M&L Insights: Boosting Inclusivity Online

In this series, we share students’ unique perspectives on the evolving issues, trends and innovative practices in business and management. 

By Zoë Walschots

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many new challenges, one of which is the closing of offices across the world and a transition to virtual work. Although this change was not easy, what is sometimes overlooked are the benefits it can bring. Small changes that were not available to be made in-person can now significantly improve the workplace environment. Specifically, a deeper look into company diversity and its commitment to this topic is among the many aspects that businesses can focus on. The following five suggestions are ways in which companies can improve their inclusivity during virtual work.

1. Reevaluate team’s efforts toward diversity.

The first suggestion may seem simple; however, companies may not have had the time to take a closer look at their commitment to diversity until the pandemic hit. Now that everyone is working from home, companies can dedicate more time to essential duties such as these. Before COVID-19, smaller tasks would get in the way, such as commuting to and from work. It is important to reevaluate this aspect of a company since many things have changed globally, and therefore the workplace has to change alongside it. Creating a new plan on hiring and providing workplace workshops or education programs to promote diversity is an excellent use of time many businesses should be focusing on right now.

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2. Add pronouns to your Zoom name.

This suggestion might be the easiest of them all: encouraging your team or employees to add pronouns to their Zoom name. Using the correct pronouns is essential for one to feel that they belong and are accepted in the company. However, I say “encourage” rather than “require” because some people may not feel comfortable sharing this with everyone. Therefore, it is also necessary to have safe and accepting practices in place in the company overall. But, this small change can already go a long way for many employees to feel more accepted.

3. Offer online support services.

Much time is dedicated to being online on company platforms nowadays through finding Zoom links, checking in with team members, or other functions. This has made it easier to find and access other online services of the company as well. A company can use this to promote diversity and inclusion in its workplace by offering online support services. This could be by providing counseling, workshops, and more. Presenting people with accurate information on being inclusive will create a more open and educated work environment and boost employee morale.

4. Create diverse breakout rooms.

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One function Zoom has provided that is not an option in person is to handpick breakout rooms. Being in person makes it a lot easier to stick to those we are comfortable with when asked to split into smaller groups. However, now that everything is virtual, companies can promote diversity and increase collaboration among employees by creating different breakout rooms. Putting those of different genders, ages, sexual orientations, etc., in the same breakout room can boost innovation and creativity, providing unique and different ideas for the company. It would also allow employees to get to know others with different perspectives better.

5. Provide closed captioning.

The last suggestion is also a function that companies can only provide through Zoom and not in person. Zoom can put live closed captions on meetings, making it easier for many people to follow along. Companies usually have people of all backgrounds and abilities on their teams. Providing closed captioning can be very important to those that are hard of hearing or deaf. Additionally, it can help those whose native language is something other than what is mainly spoken in the office.

The suggestions provided above can considerably increase a company’s efforts toward diversity and inclusivity as Zoom and online work takes over the world. Fixes, whether small or large, like those listed above, are great examples of ways employees can feel more accepted and at ease in the workplace. In addition to these suggestions, companies and managers should continue researching other ways to promote diversity, especially as different workplace methods, such as hybrid, or new in-person models, come along. The workplace is ever-changing, and companies should be as well.