Inclusive Social Distancing

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

It’s a cold, crisp morning in Colorado as the major metropolis begins to wake up. Throughout countless residences, coffee makers are filling the rooms of studio apartments, home-offices and family kitchens with the aromas of ground Arabica, sugar and half n’ half. The faint sound of the local news remains faint in the background as the squeaky shower handle is turned for the first time of the day. Cereal is poured, and milk is chosen from within the refrigerator, with a quick sniff to confirm the expiration date is next week.

Most folks find themselves logging on to their first morning meetings around 8am, still yawning and wearing house slippers out of frame. As COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing once again, Colorado, like other states, is finding its workforce mostly avoiding the typical morning commute. Mornings now involve sleeping later, an extra cup of coffee and comfort clothes.

Though the pandemic is slipping out of control once again, the economic impact is illuminating an opposing effect. People are, in fact, hiring and the work force is amplifying once again. As the work force multiplies, work-from-home measures will need to be strictly in place as the disease ravages the larger metropolitan areas once again during this ominous winter.

In the COVID era, companies both small and large are embracing processes and procedures to promote working virtually. As processes turn virtual, so should Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Though it may be impossible to meet in-person and discuss what can be done to implement these measures, there are simple steps for firms to ensure that every opinion is heard when working virtually.

Jamie Davila from Beaverton, Oregon, has been managing a team of eight engineers from seven states, a common challenge for many supervisors in today’s world. Her technology start-up, Ultranauts, is utilizing unforeseen potential in the autistic community, a population who views certain processes and procedures differently than others. According to Davila, those on the autism spectrum contain “inherent strengths” such as “pattern recognition and detail work”.

Davila’s inclusive procedural approach has benefitted Ultranauts exponentially; meeting agendas are distributed in advance, feedback is required from employees daily, and notes are published to their Slack channel for convenient access. Their hiring process focuses less on experience rather than skills assessments and detailed interviews. These types of regulatory processes are ensuring an efficient and effective work experience (Lohr, New York Times).

Davila’s concept for an inclusive work environment can be mirrored by firms internationally. Her story is an excellent example of preemptive and precautionary measures taken to ensure the success of each employee working remotely.

Firms shouldn’t have to completely mirror Davila’s strategy; in fact, her strategy may not function properly for most companies. Simple methods such as checking in on employees and garnering feedback, allowing the option to facilitate difficult conversations, going the extra mile to hear diverse opinions and implementing interactive experiences to actively engage employees would allow people to hear the diverse opinions of their colleagues.

Davila’s interview approach, however, allows her firm to see the whole candidate, not just a piece of paper. An interactive interview experience and skills assessments can be done virtually and alleviate the burden of going through countless resumes. Someone’s background may not have allowed certain internships or work experience, and the pandemic is certainly not permitting an abundance of opportunities. Talking with candidates is important to garner their point of view and discover hidden aspects not discoverable by resume.

Diverse opinions are vital, and remote work/interview processes should be designed to facilitate multi-faceted points of view.

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