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COVID-19 Crisis - A Great Opportunity to Deepen Diversity in the Workplace

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

The crisis has changed the way of working and raised the concerns of many of the workers in their workplace ● For members of communities such as LGBT people, members of Arab society, and people with disabilities, this joins existing difficulties ● What should be emphasized to help them as well? An opinion article in "People and Computers" ● Coach Perry

The corona crisis has changed the routine of our lives from end to end: many things we have taken for granted take on a different and more powerful meaning, for better or worse. In addition, the crisis, which passes as a huge house-to-house surge, emphasizes and reinforces in most of us emotions such as fear, stress, and loneliness, especially around the fear of the crisis and its consequences, the economic pressure, and loneliness resulting from social distance. All of these have a "pressure cooker" effect, and many of us crave help and support. This is doubly true for the under-represented populations in our society, populations that in the first place have a more fragile or sometimes even lacking support system.

Perry Glickman, Diversity & Inclusion Project Manager, F5

In recent years you can see a lot of high-tech companies choosing to diversify their human capital - a welcome thing by all accounts. However, employing human diversity is not enough if it is not possible to continue to empower it and support it in moments of crisis. During this period, employers must examine the situation of the diverse groups in the organization and consider ways to help employees get through the crisis in peace. In this article, I will review ways in which the same diverse populations in the workplace can be helped and how this help can be leveraged for all employees in the organization.

What are diverse populations?

Diverse populations are groups that face exceptional social or economic challenges, including those that face discrimination based on gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and so forth. Examples of such groups are women, LGBT+ people, and people with disabilities. A group of women to promote the status of women in the organization, an LGBT+ cell to represent employees from the Pride community, and more. These groups include both those who naturally belong to the group and their supporters or, as we are commonly called here, the Allies.

I recently received alarming data from the i4cp organization, which conducts various studies in the field of human capital, regarding the impact of the crisis on some diverse groups, especially with regard to the elderly, women, and ethnic groups. The data show that 24% of organizations report an increase in mental stress attributed to the age of employees and 24% of organizations reported a disproportionate burden falling on women, especially around childcare, who are on forced leave from kindergartens and schools. The same data led me to ask questions about the situation of the other diverse groups in my society during this period, and I came to the conclusion that there is something to be done.

What can employers do? As employers, there are many moves that can be made to facilitate diverse populations in the workplace, using all the resources at their disposal. The first and perhaps most important step of all is to get from those populations information about the challenges they face in these times. As employers, the same challenges can be assumed, but it would be wise for them to produce open communication with the same diverse groups, in order to understand in depth the needs and difficulties. Here are some steps that can be taken in the workplace:

  • Conduct a survey among the diverse populations in the organization: In companies that have active diversity & inclusion groups, such as a Pride group or women, the survey can be conducted within these groups. The purpose of the survey is to look for the challenges that the population faces. Depending on the results, it is possible to plan how the organization and the employees in the company can assist during this period and make dedicated plans.

  • Establish groups of volunteers for social assistance to individual employees: Strong and mentally resilient volunteers can be recruited to support these employees. These volunteers will be assigned to contact employees who need support, whether in a phone call, video call, or, in rare cases, physical arrival during significant distress. Their goal is to give a supportive shoulder and a listening ear to those who need support. In the event of health, social or financial distress, they will be able to encourage the employee to report to superiors or the human resources department in the organization, who can provide professional help accordingly. It is recommended to conduct interviews and training for volunteers before setting out, in order to make sure that they are suitable for the task and provide them with tools for quality listening.

  • Expand the activity of the employee inclusion groups in the organization: If there are groups in the organization for diverse populations, do not limit their activity only to the populations included in the group. For example, if there is a group for women, the help it will provide to single mothers will surely be able to contribute to such fathers as well.

  • Enable anonymous communication: People in diverse populations may be interested in maintaining anonymity. Some may find it difficult to share financial, social, or marital distress. For example, people from the LGBT+ community may not yet want to come out of the closet. Therefore, the organization should allow anonymous communication, for example by creating anonymous chats.

  • Open virtual support groups: It is possible to hold support group meetings accompanied by a professional guide and also through video applications. Sharing and talking are very helpful for employees to deal with the distress of loneliness and unload any issue on their hearts.

  • Build a professional and anonymous set of services with partial or full budgeting of the company: Build an organized plan, which can include confidential emotional support, meetings with a qualified psychologist or coach, legal and financial telephone counseling, online support with access to online information, resources and content about health, quality of life, family, relationships, work and more.

In conclusion, the most important thing is to keep in mind that we are all different from each other. Each one of us may have different needs and desires, and they are often more complex than we think. We want to offer help, alleviate loneliness, and create mutual assistance and help programs, but it is important to be sensitive enough to understand that each person is facing difficulty in their own way, and everyone needs a different kind of help. Some people want help and others who prefer to deal alone with a minimum of outside intervention, which is legitimate.

It is important to offer help, not to force us to accept it, and to take into account the differences between us all.

The author is a project manager in the field of diversity and inclusion at F5 Israel.

Coach Perry

Corporate Coach for employee engagement and diversity and inclusion

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