Dealing with the inclusion of all employees (multiculturalism) in a workplace is not something new. However, “workplace” is no longer a “place” nor does it have a time. Remote workers can easily be comprised of team members who come from different cultural backgrounds, speak different languages, and have different ethical values and be in a different time zone or country. Managing these teams and “including” them can be a major challenge.
Here are several ways to help ensure a positive and motivating inclusion program in a remote team:
- Keep your tone neutral to avoid conflict. Cultural differences may translate to differences in value. A word, statement or a behaviour said or displaced in jest might come off as offensive to someone from another ethnicity or background. Keeping your tone different for individual members is not a solution. If you want to keep things straightforward, go with a neutral tone. Both positive and negative feedback can be given in a neutral tone. Without the usual social cues in an in-person setting, team members assess emotional authenticity by focusing on the content and tone of message.
- Organize work schedules and timelines around the different holidays and celebrations that make up your team. Your team will respect the fact that you take their cultural limitations seriously and will make them trust you more.
- Managers should choose their words wisely. Hosting a remote meeting or sending out written direction without the usual in-person meeting means managers can’t “read” the reaction of each of their team members. When you don’t have set work hours or your team is in different time zones, it can cause gaps in communication. You don’t want to talk “down” to anyone, but you must try to use simple, noncomplex words. This is not the time to use your thesaurus word a day to make people think you are smart. Choose your tone wisely to make up for body language. Take your time to explain and ensure everyone understands. Ask open ended questions to ensure they understood instead of putting them on the spot with a closed question.
- Set schedules to accommodate different time zones and team members personal and cultural requirements. Show your team that you value their time by discussing how you can achieve goals by respecting whenever they are comfortable working. Make sure everyone on the team understands each others’ schedules. Manage the time before the time manages you.
Encourage & embrace diversity. Instead of treating cultural diversity as a nuisance and something you need to accommodate, embrace it, and learn to work around it to achieve higher and bigger goals. Despite you having certain cultural stereotypes that you’ve learned from social media and modern TV shows, make your own judgments about a worker’s character through your interactions and observations.
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