7 Ways to Emphasize Respect and Build Culture While Working Remotely

As work in the past year has turned mostly remote, one nearly universal experience has been job burnout, as seen in the countless surveys that have gone out to measure employee experience. However, it doesn’t take a survey to notice that some of the old team-building processes that happened in person have flown out the window. 

In this blog, we revisit ways in which employers can foster inclusivity, diversity and respect with their remote workforce. We dive into some common challenges employers have faced (and continue to face) and ways that we can leap forward into a new year with a focus on inclusivity, healthy communication and ultimately, productivity. 

What Is the Definition of a Respectful Workplace?

A respectful workplace can be many things. What a respectful workplace is not is an environment in which toxic positivity runs rampant. This is the “everything will be okay if you can keep working with a smile on your face” type of environment, with which most of us are somewhat familiar. This way of thinking is quickly becoming outdated, however, as we see that toxic positivity reduces motivation, fosters overconfidence and under-prepared workers, and creates a breeding ground for depression, anxiety and burnout.

A respectful workplace fights against the idea of false and/or toxic positivity, and instead works to recognize all employers, regardless of status, as whole human beings who, when nurtured for their gifts and talents, will shine brightly. Here are some common traits of a remote workforce where respect is prioritized:

  • The company culture is based on trust: Employees are not constantly monitored for productivity.
  • Leaders are seen as credible: Management and leadership teams lead by example by treating each other and their reports equally and fairly, demonstrating company values.
  • Workers are valued as people and not just workers: All employees feel like their work-life balance is taken into consideration when they are given new responsibilities.
  • Healthy communication exists: This includes inter-departmental communication and lateral communication. Employees know what to expect when changes come up, and are provided with crucial information regarding how to do their jobs ahead of time so that they can adapt.
  • Honesty is valued: Employees and leaders alike are given the space to air grievances and admit to mistakes or shortcomings without fear of being shamed.
  • Employees are assigned meaningful work: A sense of value is included in tasks.
  • Expectations are clearly defined: Employees always know what is expected of them and know how to ask for help when they struggle.
  • Employees have an appropriate amount of autonomy: Workers are allowed to be their unique selves and bring their individual strengths to the job without fear of retaliation or shaming. 
  • The culture looks down on blaming: Finger-pointing decreases employee morale, and employees are less likely to seek help in their roles if they fear retaliation or blame.

3 Simple Ways to Foster Respect With Remote Workers

There’s no denying that having to rapidly shift to productive remote work strategies in 2020 complicated inclusivity efforts in the workplace. Remote work leaves a lot of room for inequity, as not all at-home work environments are created equal. An inclusive work environment requires sustained effort, rather than periodic check-ins or campaigns. 2020 was a year of crisis, so the way we focus on inclusivity must also change for our employees so they feel respected as they navigate trauma and loss. 

It’s not enough to just consider the remote workforce when we consider how we should be fostering respect in 2021 at work. We must also consider the pandemic-impacted remote workforce, because this comes along with many uniquely challenging factors such as isolation, grief, loss of psychological safety/security, ability to focus at home with distractions, etc. Here are some key ways to foster respect with remote workers into 2021:

  • Show empathy: Many of us have been home alone for many months. Making secure connections at work is more valuable this year than ever before.
  • Structure remote team-building activities: Regular time should be dedicated to allowing employees to socialize and talk about something other than work every now and then. This helps foster feelings of inclusion and motivation.
  • Prioritize employee development: When employees feel valued, they stick around longer, and they have more to offer to the business.

Why Fostering a Respectful Remote Work Culture Benefits Business

It is easy to see, of course, that when employees feel respected, they give back to their company in ways they cannot if they are suffering from burnout or low motivation. Here are some key ways which remote teams that feel respected benefits business:

  • Increased employee retention 
  • Supportive workplace culture/less conflict between workers or teams
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased creativity, innovation and collaboration
  • Better customer and client service

Everything in the sections above demonstrates these concepts rather fully, but let’s consider some of the facts and figures that back these ideas up. 

  • 86 percent of employees trust managers who are willing to show support and recognition.
  • Employees’ attitudes toward change correlate with efforts to build a more human-centric workplace. Employees are more adaptable and positive during times of change and crisis.
  • Voluntary turnover rates decrease when employees feel respected. The average employee costs 33 percent of their salary, so high turnover rates due to a disrespectful environment becomes extremely costly over time.
  • Employees are four times likely to quit when management is unable to show the appropriate levels of appreciation and/or respect to the employee (i.e. managers who cannot empathize and advocate for their employees are more likely to risk losing their employees at higher rates).
  • Millennials are 22 times more likely to work for a company with a high-trust culture.
  • 26 percent of employees leave their jobs due to lack of respect, and 61 percent say that trust between themselves and management is very important to job satisfaction.

More Helpful Tips to Create a Respectful Workplace

Here are some tips to create a healthy and respectful remote culture, building off the above data:

  1. Develop employees’ skills: Helping employees continually grow and evolve will allow them to feel more respected in their roles.
  2. Communicate and demonstrate values: Lead by example
  3. Foster a sense of safety and security: Instead of constantly monitoring employee productivity with metrics and spyware, allow employees room to feel trusted and safe in their roles.
  4. Incorporate “watercooler talk” time: Since your employees are remote, their Zoom calls on workdays could be the only people they speak to all day. Consider adding structured chats where employees can play games and/or decompress with each other without management present.
  5. Emphasize the importance of work-life balance: Let employees know that their time is valuable, and you respect that they are a multi-faceted person outside of work with responsibilities and duties that are equally, if not more, important.
  6. Engage in regular employee appreciate for your team: Let your team know the ways in which they are contributing to broader company goals and make sure they know how valued they are.
  7. Keep communication channels clear: Don’t leave employees in the dark about updates, big or small. This helps them feel more connected with and responsible for building on company culture.

Get Educated

There is a lot to be said about how to build a respectful remote workplace, especially as navigating the pandemic throws so many challenges our way. One of the best places to start is to get educated. This blog starts the process, but consider how courses and data can help you and your team make fostering respect a way of life rather than an HR push that nobody really feels connected to. 

KnowledgeCity has multiple resources that can help, such as the following online training courses: “Creating a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion,” “Improving Workplace Culture with Positive Communication” and “Positive Employee Relations.” These training courses will help you add to the conversation started in this blog. You’ll identify areas of improvement in your company’s culture and receive strategic tips on how to improve and strengthen your culture of respect and trust. 

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