Workplace equity in the real world can be a little lacking. We don’t all have equal access to the projects that advance careers or the meetings where big decisions are made–and that’s not a matter of merit. Unfortunately for us all, bias limits the potential of many people who could contribute far more than they currently do.
Everyone comes to work with biases. That may not change any time soon, but the way we overcome bias by offering access to success can change now.
In virtual workspaces, large organizations can leave behind the closed doors, glass ceilings, and ivory towers that may inadvertently exclude vibrant minds from contributing to company objectives.
There is no instant fix for the pain points of DEI, but there are meaningful solutions for companies who care about this kind of change. Here, we’ll look at how virtual workspaces can help provide broader access to achievement and innovation at your company by facilitating everyday connection.
Identify How Access May Be Limited
The typical enterprise company is likely to be far more siloed than a virtual-first company. Siloed organizations leave very little room for access. Without access, diversity and inclusion suffer.
When senior leaders recognize this truth, they can get intentional about change.
Mitra Best is Partner & Technology Impact Leader at PwC, which announced in late 2021 that full-time employees can work remotely on a permanent basis.
She shares from the Hands In 2022 Women in Tech panel, “Historically, women have not had equal access to promotions, high-profile accounts, or other privileges that come with recognition and reward. Virtual workplaces have the potential to offer us more access.”
It’s not necessarily easy to create this access, even when working together in physical offices. Geography keeps people separated. Functional divisions keep people talking to their own teams only. The physical environment may not be very inspiring, giving people little reason to travel beyond the desks or meeting rooms they’re assigned.
Over video, the siloing can become even more rigid. Video meetings happen in sequence or in parallel. They rarely offer anyone the chance to stray from the agenda. There is little breakout conversation over video. When one person drops, everyone drops.
The highly structured approaches of some organizations may be intended to move towards goals as efficiently as possible. This is understandable in a period of economic volatility, but it’s unsustainable in the long term. Workflows that sideline or hinder your staff from reaching their individual potential are not just inequitable. They prevent your company from reaching its potential, too.
Build Space for Ongoing Connection
The concept is so simple, it’s easy to forget—but if you’re not on an invite, how do you get on it? How do you even know a meeting is happening without connections? Can you engineer a relationship with your company’s leaders if they’re two time zones away and none of your other relationships intersect?
When you aren’t intentional about facilitating connections, interaction levels become low or narrow. Frameworks for connecting become outdated. Your organization may feel frictionless with everyone in their own silo, but it could also just be drying up or falling behind your competition.
The spatial aspect of virtual worlds allows more chances for interaction, while preserving the privacy of individuals in their chosen physical locations. With unlimited possibilities for architecture or landscape features–like skyscrapers, rooftops, galleries, libraries, or trails–people have space to mingle.
They say hello, introduce themselves, explain their roles, or otherwise get to know each other, because they have access to each other.
“Simply by having more visibility into the organization, we have more opportunities to make new connections and showcase our work and our value,” says Best.