Diversity and Inclusion in our future working environments

With ‘working from home’ remaining in place for many organisations, we need to consider how this could be impacting diversity and inclusion and asking ourselves if we are doing enough.

We’ve seen impressive efforts in terms of accessibility and ensuring employees can operate remotely, and while this has been crucial, we must also take into consideration the other diverse needs people will have when working from home. We don’t want diversity to go back to a tick box exercise. In this virtual world it is easy to assume that everyone is available at any time of the day to take a call or participate in a virtual meeting. However, we need to think about the other commitments people may have at this uncertain time, whether it’s trying to juggle work with childcare and schooling, caring responsibilities, times of prayer or even having the space, privacy and quiet to get things done.

Workplace society is generally a reflection of the society that we are living in and so, in these difficult times, we may be seeing behaviours and emotions such as anxiety, insecurity and discontent coming in to play. We need to check in on a more personal level, to see how people are coping. A lot of organisations have created helplines to provide support, but the reality is, we are all missing physical communication. Taking the time to reach out to employees individually, or spending some time at the beginning of virtual meetings to connect and check in is vital. Understanding a little more about the homelife of your employees could go a long way to making them feel supported and less isolated. Communication is more important than ever before.

Retention will be something that many organisations have to deal with, and what happens right now in the diversity and inclusion space will have an effect on whether people choose to leave when the opportunity arises.

When considering the post Covid-19 workplace, it’s clear that we need to get our policies right, ensure they are understood and then reflected in actions taken. There is a little movement and organisations are starting to make plans about how to bring their workforce back. This shift may be gradual and so it is vital to find a way to create an inclusive environment for those who start back at offices and those who are still based at home.

We must remember that individual experiences of lockdown will vary and this needs to respected and anxieties understood. Organisations have done so much work around diversity and inclusion before Covid-19 and this needs to continue. It’s everyone’s responsibility and divides shouldn’t be created now.

It’s time to acknowledge that the future working environment is going to be very different. We need to drive human interaction, ask questions and create a sense of belonging in the new world where employees can bring their authentic self to work.

by Melissa Baxter

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