As workforces around the globe continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, many lessons and trends about how and why we work have emerged. However, one takeaway and its related trend have become especially apparent: inequities that existed in the workplace before the pandemic have now been exacerbated by it, especially as the global workforce permanently shifts to a work-from-anywhere model. This trend is arguably both a solution to and perpetuator of systemic workplace inequities, particularly when it comes to how employees interact and collaborate.
Whether or not it works well for your company, this new work paradigm has led to increased demand for unified communications as a service (UCaaS), which provides a one-stop interface through which employees can communicate and collaborate. As the name suggests, unified communications gathers all modes of communication, such as voice call, messaging/chat, and more, into one software platform to make communication and collaboration easy and accessible.
While there’s no magic bullet solution to workplace inequities, UC can be part of a systemic and cultural effort to improve your workplace equity, particularly surrounding issues of accessibility, workload distribution, and interpersonal dynamics.
Using UC to Improve Equity
Below are the various ways that UC empowers your employees and therefore improves workplace equity.
UC for device and modality agnostic Interactions
UC empowers employees to work and collaborate on their own terms. The right UC software for your company will accommodate a range of devices and operating systems, so that employees can bring their own devices in what is commonly referred to as the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model. UC lets employees work with the type of operating system they’re more comfortable with, whether Apple or Android for mobile, Mac or PC for laptops and desktops.
In addition to the power of device choice, the range of communication and collaboration modalities available in UC software addresses different preferences in modes of communication. While some prefer legacy apps, such as email or voice calls, others are more comfortable with chat or video conferencing. With UC, employees with children at home from school can easily toggle over to chat rather than audio methods of communication and have the option of switching off their camera in video conferences.
UC for variously abled teams and team members
UC meets users where their abilities are. Advancements in AI have made UC more accessible to people of varying physical, linguistic, and cognitive abilities. The benefits are especially apparent for teleconferencing. For instance, speech-to-text, like closed captioning, and text-to-speech capabilities make information accessible to users who best absorb information through reading or listening, respectively. For speech output, UC allows team members to contribute orally or through the chat function.
An added benefit of UC software for meeting purposes is that recording and sharing features facilitate “on-demand” employee viewing or listening, so that they can catch up or review when, how, and as often as they want. UC enhances the meeting experience for all.
UC for equitable workload distribution
UC software is also useful for collaboration. AI enhances some UC software to include time-tracking tools that feed into an algorithm. The generated information informs project managers about tasks that require more time and energy in team projects. With that knowledge, project managers can more effectively distribute bigger tasks among various team members and also optimize meetings in terms of length and who is in attendance.
UC for a results-oriented approach
Given the variable nature of workplace set-ups these days, it’s easy to use UC software to monitor employee “visibility” or “virtual presence,” but that may be counterproductive to an equitable workplace culture. Employees may feel that they’re being watched and not trusted to complete their assignments. Single parents and in-home caregivers may especially feel this pressure. You can leverage UC software to focus on project milestones and deliverables instead.
UC for voicing concerns
Through the literal screen of UC, employees are more likely to feel empowered to speak up when facing or witnessing discrimination or harrassment. UC also affords an employee a variety of ways to report and, more importantly, document problematic interpersonal dynamics in the workplace. UC provides more channels for airing and addressing workplace concerns.
Why UC Matters for Workplace Equity
For better or worse, the pandemic has radically altered work for most of us. Remote work is here to stay, and UC will continue to play an important role in accommodating the new work paradigm as well as address subsequent workplace inequities. UC is not a cure-all solution, but it helps managers and business leaders identify and remediate inequities in accessibility, workload distribution, and interpersonal dynamics.
Read next: Top UCaaS Providers & Companies for 2021