees and making them feel like they have a voice has never been so important.

Whether in small or large groups, host a series of roundtable discussions or drop-in sessions, perhaps using videoconferencing technology, highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion.

You could include guest speakers and/or the person responsible for inclusion in your organization. Consider how you raise awareness. You could host a session covering what diversity and inclusion is as well as what it means for remote working.

Your team should also highlight any new initiatives, any particular parts of your D&I strategy which needs more awareness, or just simply to say that you have a policy and that everyone should take the time to read it.

2. Make your policies easily accessible

Is your equality, diversity and inclusion policy accessible for your remote workers?

Update your employee handbook and other supporting documents with new messaging about the relationship between flexible working and your diversity and inclusion policy.

When it comes to updating your guidelines, pay particularly close attention to your grievance policy. What should staff do if they feel they are being discriminated against? How can they raise these concerns with HR teams remotely, and how will your HR and People team respond to these concerns? All of this should be clearly set out in your policy.

It’s also important to make sure that these documents are easy for remote teams to access. Be sure to save them onto your company intranet, cloud server or HR dashboard if possible.

3. Share ways for everyone to contribute

Remote working will have different effects on different people and understanding these impacts is key to making sure your teams feel included.

It’s possible that people may find remote working makes them feel excluded and it’s something to be particularly mindful of for those who would recognize themselves as introverts.

Consider your typical team meeting in an office. Perhaps there’s ten of you sat around a table. How many of those feel comfortable to speak up? While some people may feel more able to contribute by speaking on a video call than they do in the office, remember not everyone will.

Provide alternate ways for employees to feed in. Make sure everyone has a channel to air comments, provide ideas, as well as raising any concerns they may have. Making employees aware to use the chat box feature could be an option.

It’s also vital for those employees who aren’t so tech savvy. Make these features aware to them through training and prompts from managers that they’re there.

4. Create an always-on listening survey

Feedback has always been important for HR and People teams and it’s even more vital when employees work remotely. 

Always-on surveys allow employees to raise any concerns as and when they arise, rather than waiting for an annual survey or for HR to ask any questions.

Specifically for diversity and inclusion, this could help to capture the opinions and insights from members of staff who may not feel comfortable attending focus groups.

It could also help your HR and People team to consider changes in data over time. You could easily identify trends in employee’s opinions about diversity and inclusion, and even make correlations between these and other data.

You can then use these data to guide improvements and adaptions to your inclusive approach to remote working.

5. Know your people with People data

How well do you really know your people?

Continuously gathering, storing and analyzing People data is one of the best ways to keep track of your global workforce’s diversity and inclusion progress.

It’ll allow you to actively monitor the makeup of your workforce, helping you to spot trends and respond to them in real time. For instance, if certain members of the workforce are leaving, or if productivity in some teams is dipping, you can easily identify whether the problem is connected to D&I so you can take quick and decisive action.

If the current situation and ways of working continue for a long time to come, People data will become progressively more valuable over time – so if you haven’t already started to collect it, make this an urgent priority.

Inclusion is more important than ever

Remote working is here to stay, and its benefits will be felt by companies for years to come.

Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University believes employees could be up to 13.5% more productive while working from home – but these positive effects will only be felt if businesses strive to make diversity and inclusion a priority and focus for their organization.

The philosophy behind your investment in diversity and inclusion shouldn’t have changed, but HR and People teams will need to add to the ways they tackle and root out bias and discrimination to create an equal workplace for all.

Organizations are changing and HR is changing too. Stay at the forefront of the transformation by downloading our report, The changing face of HR.

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