A remote working environment is traditionally isolating, especially for employees working in an area such as sales or customer service. They rarely get to build any deep and meaningful relationship with customers or prospective clients either.
Everyone wants to derive meaning from work, be it financial or psychological contract amongst many other reasons. We spend one-third of our lives in our work, and relationships are the bedrock of a happy workplace.
Remote working conditions are more isolating than normal for LGBTQ employees who already feel excluded in the traditional work environment. This broken physiological contract makes many LGBTQ employees feel their work adds no meaning to their lives.
Many businesses are thinking about the same questions, how can we support LGBTQ+ people in the workplace and have spent much more money trying to make their employees feel welcomed, safe, and included. This cannot be achieved only by allocating dollars to the process, but the truth remains, it will only work if we make it an organization-wide value.
A gay employee of a public traded service company in New York said, “He feels isolated and underrepresented especially while working remotely” despite his organization donating to charity. Despite the money spent by corporate organizations on pride events, their profess culture and workplace value do not align.
The most underrepresented group are LGBTQ+ women; they are more than twice as likely as straight women to feel as though they cannot talk about themselves or their life outside work—and more likely than straight women or LGBTQ+ men to report they feel as though they need to provide more evidence of their competence.
Some out LGBTQ+ professionals find it difficult to bring their full selves to work because of the fear that it might hinder their growth. Things are changing, and companies have started professing the values of inclusivity outwardly by using artifacts and logos to make people feel welcomed. Now that people are working from home, how can LGBTQ+ employees feel welcomed and less isolated in the workplace?
If we were to be in an office space, displaying the LGBTQ flag could go a long way like the story of a gay refugee from Iran where it’s illegal to be gay, found himself in TD Bank Toronto to open an account and saw the LGBTQ flag by the teller, he returned home with the notion that TD Bank is a place for him. Now a full-time employee of TD, because of the flag he saw.
Three actions to promote inclusivity of LGBTQ+ employees in a remote workplace
- Leadership have to walk the talk
Providing organization-wide training on the sensitivity of LGBTQ people in the workplace promotes the use of inclusive languages and gender-neutral pronouns not to exclude LGBTQ employees in the workplace.
Create structural support for LGBTQ employees: Acknowledgment of LGBTQ employees and recognize them in a virtual work environment will keep them engaged and focused. An example is organizing a group such as pride at work. This will allow remote staff to engage in something aside from their day to day work and create a more engaged and collaborative work environment among employees from different locations.
Offer equal benefits to all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation, including parental leave, adoption leave, and time off to take care of dependents.
Remember, gendered language can cause parental benefits to unintentionally exclude LGBTQ families. Make your benefits inclusive of all employees by being conscious of what words you use in your coverage and favoring gender-neutral terms.
2. Promote inclusivity in remote-working environments.
Culture is not just what you say you are? Is how you manage people and the work environment, most times culture comes out as artifacts in a physical work environment example are the inclusion of flags, logos and inclusive work environment such as a gender-neutral bathroom e.t.c In a virtual work environment where these artifacts are not available. The question is: how do you promote an inclusive workplace culture for LGBTQ employees.
In a virtual workspace, people who feel intimidated at work might not have the courage to speak up on the phone or video conferencing. Promoting an inclusive virtual working environment will require senior managers to recognize and acknowledge the differences. Encourage LGBTQ+ employees participation, ask them questions like, how do they feel about video conferencing and what works best. How can they fully participate in the workplace?
Small task: Adding preferred gender pronouns in front of our names on emails and video conference caller ID, to prevent misgendering and enable LGBTQ+ people to feel included in the conversation.
3. Opportunity to volunteer locally
Give employees opportunities to volunteer at local, not for profit organizations. This will give employees opportunities to interact with people in a period of isolation in the remote working environment and give them a better understanding of the struggles of LGBTQ+ people in their community and create more empathy, resulting in allyship in the workplace.
This would make your company more attractive for LGBTQ+ job seekers because of your social responsiveness to the issues facing the community they are part of.