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How to level the playing field in digital workspaces by bridging resource gaps

Rachael Nazzaro, Slack
Rachael Nazzaro
Rachael Nazzaro is a Solutions Engineer at Slack, where she helps design custom solutions and business impact for her mid-market customers. Before starting as a Solutions Engineer, Rachael helped small businesses understand how to best leverage Slack on the Customer Experience team. She's passionate about learning from her customers and showcasing the potential Slack presents to any line of business, big or small. Rachael lives in the Boston area with her wife, two dogs and cat.

I often reflect on my years at Slack, thinking how it’s possible that I have made such deep connections with my team and learned so much in my career despite never being in the same room as them. I mean, I had teammates at my wedding that I hadn’t met in real life. Over time, I’ve realized it’s how companies fill in the gaps for their employees, or what I like to call, resource gaps: the barriers that prevent us from doing our best work.

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Filling resource gaps creates a more level playing field for employees, fueling inclusivity, positivity and productivity.

The mental resource gap

I loved working in the office before the pandemic. Getting to see my peers, having unlimited snacks and sitting down for a brew after work are core memories of my early days at Slack. I’ve been a remote employee for three years now, and while my physical environment has changed, my satisfaction and growth haven’t slowed.

When I worked in an office, I spent two hours in the car commuting to work, filled my gas tank once a week and took a lunch break for 30 minutes. These hours and expenses added up. Those 10 hours I spent in my car are now spent decompressing or having time to prep my lunches—my family was even able to downsize one car.

And those are just some of the small benefits. To so many, there are bigger challenges that this shift in work has helped, like lactating and working parents who previously often needed to adjust their schedules to care for their family.

See also: 6 ways to make new parents feel more welcome back at work

What lies beyond these challenges is the power of asynchronous work. Digital workspaces enable work that doesn’t happen in real time or in a precise location. If a parent needs to care for a sick kid or go to a doctor’s appointment, they can. From sending a quick Slack on their phone, recording a clip or responding with a reacji to keep work moving forward, these obstacles are becoming fewer with async work.

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And it’s helping tons of people. Neurodivergent workers can pause notifications when they feel sensory overload. People with chronic illnesses can coordinate needed appointments without the stress of feeling they need to be around specific work hours. Async work now takes away some of the mental stress and unique needs workers face and it increases our productivity too.

See also: Is your return-to-office policy flexible enough? It’s not just about location

The information resource gap

When I started working with customers at Slack, I had several mid-market clients to look after—one of which needed a custom solution within a week of my first day. To help, I scrolled through our client-dedicated channels, reading interactions and reviewing past projects. I got up to speed quickly because those channels were filled with context-rich information—account notes on key stakeholders, presentations and clips.

I’ve also found it incredibly helpful that with a productivity platform like Slack, I can find the right people to connect with and ask questions. From a quick search, I can find others who may have come across a similar issue or are closer to a project than I may have been.

These kinds of interactions are also an opportunity to network internally, learn and grow. Access to senior teammates becomes more accessible when you can send a quick message or hop on a huddle.

One of my favorite parts of our access at Slack is when Ali Rayl, senior vice president of product, hosts Slack employees on her Animal Crossing island through a dedicated channel, where we get to hang out with her in another virtual world. Leveling the playing field by giving everyone—entry-level employees to executives—the same access to personnel resources has a real impact on employee satisfaction and career growth.

Related: The ever-changing problem of EX—and why trust can help solve it

The connection resource gap

I think too often traditional work environments unknowingly create silos between different departments—between people. With digital workspaces, those silos are removed, and opportunities to connect become much more frequent.

For me, breaking down that silo was being able to be openly out at work. Joining the company-funded LGBTQ+ ERG allowed me to feel supported in showing up to work as my true, best self. We get together once a month for a company-paid virtual lunch, raise money for our communities and discuss important political topics. The ability to create unique groups like this showed me the power they have in fostering human connection and a sense of belonging.

Even simply expressing yourself through emojis can make people feel more connected. I use emojis as a way to communicate and show my personality. Like if I’m excited about something, I may use my custom-made :timothee-dancing: emoji, an animated dancing rainbow-lit version of Timothée Chalamet’s iconic 2022 Oscar’s look, which my colleague made for me as a gift for helping her out.

I tell customers all the time, emojis might seem silly, but they’re actually an important part of making a digital workplace feel inclusive, expressive and supportive. Plus, they’re just fun; our customer Bolt has 16,500-plus custom emoji with nearly every employee having their own face emoji, which is a small step for big culture gains.

Giving every employee the resources and information they need throughout their careers is important, but finding a consistent, fair way to do that can be challenging for companies. I often speak with clients who tell me, “This is such a change. I don’t know how to make it stick.”

I’ll say here what I say there: It’s not as hard as you think. With the right tools and a thoughtful approach, digital workspaces can fill crucial resource gaps and create a more level playing field for everyone.