Remote teams must balance the intentionality of asynchronous communication (“async”) without losing the human elements of real-time chat. From an inclusion perspective, this is even more critical. As leaders consider how different types of people like to communicate or what their home circumstances allow for, applying standard office communication practices simply won’t work. Assuming everyone who works remotely can hop into a meeting or book a call whenever is setting everyone up not just for lower productivity but also for a non-inclusive organization.
In an office environment, leaders could comfortably assume that everyone has the same internet access, the same chairs, and the same access to stationery or snacks. In a remote work environment, this is no longer the case - everyone’s unique circumstances means that companies have a new challenge when it comes to inclusion.
A lot of inclusion issues are made worse by non-inclusive processes. The good part about this? Many processes are more inclusive by design. That’s where voice comes in - compared to reading walls of text or booking meetings at a moment’s notice, voice helps companies be more inclusive of remote employees. Here’s how.
Parents and caregivers delight
Working parents and caregivers often have a painful choice between earning and caring. They can either work full-time to afford to hire a caregiver or they can stay home to be a caregiver and forgo their earning potential. Remote work finally removes this nasty dichotomy, since caregivers can be at home, earn money, and step out occasionally to give care.
From an inclusion standpoint, working parents and caregivers don’t need special treatment - they need systems that allow them the flexibility to be gone for 25 minutes and step right back into their workflow. Voice messaging is inherently more flexible and mobile because it allows employees to digest information easily and on the go.
Introverts and extroverts rejoice
Another dichotomy is the concept of introverts and extroverts at work. Introverts are supposed to love remote work because they can work without distractions, while extroverts crave the social buzz of an office. However, the negative side is that introverts don’t communicate enough and extroverts don’t spend enough time getting their work done.
Voice offers a middle ground. It provides the tone, volume, and enthusiasm that best mirrors an office environment, so extroverts get better socializing opportunities. It’s also easy to record, edit, re-record, and send, so introverts can answer on their own time and not have their energy drained by constant real-time meetings.
Different ways of thinking all work with voice
When you bring multiple ways of thinking into an organization, you need a flexible and scalable communication solution to meet everyone’s ways of working. That’s where voice comes in. For people that like to talk it through, voice is a natural tool. If someone prefers to read, transcription can be automated when sending voice notes.
Balancing introversion and extroversion works when voice comes first. Voice naturally includes people who prefer talking - but it easily becomes text via transcription for anyone who prefers to read. However, going the opposite direction is far more difficult and in some cases impossible, making voice-first the clear winner from an inclusion and documentation perspective.
People with visual impairments can engage more easily
While screen reader and control technology has come a long way, it’s not the same quality as human conversation. If someone has vision difficulties or is blind, managing screen readers is a far more tedious task than working in voice. When voice apps are available, everyone can take part in the conversational aspect of work, easily uploading the audio (with transcribed text) into a central storage area. For folks who like screen readers, transcription of the audio makes it simple to use. Similar to including people who think in different ways, voice is a better foundation. It includes people who want it and makes it easy for people who prefer text.
Bridging the rural-urban internet divide
Demanding constant real-time conversations requires a lot of bandwidth, which may be an issue for employees that don’t have unlimited internet at home.
When you default to sending voice notes and working asynchronously, you give employees with competent (but not blazing fast, unlimited) internet a high quality chance to engage.
With async communication as a default, powered by voice messages instead of real-time meetings, more can get done. Those employees of course still need to have internet for necessary real-time meetings, but leveraging voice will help you get the same amount (or more) done with less demand on bandwidth.
Inclusion is a process challenge
Diversity and inclusion is a truly deep topic that requires a lot of conscious thinking to understand. However, all companies can start by thinking about how every employee can produce their best work. If there are challenges and it looks like someone isn’t producing, see if they are being blocked by process first before considering talent or effort.
When you approach it from a process perspective, it’s easy to see that there are many fundamental barriers to letting all people do their best work. Happily, though, a few of those challenges can be solved with relatively easy process changes. Remote work already broke the location barrier, and asynchronous communication broke the scheduling barrier. Voice is poised to help companies be even more inclusive of remote workers without even having to try - it’s more inclusive by design.