Diversity is about more than just ticking boxes
Focusing on diversity isn’t a new idea. Deep down, organisations know that creating diverse workplaces is a good move for the success of their business, as well as the wellbeing of their employees. For many, however, creating these inclusive spaces doesn’t come easy.
Whether it’s years of ‘this is how it’s always been’ or an overt unwillingness from management, it’s not always as much of a priority as it should be. In the past 12 months, in particular, many organisations have shifted their focus to simply surviving, not on creating diverse teams. At the same time, however, COVID-19 has revealed plenty about diversity.
If nothing else, the pandemic has shown us how different our lives really are. Even examining just one aspect of life over the last year – remote working – can show us a lot about what it means to create a workplace that truly believes in the power of inclusivity.
Remote working and the disparities it reveals
At the heart of it all, remote working throws the work-life balance into question. Going home is supposed to be the time when you switch modes. Whether that be from work-mode to carer-mode, study-mode, relax-mode – the separation of work and home is an important one and it allows people to juggle the different aspects of their lives.
COVID-19 saw that balance upended for everyone across the world. This excerpt from a McKinsey article outlines the struggles for some communities well:
“Remote-working norms, particularly videoconferencing, could make it difficult for some personnel, such as LGBTQ+ employees, to avoid publicly sharing aspects of their home lives they might not be comfortable revealing to all of their colleagues. Working from home also may put women and minorities at a disadvantage, given challenges such as broadband access, the availability (or lack) of home-office space, and childcare and home-schooling duties.”
The possibility of remote working is an incredible one, the technology available today has allowed businesses all over the world to keep their heads above water, but it’s important to remember that it’s not all smooth sailing for everyone. The interruption into the ‘other side’ of life is enormous for some and not everyone has the resources to meet the work-from-home requirements.
On the flip side, however, many people find remote working easier. Those who have accessibility issues or chronic illnesses are now freer to work from home at a pace that suits them better. Some parents are able to juggle their caring responsibilities without their commute eating up precious, expensive time their children need to be enrolled in care. Others who struggle with their mental health have physical and mental space away to process their work easier.
Some people are frustrated by remote working, seeing it as a detriment to their work and their personal lives and they can’t wait to get back into the office. Others are happy with the arrangement and find it to enhance their productivity and wellbeing, and they’re not willing to come back to their old way of working anytime soon.
So, how do leaders bring teams back together with care?
Across the globe, leaders are trying to grapple with the ongoing health crisis as well as support their teams in various combinations of office and work-from-home set ups. No two organisations are the same, which might be frustrating for some, but for others it opens up a world of opportunities when it comes to taking advantage of a diverse set of team members and redefining the way they work.
Whether it’s creating a hybrid, flexible style of working for employees according to their needs, transforming office spaces to suit those with specific physical needs, or celebrating and accommodating cultural celebrations, there are hundreds of things leaders can do to create working environments that work for diverse teams.
What’s most important, however, is giving underrepresented employees the chance to have their voice heard. Many organisations have been more flexible over the last 12 months than they ever have been before and they’ve been rewarded with high productivity and great results despite the circumstances. The only way to keep moving forward is to listen to what their team needs to continue doing their job well, and deliver it.
If you’re ready to give your diverse team members the resources they need to do their best work, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.