The COVID-19 has changed the entire corporate world overnight. For the office workers, there has been a dramatic shift towards the workplace as they started working from home. The kitchen table became the workplace, pets and children being big distractions and the technology being pushed to its limits.
The impact on family life from COVID-19 is one of the important aspects of this learning process. The effect on the parents was more, with greater responsibility such as childcare and home schooling falling on women and increasing the ‘motherhood responsibilities.
People with disabilities have also seen a very disproportionate effect, figures reveal that disabled women of working age are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their peers. Moreover, the LGBTQ people are among those who are particularly vulnerable in this crisis.
Another significant impact is on the graduates, interns and apprentices, a report showed 27 per cent of firms have cut their graduate recruitment hires in the wake of COVID-19. Those who are already in work are also struggling without established networks or the wider safety net of proper support and advice and are feeling isolated.
There are many who also have issues with laptops, less workspace, poor Wi-Fi connectivity, cramped living conditions and all these adding up to the uncertainty and long hours of remote working. During this unprecedented backdrop, we must listen to and understand the issues faced by everyone in our workforce and provide all kinds of support accordingly.
A major part of being a forward thinking company is all about creating parity amongst the employees, putting a diverse and inclusive leadership at the heart of the business and ensuring all the teams are listened to. But it’s not always the case across the board. A report says that experience from previous crises show that in recovering from COVID-19 there is a huge risk that companies will not be able to prioritise diversity and inclusion.
The companies need to roll out different programmes in order to promote equality and diversity amongst the entire workforce. Proactively work with the government departments, clients and the suppliers in creating a ‘growth mindset’ culture where we can learn from each other.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies sponsored by the senior executives can only be successful when everyone gets on board and the workable policies and guidelines become deeply ingrained into the workforce culture. Further, it’s also not the responsibility of the minorities only in the workplace to uphold or drive the policy change, instead it should be those who are in the majority who need to learn the most and change accordingly.
Reassuring the employees that they have a voice to share their experiences will break the silence which so often accompany the feelings of being overlooked.
Each network should have a senior board level sponsorship, so that they can listen to, learn, provide support and take forward the relevant points of action during this crisis. The use of the digital communications, dedicated webinars and online polling have allowed all the employees to keep running and reach a wider audience by enabling a wider participation and broadening their reach, also allowing all the diverse employees to connect and collaborate.
Workplaces will have to and should look different post‑COVID-19. Before we return to our offices it needs to be ensured that we consider the specific needs of the different and diverse networks. Only by doing this will we be able to fully support and implement the needs of all employees, so that we get better decisions and ensure that we don’t have discrimination in our planning inadvertently.
It’s extremely crucial to build a culture of psychological safety which makes you believe that you’ll be accepted, respected and won’t be punished severely when you make a mistake within the organisation. This is more important than ever during this COVID-19, as in this uncertain environment our brains are hard wired to react in a ‘fight or flight’ mode. Increasing the unconscious bias, shutting down the perspective and reducing our analytical reasoning which in turn, handicaps the strategic thinking that is so desperately needed in our workplace today.
If we want to be better then we need to learn our lessons from what has worked well for us in the past, add in the needed creativity and innovation and overlay some of the risks and opportunities which has come with the COVID-19 crisis.
There is a lot of research which shows that diverse teams produce better financial results, are more innovative, are much better at identifying risks and deliver higher levels of customer satisfaction. Further, there are strong evidences that creating diverse and inclusive cultures in teams make it easier for everyone to perform to their full potential as people are much more able to speak up and share their thoughts and views.
Conclusion: By this time, we already know that we’ll need to bring in new skillsets as the technology is changing rapidly and in order to do this, we have to focus on how we make our sectors attractive to the diverse talent, reducing the barriers to entry and making our teams more accessible and inclusive towards people who are coming in. Finally, let’s make sure that this Covid- 19 crisis becomes a blessing in disguise for a positive change rather than setting the clock backwards. Both at a personal and an organisational level, individual actions can collectively make a huge difference.
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