As we’ve written about previously here at the APEX of Innovation, remote working has become the norm for the majority of employees during the pandemic. Even now, as lockdown restrictions ease and companies contemplate a return to pre-coronavirus operations, many are continuing to allow employees to work from home at least part of the time.

As this happens, it’s important to remember that remote working can cause discomfort and introduce “new challenges around equity and access,” as CIO contributor Megan Bigelow puts it. She elaborates, “When I landed my first remote job two years ago, I was mentally prepared for it. For all of my emotional readiness, however, I was vastly underprepared for the physical and material requirements of working full time at home.”

Bigelow outlines some important ways in which IT leaders can address these concerns and level the playing field among remote and in-person workers alike, including: 

Respect People’s Space

Particularly for employees who are new to remote working, whether as the result of a pandemic or simply a new flexible schedule arrangement, they will likely lack many of the bells and whistles associated with traditional workspaces. A joke about a colleague taking a video call from a cluttered kitchen table might have harmless intentions, but it can make the employee feel unprofessional and defensive. According to Bigelow, IT leaders should “build a culture of not commenting on people’s workspace (or lack thereof, no matter what).” As she puts it, “It is critically important as a leader that you make it comfortable for people as they navigate this.”

Provide Proper Equipment

In an ideal world, remote employees would have access to a desk, file storage, copier, and a monitor, among numerous other items. Outfitting workers with these and other types of equipment is not always possible, but organizations should attempt to do so whenever possible. Bigelow writes, “At a minimum, reimburse for headphones. This allows employees to properly hear and be heard in meetings and helps reduce the background noises associated with sharing space with others in a household.”

Make Accommodations

Geography, internet service provider, and socioeconomic class are a few of the variables that affect access to high-speed internet. Bigelow urges leaders not to take this access for granted and make accommodations when internet problems arise during meetings. As she puts it, “Be flexible with the use of video, allowing people to call into meetings from their phones or do as much as possible asynchronously.” Chat tools like Slack or collaborating via a shared document can be effective methods for one-to-one communication, so it’s important to consider these and other alternatives as part of fostering an inclusive workforce.Whether you manage just one remote employee or an entirely geographically distributed workforce, it’s important that no one is made to feel self-conscious about their home working environment.

For more on what you can do to combat this check out Bigelow’s article in its entirety here.