An inclusive culture helps employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions in the workplace among coworkers and managers. When people feel appreciated for who they are, they may produce more ideas. But when your office is working within a hybrid setup (in office & remote employees) simple inclusivity traits can often get overlooked. Below are some tips to keep your work culture inclusive, even at a distance.
* Equal balance – Keep the ratio of in-person meetings and virtual meetings equal.
If you’re working within time zones, be respectful of each time zone and how it may affect people.
*Send out an agenda ahead of time – Include what’s going to be covered and what’s required in terms of prep. This information will help introverts and others who might need time to prepare if they’re going to answer questions, contribute ideas, or present to colleagues.
*Set the tone – As the host of the meeting, set the tone of the meeting by first, being early. Start with being online 5 minutes before the start of the meeting. Have a welcoming screen with music for example. Come on camera at exactly the stated start time.
Lay out the housekeeping rules: Are you recording? How would you like attendees to participate (raise a hand, chat, reaction buttons, etc.)?
*Turn on your video and encourage virtual/blurred backgrounds – Encourage everyone to turn on their cameras if they are able to. This builds relatedness and connections and helps mitigate distance bias. By using a blurred background no one feels uncomfortable showing their personal space on camera. Additionally, using a virtual background can be seen as a way of team building. If it’s a special occasion, all team members can have the same background to appear unified. This also eliminates bad lighting.
*Share Your Pronouns on the Screen – Many video meeting platforms allow users to change their display names. It’s recommended that people add their personal pronouns; to their display name, for example, “Beth Chandler, she/her.”
Though your organization may not require people to add their pronouns to their display name or email signature, it’s overall encouraged to cultivate a culture that acknowledges that you can’t assume someone’s gender or pronouns by looking at them or through their name.
*Allow remote participants to speak first – Often people working remotely don’t feel recognized. Starting with their input into the meeting allows them to feel recognized.
*Be an active listener & advocate – Encourage participants to use verbal/nonverbal cues. This keeps participants engaged, and the meeting interactive. Active listening gestures can take a few different forms, including nodding your head and using emoji reactions. If you notice that a colleague unmutes but hasn’t been able to get their point across, call this out and give them the floor.
*Assign an in-meeting facilitator – Have someone other than the host monitor the chat window, assist with technical issues, and overall be a point person for participants. This can go so far as to balance participation, record decisions/action items.
*Go virtual, even if you’re in-person – It’s more inclusive to have all participants join a meeting virtually, even when multiple people are in the same building. When hosting both in-person and virtual meetings, have each individual in the office use their own screen, or if using Zoom, use their Smart Gallery. This allows each participant equal screen time, and everyone is seen and heard clearly.
*Unify the language – As the host of a meeting, ensure translations and closed captioning is enabled. Even if everyone typically speaks English, they may want to hear/read the dialogue in another language.
Focusing on being inclusive in virtual meetings can have a real impact on team cohesion, innovation, and engagement. Following these simple tips and above all, valuing each participant and their input, helps everyone thrive.