Communication is an essential component of any business. We send off dozens (if not hundreds) of emails every day, take phone calls, and participate in virtual meetings. But how often do we pause to think about our communication methods and assess whether they’re effective? And do we ever consider whether particular methods of communication work for all people?
My guess is that these questions rarely come up for most business people and leaders. We’re so busy plowing through our days that we seldom stop to think about the mechanics and logistics of how we work. But we should. Here’s why...
The Importance of Equitable Communication
When we fail to consider equitable communication in the workplace, we’re cutting off a valuable source of ideas and perspectives. People prefer to communicate in different ways and may struggle in certain settings or when using certain mediums of communication.
But when we create an environment that fosters equitable communication, we open up the flow of ideas and perspectives. We become a richer, more diverse workplace that can better serve our customers and clients and, of course, our own team members.
How can we foster equitable communication in the workplace? Here are a few ideas:
Create Space for One-On-One Conversations
Not everyone thrives in a group setting. Some people are shy or introverted. Others come from demographics that are often silenced (a recent report shows 45 percent of female business leaders have trouble being heard during virtual meetings). Yet others are hesitant to bring up different perspectives, go against the grain, or suggest a potentially unpopular idea. Occasionally meeting one-on-one with your team members can open the door to more meaningful and candid conversations.
Offer Multiple Ways to Communicate
Some people may prefer to communicate via email or chat rather than in person or on a call. Others might find it easier to express themselves through video calls. As discussed above, some people thrive in a group setting while others do not. Providing multiple avenues of communication can help everyone’s voice be heard and can ensure no one is left out based on their communication preferences.
Be Mindful of WFH Limitations
Working from home is great for some, but not for others. Those with slow or unreliable internet will likely have difficulty with virtual meetings. Parents of young children or noisy pets might find themselves distracted when their little ones clamor for attention. Still others may simply not have sufficient space for a home office and are more comfortable working from the company’s office. However, some people do thrive in a WFH situation…
Be Mindful of Office Limitations
For some, it is far easier and more comfortable to communicate from a home office than from the company’s office setting. Those with ADHD or who are neurodivergent may find an office distracting or too loud. Additionally, some people with physical disabilities may find it difficult to access certain areas of the office or participate in meetings. As leaders, we need to be mindful of these limitations and work to create an inclusive environment that accommodates everyone’s needs and enables equitable communication.
Be Cognizant of Audio and Visual Impairments
It is essential to recognize the diverse needs of all team members, including those with audio and visual impairments. Providing accessibility features such as closed captioning can make virtual meetings more inclusive and allow everyone to fully participate. Additionally, when sharing information through visuals, consider providing written descriptions so that those with visual impairments can understand the content.
Fostering equitable communication in the workplace is essential for creating a diverse and inclusive environment where all team members can thrive. As a leader, it is up to you to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and valued. Let’s take the time to assess our communication methods and make sure they are inclusive for all. Together, we can create a workplace where everyone feels heard and respected.