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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States


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December 17, 2020 |

Diversity and Inclusion Beyond the Office

Businesses need different approaches now that remote work has become the norm for many.

IF REMOTE WORKFORCES ARE TO GO THE DISTANCE, business leaders will have to tread more carefully in order to create an inclusive work-from-home culture.

“”Understand that you hired people, not employees,'”” says Amiel Harper, founder and principal of the Morpheus Consultancy, a brand strategy and business development firm in Chicago. Harper says regarding people as “”assets”” and overlooking human complexity is bad for business.

Amiel Harper

Theres a lot to consider, but here are five tips to make remote work as inclusive as possible.

1. Recognize Complexity

Harper says employers seeking profitability and high levels of performance should know how the impact of personal obligations, the COVID-19 pandemic, and sociopolitical factors is heavier when people work from home. Because of the pandemic, normal support such as child care, schools, and adult care might be unavailable or unfeasible. At the same time, the loss of a workplace makes it harder to temporarily sideline personal and sociopolitical concerns.

“”Theres a large conversation right now about racial exhaustion,”” says Harper, noting that news of violence against Black people hits Black employees in a more personal way. So does working for a company that publicly supports certain groups but lacks internal resources to support them at work.

Personalities also matter, and managers shouldnt underestimate their staffs variety of work style, duties, and other preferences.

“”Weve seen many managers surprised at their employees’ reactions to suddenly being a remote employee,”” says Lauren Romansky, managing vice president at Gartner specializing in human resources. “”I know of one manager who thought an employees very direct in-person communication style meant she would thrive when remote work required more reliance on email. But the employee struggled a great deal with the lack of personal interaction.””

2. Rethink Policies

Harper and Romansky both say policies must be more flexible for remote employees, and one blanket set of benefits and accommodations is unlikely to work. For instance, Harper suggests hours of operation might need to change based on peoples locations and life circumstances. Also, family leave, medical leave, and short-term disability policies might need to change due to COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected communities of color. “”Leave is different when someone can be incubating a lethal infection for two weeks and not know it,”” Harper says.

Employers should master prioritizing. Every business priority isnt equally important, notes Harper, and employees might have individual concerns that sometimes should take precedence over business tasks that can wait.

3. Master Conflict Management

Its hard to manage conflict productively when people arent visible, says Romansky. Yet, effective conflict management is crucial to ensuring everyone feels valued and can work productively.

Conflict can arise from accommodations such as personalized workloads and goals based on individuals’ circumstances, Romansky says. She and Harper both say good conflict management requires transparency about intended changes and exactly why they are needed. Then, managers need to be genuinely open to feedback and flexible enough to change in response.

Lauren Romansky

4. Communicate Like Never Before

Romansky says the informal interactions that would normally foster inclusion and belonging now require deliberate planning. Remote workers cant chat at their desks or gather for quick updates about team successes. They also risk losing access and visibility to people in authority.

Meanwhile, online-only communications can be challenging for some, so groups need multiple options for how to engage, such as speaking and chat functions. Conference software might also offer nonverbal feedback options that let people signal they need a slower pace or a break, for instance, or that they agree or disagree.

“”[Managers] also need to be sure theyre being equitable as they think about work assignments and performance evaluation without the ‘extra’ in-person exchanges that can support many of these processes,” says Romansky.

5. Remember the Payoff

The effort to create an inclusive work-from-home culture is good for business too. “”Employers whove been effective at listening will draw better employees and get more out of them,”” says Harper, adding that employees and recruits wont forget who made the extra effort to be inclusive while remote—and who didnt.

If youre unsure what to do, seek expert help. Failure can be embarrassing for companies, and missteps incredibly offensive to employees, Harper says.

Image: iStock

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