How to Build Diversity and Inclusion in Remote Teams

Dean Matthews
5 Oct

How to Build Diversity and Inclusion in Remote Teams

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that remote teams automatically equate to a diverse workforce. However, although hiring a more diverse workforce can be easier with location independent employees, it doesn’t just happen by itself.

Yes, it’s true that remote businesses can cast a bigger net when hiring and recruiting, which gives them access to talent coming from different localities. However, achieving diversity and inclusion still needs to be intentional, even among remote teams.

Why Make the Extra Effort to Ensure Diversity?

Having a diverse workforce isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s a business advantage, plain and simple. Over time, advocates of workplace diversity and inclusion have built a strong case to persuade business leaders to adopt more diverse and inclusive policies in their organizations. Here are just a few of the most recent additions to the growing list of evidence that supports the need for diversity:

  • A Glassdoor survey revealed that 67% of job seekers say that workplace diversity is an important consideration when evaluating job offers.

Diversity can be a deciding factor whether job seekers will accept or reject a job offer (Image Source).

  • A Boston Consulting Group study found that diverse teams were able to achieve 19% more revenue from innovation (new products or services that were launched within the last 3 years), which strategic planning expert Stuart Levine says makes these companies “better positioned to unlock innovation that drives market growth.”

Diversity isn’t a new ideal either—not as a societal ideology, and definitely not as a workplace concept. In fact, a number of scholars credit President Truman as the pioneer of workplace diversity when he desegregated the armed services in 1948.

Any way you look at it, remote teams—whether they’re part of a startup or a more-established enterprise—benefit from the competitive edge that diversity and inclusion bring in measurable business metrics such as profitability and productivity.

Five Ways to Build Diversity and Inclusion in Remote Teams

To reap these benefits, remote teams should be mindful and strategic of their hiring and human resource management practices. Here are 5 ways remote teams can ensure they build and leverage diversity and inclusion.

1. Build a Truly Global Talent Pool

Without the restrictions of hiring from a single location, it’s perplexing to see how some companies limit hiring for their remote teams to one country, or even one city or geographic region. 

This could be driven by three primary factors:

First, there’s a preconceived notion that fields of expertise are confined to a specific region. For instance, Eastern Europe is known to have really good programmers while Asia is known for its writers and digital marketing virtual employees. 

The second is operational concerns. For instance, a number of businesses will only hire remote employees from specific locations so the time zone difference isn’t that big. Language is also a key consideration for some. 

The last is budget. Currency exchange comes into play. It’s natural for companies to try and save on wage costs as much as possible.

Companies with the resources should build a globally diversified team, however. While it’s true that certain regions or countries are known for specific expertise, this shouldn’t limit you from posting your job openings in channels that have a global reach.

To address these concerns, here are a few best practices:

  • Use time tracking and project management tools wisely. This way, businesses can ensure that their remote employees are productive when on the clock, and that projects are moving on time and on budget.
  • Embrace asynchronous communication. Set communication rules/policies on the response times needed for each channel. For example, for instant messaging platforms, reply times should be quicker compared to email, where replies could take as long as 12 hours.
  • Set a few hours of overlap. This is especially helpful among remote employees who frequently handle time-sensitive tasks. Some companies ask their employees to work the last part of their shift when the next shift is starting their workday.

Companies that minimize their operational issues as much as possible will also minimize the hurdles to take their hiring global.

2. Train Employees to Practice Inclusive Behaviors

Buffer, a 100% remote company, assembles a yearly report called The State of Remote Work. Through the years, one of the recurring challenges that remote workers report is the feeling of loneliness. 

Loneliness still ranks high in the challenges facing remote workers (Image Source).

A distributed team may be diverse, but it still may not be inclusive. This can exacerbate feelings of loneliness that remote workers are already predisposed to. This is especially true for foreign remote workers and those who belong to minority or underrepresented groups. Without an inclusive culture, they could feel like they’re “second class citizens” in an organization. 

An alienating culture may be deliberate or unintentional. Either way, companies with remote teams should take it upon themselves to guarantee that all employees, regardless of background, feel valued and are treated equally.

Here are a few strategies to jump start a more inclusive workplace:

  • Tie inclusion into the company’s mission, vision, and values, as well as establishing success metrics to measure progress.
  • Plot important national celebrations in a holiday calendar and give remote employees the option to take these days off to enjoy their loved ones.
  • Adopt flexible work arrangements to accommodate the members of minority groups with specific needs (e.g. disabled employees, single parents, and employees with diagnosed mental health challenges).
  • Develop anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunity policies.

3. Create Safe, Judgment-Free Channels Where Employees Can Speak Up

Diversity and inclusion are difficult to establish and all the more challenging to practice and maintain. When remote employees start feeling discriminated against and unsafe, diversity and inclusion fail. Business leaders must continually strive to spot cracks in their diversity and inclusion efforts. One of the best ways to do this is to give employees a voice through safe, judgment-free channels where they can speak openly, express their thoughts, and bring to light any grievances.

The Goal: Remote, Diverse, and Inclusive

Remote teams are primed to benefit from diversity and inclusion, but strategic and thoughtful efforts need to be taken, especially among heads of business, and HR leaders. Diversity and inclusion should form part of a remote organization’s core hiring and HR management pillars through global hiring practices, training to foster inclusive behaviors, and creating platforms where remote employees can speak up. 

Author Bio

Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an employee time tracking app that helps over 10,000 companies all around the world track time. 

Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many people’s lives are touched and changed for the better. 

When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family and friends, and finding ways to make the world just a little better.

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