The Importance of Inclusivity
The pandemic has radically altered every aspect of our lives, especially the way we work. Still, despite the rise of remote and fewer people going into the office, inclusivity remains a priority. The good news is, technology exists that presents us with the opportunity to practice inclusivity in virtual meetings, perhaps more effectively than ever.
Bolstered by powerful features, platforms like Zoom, Join.me and Google Hangouts can actually provide more accessible virtual experiences compared to in-person meetings. With newfound capabilities, the resulting environments allow participants to feel heard and respected, while increasing team efficiency.
That’s not to say biases that exist in the physical workplace - such as unequal treatment of women, people of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+ - are immediately resolved with a virtual workspace. However, there are ways that interactions can be improved and better controlled.
The following four tips can help ensure you and your company’s virtual experiences are inclusive to all.
Prioritize equal access
Accessibility is easier to be achieved through virtual platforms due to the advanced features. Recording meetings is not only beneficial for those who might be running late, it also permits those with disabilities to access materials post-meeting. Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer audio transcripts of recorded meetings or captioning for live get-togethers. Tools like these foster a greater understanding of the content being covered by the virtual experience.
Tools offered by remote workspace platforms can make sure everyone’s voice is heard. For a large participant base, taking advantage of the “raise hand” feature to indicate when a participant should talk will allow for less interruptions and aid those who don’t know when to speak. Turning video on should be recommended, but participants shouldn’t be forced to do so. For those having external issues on a particular day, being pushed to turn on their camera might feel invasive.
What’s more, certain platforms allow participant pronouns to be seen. Encouraging the use of this feature at the start of the virtual meeting allows participants to openly disclose how they wish to be addressed. This cultivates an environment of respect - and it’s a feature that doesn’t exist in a physical workplace.
Take feedback into account
To avoid falling complacent to physical workplace biases, routinely ask your participants to offer feedback. Marginalized groups often have more insights to share, therefore a system for receiving feedback with the option to stay anonymous will facilitate contributions and drive inclusiveness. Regularly asking for and implementing feedback ensures participants in virtual experiences feel comfortable and heard.
Define meeting etiquette
Clearly explaining meeting etiquette at the start of your virtual experience - or as a company policy - will set ground rules for how participants should treat and respect each other. Some examples of meeting etiquette expectations are:
- Keep audio muted while others are speaking to avoid interruptions or talking over one another.
- Limit or stop the usage of other technology so all are attentively listening and not distracted.
- Offer a chat function for those who wish to make a note of something while someone else is speaking. This will further avoid interjections.
Inclusive virtual meetings = Good business
Making sure that your virtual experiences are inclusive benefits everyone involved: Participants feel acknowledged and hosts have a more engaged audience. What’re more, healthy communications and varied backgrounds spur creativity and innovation, often producing a competitive edge.
Need proof? A McKinsey study found that diverse companies are more likely to outperform non-diverse ones by 36% in terms of profitability. As the study noted, “Increasingly, we find that the most diverse companies recognize [inclusion and diversity] as more than a social-justice imperative; they also see it as a core enabler of growth and value creation. These diversity winners are pulling ahead of the rest."
Greater diversity is not only good, it’s good business.
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