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Inclusive Remote Work & COVID-19

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

COVID-19 is forcing companies everywhere to adjust in many ways, and switching to a remote workforce has been a top priority for employers. To meet this challenge, practicing inclusion and inclusive strategies can sustain morale and allow companies to adapt faster. Under normal circumstances, establishing a remote workforce presents a broad set of challenges, from IT security to time management. But remote work is now the first, and sometimes only option for many organizations who have shied away from it in the past. For those skeptics, the COVID crisis presents an opportunity to re-evaluate remote work, and explore ways to engage their workforce better with inclusive practices.

The most recent State of the American Workforce report from Gallup found that 43% of payroll employees in the U.S. work remote in some capacity, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that the number of companies offering remote work options tripled between 1996 and 2016. But COVID and its disruptive nature is pushing nearly every organization, even ones that have initiated some remote work policies and tools, to embrace it on another level. Inclusive management practices are crucial to maximize engagement during the limited time remote employees have with their team and managers. Inclusive organizations excel at giving employees a voice, a sense of ownership, and ways to stay connected and thrive in times of crisis. Below are some essentials of inclusive remote work to adapt during COVID, and evaluate when considering remote work options long-term:

  • Offering stretch project opportunities that leverage worker flexibility

  • Prioritizing accessible technology and other resources for disabled employees

  • Allocate discussion time for diverse perspectives, ideas and solutions

  • Nominate the next speaker on conference calls to avoid interruption

  • Routine one-on-ones between managers and their team members

  • Management appreciation for taking on tasks indirectly related to an employee’s role

  • Offer online mental health resources and tools

As the COVID crisis recedes, the lessons learned through remote work management could lead to new labor models with better business outcomes. In the Gallup study, employees working remotely 3-4 days per week were the most likely to strongly agree that their engagement needs related to development and relationships were being met. And engaged employees are healthier, less absent, and more productive on average. In other words, the current opportunity is about more than improving job satisfaction- upskilling inclusive management techniques and improving employee engagement is likely to add value across the board, including to a company’s bottom line.

Additionally, organizations that lean into inclusive practices can benefit in other ways, especially those looking aiming to attract diverse talent and make the most of it. Organizations such as Mind Gym and Aleria, among others, work with companies to foster an inclusive culture, and offers an array of free diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) resources for companies to get started.

For additional guidance contact your regional Workforce Strategy Consultant, who can assist companies as they navigate the new economic landscape. The adjustments we make today will power us through, and make our organizations, employees, and communities stronger and more connected in the long run.

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