How To Encourage Diversity When You Are Running A Virtual Office

The year 2020 has seen the emergence of two priorities in the workplace: virtual working and diversity in business. During the first quarter of the year, virtual office sales increased by 50 percent, fueled by the shift to remote working and a further extension in work from home orders. Along with increasing their commitment to building a more flexible and virtual workspace, organizations have also renewed their resolve towards encouraging inclusivity and diversity in the workplace. With the two now intersecting, business leaders are having to consider the best way to balance them. The benefits of diversity and remote working in the workplace are well documented. However, to maximize the benefits of both simultaneously, business leaders need to take smart strategic steps to foster and create diverse virtual offices.

Make Communication Clear, Intentional And Respectful

One of the best ways to encourage diversity in the workplace is to ensure your communication supports it. Too often, employees or potential employees get the impression that their differences are not supported by company ideals, communication style, and body language in the workplace. In many of these cases, clearer communication can solve this issue. This is doubly important with a virtual office since clear communication is important amongst virtual teams. Therefore managers must make an additional effort to communicate their acceptance and support of employees, regardless of race, social background, or gender identity. To avoid misunderstood or poorly communicated messages, virtual teams can rely on the use of virtual team communication tools like Zoom and Slack. 

Working to intentionally include employees with disabilities, minority ethnic backgrounds or other differences from the drafting of your job vacancy announcements to making a more conscious effort to promote diversity in your online website adverts goes a long way in letting job seekers, employees and customers know that diversity is not just accepted but encouraged. To embrace a variety of backgrounds in your business both online and offline, create an inclusive leadership team, along with relatable and inclusive communications (including press releases, website stock images, and print ads). In recruiting, encourage diversity, and attract the best talent by offering a competitive remuneration package/benefits for all employees across the board, based on their job roles and performance. Neglecting to offer these means your business risks losing out on productivity and damaging its employer brand for new hires.

Champion Collaboration

Teamwork is dream work: the saying is more than just a popular antidote; it is a fact proven by multiple studies. Collaboration between teams in your workplace ensures optimal resource use, promotes communication among team members, and helps your business productivity levels with added brainpower. Neglecting to encourage collaboration can lead to missed targets, employee unhappiness, and in the end, failed businesses. A Salesforce survey showed that 86 percent of employees credited a lack of or ineffective collaboration for the failures in the workplace. However, some virtual office providers include video conferencing tools and meeting room technology, which businesses can utilize to boost virtual collaboration.

Encouragement of collaboration can be done with the help of virtual shared office tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Docs. As a manager, you can lead the process by hosting regular interactive video meetings and providing employee access to shared collaboration tools like booking a well-designed coworking space. Video conferences allow for better communication and observance of positive body language towards employees of all backgrounds (and between employees themselves). Finally, ensure that all virtual employees are treated equally and fairly to promote a culture of transparency and inclusivity in your virtual office.

Support Employees In Sharing Themselves, Their Personalities And Their Voices

A common assumption in offices is that employees need to leave their personalities at the door and separate their work and home life. However, with virtual offices, that separation becomes much more difficult, since many employees are working from home and juggling work and home commitments. If businesses want to encourage diversity in their organization, they need to encourage employees to show their authentic selves. 

To encourage workers to bring their whole self to work (online and offline), celebrate the differences in your team. Set aside time to ask employees about their day or family if they choose to share. Work to actively show an interest in different cultures, and finally, HR departments can ensure their employee behavioral policies support the inclusion of a diverse workforce, without prejudice or judgment.

With remote work fast becoming the norm - and the future - of the workplace, it is time to think of how all business changes can translate to a virtual environment, including inclusivity in the workplace. While remote working opens up a global database for employee talent, it also exposes a key issue in the workplace: the merging of dynamic and different cultures and employee backgrounds. This is why employers must work diligently to create opportunities to build a diverse workplace in the virtual space, and the sooner they get started, the better it will be for all involved.


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