How remote teams can promote inclusion

March 25, 2020
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Sam LamData Science Director

When asked to name the biggest struggle with working remotely, 21% named "loneliness." Loneliness is an emotional response to lack of connection and when you are not in an environment where a spontaneous connection can be made in person, then an extra effort is needed to do so.

Things to combat general remote loneliness

  • Shared routines - create a virtual coffee/tea/beverage break time where everyone can log in and share their favourite mug and chat about their day. This could be done in conjunction with random picture sharing time where team members are to share one personal photo that is unrelated to work and explain it. This photo can contain pets, hobbies, gadgets, family members, etc.
  • Make sure to not substitute all meetings with an email or a Slack message. And when possible, to conduct the meeting with a video rather than phone call -- so much can be said for non-verbal cues that makes this almost a no-brainer.

Inclusion does not only mean the feeling of being left out, it is also important to remember that not everyone is equally equipped for a fully functional work from home setup. Be mindful of the following circumstances.

Home environment

  • Parents, having children means they do not have the same freedom as those without, (same goes for pets). Be empathetic when you hear a sudden crash or physical intrusion during a video call. 
  • Those who are living alone would likely feel lonely more often. This is very easily overlooked if you’re used to living with a spouse and have instant access to conversation or someone to help do the chores. Doubly so when you are sick and you have someone to take care of you. Make sure to check-in and acknowledge the reality of living alone in times of social distancing.
  • Some people don’t have the luxury of having a lot of space and have no option but to work with others in a shared space. Be patient if they need to relocate to take a private conversation or constructive and suggest to mute their side until they need to speak.
  • In the same vein, some people have worse setups than others, headphones, keyboards, extra screens - these are all things we generally take for granted at work. If people are struggling to work optimally, realise not everyone has the same means to do so at home.

Personal circumstance

  • People who are part of physical support groups may be having tougher transitions. Those with mental health issues might not have access to their regular counselling method and therefore having an extra hurdle to overcome on a personal level. Be extra sensitive if someone’s mood is unusually off. Don’t be afraid to let them know you are there for them if there’s something on their mind.
  • Video call over a phone call when possible. Apart from the previously mentioned much missed human face to combat isolation, phone calls are an underplayed form of social anxiety that may catch a colleague by surprise.

Here's a template we have to get people’s feedback on inclusion

Remote Inclusiveness Workshop

Remote Inclusiveness Workshop

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