You have an important piece of work that must be completed tomorrow and two people on staff who are ideally suited to handle it – both are working from home. One is single and the other has two school-aged children at home.
Who will get the opportunity to shine?
If you immediately chose the single person without giving the matter serious consideration, then you may be demonstrating unconscious bias.
We can all be influenced by our surroundings, our upbringings, and those around us and that lead us to form instinctive judgments about others. Left unchecked, we may be making decisions based on unconscious bias. It can creep into even the most inclusive teams, especially during periods of uncertainty or increased stress like we are facing now.
When team members are working from home and conducting routine business through calls and virtual meetings, leaders need to be especially alert to bias and avoid making assumptions about their team members.
Hearing a child in the background or seeing a pet stroll on camera, or items in the background of the room/home, should have no influence on the business at hand.
It also helps to remember that nuance and body language do not necessarily translate well via video conference.
Now, more than ever, leaders need to:
- Challenge your own assumptions. Do not assume that certain team members are taking on most of the domestic duties and caring responsibilities in their households. Or that some team members feel less stress. Every person and situation deserve to be understood without preconceived notions of what you may consider “typical.”
- Separate bias from opportunities. Provide opportunities fairly and avoid relying exclusively on your inner network or those team members who are most accessible to you. Take time to appreciate what your team members are capable of alongside their other responsibilities. Self-check a perception of the impact of, for example, caregiving responsibilities do not unduly influence opportunities.
- Check in. Hold regular conversations with each team member to find out how work tasks are progressing and whether there have been any changes to individual circumstances. During these and all interactions, demonstrate empathy and understanding so that team members feel comfortable discussing any challenges.
- Include people who may feel isolated. Arrange team calls for times that accommodate as many team members as possible and try to avoid times when family circumstances are most likely to disrupt work schedules.
- Set expectations and boundaries with clear and transparent guidelines for communicating and meeting deadlines. Have individual discussions with all team members about when and where they will work, what support they need and the kinds work/tasks they feel they can manage in the current environment. Focus on output and quality as the primary metrics of success, rather than hours or availability.
- Prioritise upskilling opportunities. Create opportunities for your team to continue to learn and grow virtually, and work with them to identify training and development opportunities.
Regardless of the circumstances, everyone deserves a chance to shine.
Check out our Leading Hybrid Work Teams course at ATI-Mirage to help you thrive in hybrid working environment.
Blog presented by Jo Riley | ATI-Mirage’s Lead Consultant PD & Wellness