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Breaking Virtual Barriers: 6 Tips to Build an Inclusive Remote Team

As the world of work continues to evolve and workplaces become increasingly remote, striving for an inclusive team culture has never been more important. In a distributed environment, it’s easy for some people to feel excluded or left out – leaders must take initiative to bridge those divides and create an environment where everyone feels heard and valued. A well-thought out, intentional remote team can create high retention, stellar annual profits, and an overall sense of team satisfaction. We all want that—but it can be difficult to build in practice. 

According to the “State of Remote Work 2020″ report by Buffer, remote workers face various challenges and pain points, including collaboration and communication issues, as well as work-life balance. If you’re managing a remote team and want to break down barriers between your members while boosting productivity, read on! We have 6 practical tips that have been proven effective in creating a unified remote workforce.

Clarifying team goals and objectives

Setting clear expectations is essential when leading a remote team. As a leader, you need to ensure that everyone who makes up your team is aware of their specific goals and roles, as well as how their contributions will add specific value to company projects. Having a good understanding of expectations significantly increases employee morale and productivity, helping them stay focused on the tasks at hand and work towards the same objectives. 

Leaders should also create a transparent system for communication which will help hold all team members accountable and allow for quick resolution of conflicts or issues that may arise. Remember, humans tend to “fill in the blanks” or get paranoid when they have incomplete information or don’t feel included. If clear expectations are maintained throughout each project, everyone on your remote team will be able to thrive in an inclusive environment. 

Creating a safe space for open dialogue

Open communication is key to creating a space for inclusivity and collaboration in remote teams. Leaders need to take the initiative to proactively foster communication between team members and break down language or cultural barriers.

This can be done through frequent check-ins that allow for discussion about each person’s individual strengths and weaknesses, encourage people to voice opinions and become active participants in daily activities, as well as actively listening to employees’ ideas, experiences, and concerns. 

It’s important to have these built into the workweek so that employees and managers can create trust before a problem arises. Even if it’s a simple “coffee-chat,” making sure people have the space to be themselves will ensure you can trouble-shoot painpoints in the long run. This also ensures the impetus isn’t on the employee to ask for a check-in, which may cause problems to fester.

By encouraging an open line of communication, leaders can ensure each team member feels supported and valued while building relationships that bring out everyone’s best performance.

Celebrating differences and promoting a culture of acceptance

Promoting diversity and inclusivity is essential for any remote team to reach its full potential. As a leader, you can take an active role in creating an inclusive space by actively engaging team members of all backgrounds, encouraging open dialogue, and soliciting feedback from everyone. Remember to take into account different experiences of privilege — and notice if certain voices or experiences continue to speak up or share while others remain silent, or are even ignored. 

Building a culture of respect and appreciation enables each individual to bring their unique perspective to the table, which can drive innovation and ultimately lead to better results. Taking steps to actively promote diversity and inclusivity will not only help remote teams achieve success but also foster deeper connections between members. More and more, employees expect a culture of diversity and inclusion; cultivating an exemplary one will keep you relevant in an increasingly competitive employment environment. 

Establishing clear policies and consequences for discrimination or bias

Microaggressions are underlying, subtle, or even unintentional forms of discrimination that can create an uncomfortable environment for employees. According to Psychology Today, microaggressions in the workplace can contribute to a toxic work environment, which can have significant negative impacts on the productivity and well-being of employees.

Leaders must stay vigilant in recognizing these comments and put in place policies that promote respect and diversity. Don’t assume that because your virtual and communication is less frequent that discrimination can’t occur. With clear expectations and guidelines on appropriate behavior, organizations can create a culture centered on inclusion and minimize the occurrence of microaggressions. 

Regular training can also educate leaders on how to address such incidents when they arise. Furthermore, creating an open environment where employees feel their opinions are valued will lead to better engagement ensuring all team members are heard, respected, and comfortable. 

Providing tools and resources to accommodate different needs

Creating an environment that is inclusive of different work styles is a crucial component to nurturing collaboration and productivity within remote teams. Leaders should make it their priority to recognize the need for such accommodations and tailor the workplace experience accordingly. 

This could range from making sure employees have access to the right equipment or technology, to specifying what working hours look like and providing flexibility around them, or giving employees the freedom to determine their own schedules as long as agreed objectives are met on time. 

Allowing for these kinds of personalization, particularly for neurodivergent team members or those with invisible disabilities, helps ensure every team member feels seen and supported, leading to greater job satisfaction and higher performance.

Acknowledging and celebrating individual and team accomplishments

As a leader, investing in feedback and recognition is an important part of fostering a strong and inclusive remote team. Consistent communication and demonstrating gratitude for the effort put in by employees can motivate them to keep showing up for their work and develop closer connections with each other. It will also ensure you don’t fall into the “task trap,” or making people feel like they are only valued for how much they can accomplish by being perpetually online. This leads to burnout, frustration, and a sense of alienation from the work. 

Consistent acknowledgment encourages people to take ownership of their roles and strive for excellence more since everyone will be held accountable. When feedback is supposed to help personal growth and guide team members toward success, it not only leads to increased productivity but also makes a huge difference in employee satisfaction. It ensures people feel they are valued as people, not only as employees. 

Foster a culture of empathy and respect

Empathy and respect are the two cornerstones of any successful remote team. Leaders should always be conscious about creating an environment where each individual is valued, respected, and listened to without judgment or criticism. 

This means leaders should be open-minded in their approach when working with different people and aim to understand their perspectives while offering support whenever needed. It also means avoiding any form of exclusion or discrimination and protecting people’s right to express themselves without fear. 

When everyone feels respected, accepted, and appreciated for who they are, then team members will naturally come together more easily and work better as a unit. It can feel like a tall order, but remember that the effort you put in now will create a model for remote work in the future. It’s not just another task on your to-do list—it’s an essential foundation for a workplace where everyone feels valued, productive, and seen. 

Creating an inclusive and engaging work environment is essential for successful remote teams. Leaders play an instrumental role in facilitating these conditions, not only for their team’s productivity, but for the well-being of their employees. By following the tips provided above—including setting clear expectations, encouraging open communication, actively promoting diversity and inclusivity, addressing microaggressions, providing accommodations to different work styles, and offering feedback and recognition—leaders can foster a more collaborative and creative workplace where everyone can succeed. In doing so, they can help create positive changes in their team dynamic that will benefit everyone. As remote work continues to become increasingly normal, it is more important than ever for leaders to prioritize inclusivity and make sure that everyone feels welcome and empowered to do their best work.


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