As news of the coronavirus in the UK gets hotter I've been asking myself this week how this is impacting on diversity and inclusion within organisations. Some of the impact that I have already seen with my clients is:
- People responsible for delivering on diversity and inclusion have been sidetracked and put onto emergency response committees to deal with the crisis in their business. Any work that they were doing on diversity inclusion has been put on hold for now.
- Diversity and inclusion training and events have been postponed as businesses don't want to get large groups of people together and travel has been minimised.
- Examples of microaggressions towards colleagues. Microaggressions are small slights of behaviour that demean somebody. For example, not sitting next to somebody in a meeting because they have a cough.
I really do believe that the world's toughest problems can be better solved with diverse teams addressing these problems. Currently the corona virus is one of the world's major issues and we need to have diversity of thought, backgrounds and experiences if we are to tackle this together.
But I actually see a major opportunity for diversity and inclusion once the virus passes.
Agile and flexible working becomes more common place
There is a real focus currently on allowing employees to work remotely and not have to travel in to the office or use public transport. Flexible and agile working helps so many people from working parents to people with disabilities or fluctuating health conditions. If more people work remotely because of the virus then it sets a precedent for a future that it is possible to work flexibly in your organisation. I talk to so many businesses who think that agile working is a great idea and in principle want to do more of it but often come up with excuses as to why it won't work for that organisation. Usually it's cultural like a culture of presenteeism.
Organisations are fragile when health and well-being slips down the priority list
I also think that businesses have been given a reminder about the necessity of supporting employee well-being. And the necessity to have contingency plans for when employee physical and mental well-being is not at its best. Organisations need a well-being strategy so that their employees have the best physical and mental well-being so that they can be top performers.
Key actions for business
So as I watch the corona virus situation unfold here are a few action points I suggest businesses take:
- Continue to educate and inform employees on what they need to do to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Make sure that you support employee physical and emotional well-being during this difficult time. This could be giving line manager's a simple toolkit on how to best support their team or providing a mental health or counselling helpline
- Use this as an opportunity to allow people to work remotely and see how they get on. Use this as an opportunity of seeing how you can do more agile and remote working in the future. You can use freely available collaboration tools to help with your productivity for example Whereby for meetings or Notion for documentation.
- Finally, use this as an opportunity to remind people that you want to create a culture of respect and inclusion in your organisation and that they need to be mindful of things like microaggressions or distance bias where we have a preference for things that are closest to us in terms of time and space, which is particularly prevalent for when we are doing more remote working.
Please keep safe and well