5+ inclusive workplace practices for your distributed team

Remote Work & Culture
Alexandra Cote
April 29, 2021

Photo by Viviana Couto Sayalero on Unsplash

Every year, loneliness and isolation are named as core struggles remote team members face. This is something I’ve noticed too both in my own case and through analyzing the behavior of other remote workers. 

After all, 55% of employees prefer a work environment that recreates a family feel — this means taking part in all team activities, having colleagues to rely on for help, and even contributing to promoting the company as a top workplace.

A lack of inclusion leads to unfavorable consequences, such as:

  • Giving your employees a false sense of security
  • Having unhappy team members who are at risk of loneliness and more serious subsequent issues
  • Not helping your team stay motivated
  • Losing money
  • Decreasing your talent retention rate
  • Losing the trust of your employees

If you think you can solve these problems by only supporting diversity, well, I’ve got bad news. Workplace inclusion is different from diversity and often more difficult to maintain. Inclusion is tightly connected to workplace diversity but also requires a daily approach to tackling and maintaining it.

Let’s go through five lesser-known inclusion workplace practices:

1. Give everyone their own voice and chance to be heard

Once you’ve got one person dictating all meeting topics and project/company decisions, you’re taking away everyone else’s chance to get their ideas out there. 

One of the best practices for inclusion in the workplace is putting every individual in the limelight even for a couple of minutes. This increases their confidence and also helps your company gain valuable insights into a topic.

According to a Deloitte study, an inclusive culture makes you 8 times more likely to achieve your business outcomes. But there’s a lot of small changes you need to make to get this kind of result. Treating everyone with the same respect, following up on any feedback, and even pushing your shy colleagues to share their thoughts are just a couple of ideas.

2. Opt for a global team from the start

One step to get both diversity and inclusion off to a great start is to sign up for a global team. Having everyone in different parts of the world promotes diversity and also prompts you to take extra steps for helping teams bond. 

Think about it: If you only had one or two remote team members, would you go the extra mile to host regular team-building activities or weekly one-on-one meetings? Probably not since you get to see most of your employees daily so you’ll naturally have the tendency to forget about how others could feel left out.

To focus on keeping your team bonded and regularly talking to every single person, you need an employer-of-record. At Panther, we take care of your global team’s payroll, benefits, taxes, compliance, and more so you can be where you’re most needed.

3. Organize regular workplace inclusion activities

If you simply rely on your daily team communication channel to get people to talk to each other, you’re wrong. As an inclusive leader, you need to be the first one to initiate inclusive activities.

Here’s a couple of ideas to try with your own team:

  • Assemble HR Consulting uses an inclusion workplace practice called “Row Around the Fleet” to promote inclusion and foster belonging on our team. The activity involves each team member sharing who they are, what matters most to them, what they do both at work and outside of work, and a surprising fact about them. This activity works because it quickly breaks down barriers; there is no longer a separation between who you are at work and who you are at home.
  • “Every week we take a moment for each teammate to say one thing they’re grateful for. This is a meaningful moment of inclusion as we get to hear each colleague’s voice. It’s a psychologically safe way to foster inclusion and it gives us a better understanding of where they’re finding energy and what’s most important to them. We use this to turn our relationships into more human and less transactional ones.” - The Luma team
  • The Sendible team organizes knowledge-sharing presentations for every new employee. It’s a 20-minute share and learn presentation where people can talk about what they know, who they are, or what they’re passionate about. Every new hire gets to do this and it’s a great way how the whole team can get to know them, especially with everyone working remotely now.
  • “The activity stipend enables us to organize and attend our own fun events and was created to allow ourselves to really take advantage of our diversity. The cool thing about our stipend events is it lets the employees choose what would be fun for them and then get buy-in from coworkers. This is in contrast to management making up events that might not be well received or feel exclusive. The result is a huge variety of event types where everyone can feel included in at some point or another.” - The Magoosh Team
  • Vivian Acquah, Inclusive Workplace Wellness Advocate, recommends mentorship programs: “Diversity and inclusion mentorship programs create an environment of trust, belonging, understanding, encouragement, and support. They allow employees to voice their challenges, overcome obstacles, and find solutions. Remember to communicate the benefits for mentors and mentees. Don't assume people will already know why they should care about mentoring. To drive interest, you need to really highlight what's in it for both parties.”

4. Equip your team with the right resources [prior to day one]

For anyone who’s never experienced feeling isolated at work, it can be difficult to prevent this without prior training. You can start by including inclusion as a priority in your team’s culture and company values. Compile resources on supporting inclusion and write down a checklist of inclusive workplace practices they should get involved in.

As a priority, take your managers through courses on how they create a work environment where everyone gets involved and how they should work on threatening the relationship between team members. Alternatively, training your recruiters to spot people who are a fit for your culture. This way, you can prevent unfavorable inclusion blunders before you even hire someone.

5. Take fairness to extreme levels

So… why do people usually leave a job? 

What do all of these points have in common? They’re clearly indicators of a non-inclusive organizational culture. 

Sometimes all it takes to fix everything above is to practice and promote fairness like never before. Give the same amount of attention to everyone, inquire into every individual’s day and struggles, and always reward team members based on merit. A meritocratic company culture alone is responsible for making employees 1.3 times more likely than others to feel very included.

So don’t shy away from fairness when considering how to improve inclusion in the workplace. Take even those timid employees who tend to do work independently and get them involved in team activities, group projects, and brainstorming sessions. Give them time though, respect their boundaries, and never point out their shyness. After all, you’re looking to turn them into a vital part of the group, not the odd one out.

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