Written by Bianca Baldo
All things change, and we change with them – this Chinese Proverb rings true for me in a post-COVID-19 work environment. In recent times, our definition of work and working conditions has shifted to adjust to the new reality of social distance and workplace safety. It has blurred the lines between work and private spaces, highlighting new opportunities, challenges, and solutions that must consider familial constraints, mental health strains, exclusion, inequality, and economic uncertainty.
Throughout this process, these solutions will need to reflect diversity, inclusion, and equity, which in turn will affect the overall health and prosperity of the workplace. It presents a unique opportunity to rethink traditional norms and how the present model of working from 9-5 in an office affects various employees differently. In some cases, this model exasperates existing inequalities in society.
Can bias limit innovation and growth?
The current workplace model needs to change, but we carry unconscious biases that might limit our ability to see beyond our own perspective and reducing our problem-solving capacities. These biases exclude innovative thoughts outside of the established norm by promoting a one type fits all approach to scheduling and work locations. The restrictive approach fails to consider how innovative practices can have a positive impact on the way people negotiate work/life constraints and how the workplace can successfully grow and benefit from embracing different perspectives, visions, and ideas. Using a GBA+ approach can be a powerful tool to bring about more positive workplace conditions that reflect the actual workforce and its needs. For more information on GBA+, intersectionality, and identity factors, come check out my recent article Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+): Helping facilitate successful meetings.
Can COVID-19 and the She-session affect your bottom line?
Understanding the economic impacts of COVID-19 from a GBA+ perspective, and what type of employment conditions will best promote and retain the brightest and most competent workforce during these times can be the difference between a failed or successful transition.
Research undertaken by Statistics Canada shows that women’s experience is still being shaped by their caregiving roles and/or their employers’ presumptions of these roles. Issues such as affordability of childcare, single care responsibilities, personal or family reasons are often cited as reasons why women tend to leave the job market more often than men. These trends are multiplied by the recent wave of layoffs and self-removal by women themselves to tend to family matters. We have seen from recent studies that COVID is affecting women, particularly racialized groups, newcomer communities, Indigenous women, and those with disabilities.
“We know from our studies in the past, women continue to disproportionately carry the burden of caring labour and domestic labor at home…Many of these women leaving the labour force will be involved in childcare and homeschooling. Others will be caring for relatives who are ill.“ (Andrea Gunraj CTV news)
These findings point to the double burden being experienced by parents and caregivers during the pandemic, and this is amplified by identity factors such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic, and others. Meaning that members of the workforce are particularly vulnerable to burnout, mental health concerns, and absenteeism and could benefit from targeted support to counter these burdens.
By adopting a GBA+, diversity, and inclusion perspective to workplace and schedule flexibility, you can set policies that best support your diverse workforce. Ultimately, increasing your chance to attract and retain talented employees regardless of their diverse identities. Also, strategically positioning your business in a competitive advantage by being at the forefront of innovative human resources. By implementing alternative work arrangements, you can maximize employee happiness, efficiency, and growth.
Growing beyond COVID-19 – Best practices to equitable work environments and schedules.
1. Inclusive communication for success.
As the saying goes:
“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand. – North American Indigenous proverb – Tribe Unknown”.
Workplaces that engage in frequent and inclusive communication with their workforce are more likely to adopt practices that best support the attraction and retention of qualified people. An inclusive communication approach engages your workplace, creates opportunities to share and understand different unseen barriers, and develops alternatives in partnership with others. Consider employee input early and be open to adopting flexible solutions based on feedback received.
Importantly, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all, and understanding the diversity in your workplace through consultation and engagement will go along way to finding solutions that support employee wellness, innovation, and growth.
2. Promotion of flexible working environment catered towards diversity factors.
Based on our commitment to GBA+, inclusion, and diversity, Intersol Group has been exploring different workplace models, working environments, and schedules that come with different benefits and challenges to different employees faced with diverse family-work balance issues.
Working from home.
One interesting effect of the current pandemic is that it has normalized the idea of working from home. We are seeing great flexibility and creativity in problem-solving relating to work arrangements.
Working from home has many benefits, including better work/life balance as fewer hours are wasted on commute time and stress. Personally, I have appreciated this gained time to prepare home-cooked meals for my children and eat together as a family.
It also has an advantage towards increased inclusivity, as it means that HR has access to a large pool of candidates regardless of the physical location of the office. A diverse workforce brings light and new solutions to old problems, encouraging innovation, and industry best practices.
Working from your home and office with safety considerations.
As we move out of social confinement and the businesses kick start their activities, different hybrid solutions are being implemented to encourage working from home, while offering employees to transition back towards working in the office safely.
In the article: How to Prepare Yourself for a Return to the Office, Harvard Business Review highlights that