‘We are all in this together’ – a phrase frequently repeated by politicians in recent months as we struggle to cope with the devastating impact of COVID-19. However, the sad picture that is emerging is that togetherness may have taken a step backwards in the workplace.
However, the sad picture that is emerging is that togetherness may have taken a step backwards in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion have been another significant casualty of this pandemic.
A recent Time for Change report published by job site Indeed showed that more than a third of workers believe that Covid-19 has delayed efforts to improve diversity, inclusion and belonging in their company.Shockingly around a half of workers who were disabled or from black or mixed-race backgrounds and over a third of lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents reported workplace discrimination. More than two fifths believe their organisation could be doing more to improve.
Meanwhile, new global research from McKinsey shows that despite companies’ recent efforts, diverse employees need more. The study highlights that even before the pandemic began, progression advancing diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace and the economy as a whole had been slow. Historical challenges for diverse groups have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
The result: only one in six diverse employees feels more supported now.
With lockdown after lockdown upon us, there are also warning signs that widespread working from home could lead to an increase in racism and prejudice, according to a recent report from the Woolf Institute. Workplace friendships are key to breaking down misconceptions but as more people work from home they risk going 'back into isolated silos'.
Just like the pandemic, there is no quick panacea to these ills. So many businesses have suffered so much upheaval that diversity has taken a back seat, despite best intentions and despite a sound business rationale. Research from McKinsey repeatedly shows that more diverse leadership teams are more profitable and successful.
There may be a vaccine-fuelled light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic. However, there is a longer and harder road ahead for workers facing daily discrimination.
Prioritising diversity and inclusion and finding innovative solutions to effect real culture change - for the many not the few - has never been more important.
Only then will employers be able to say with confidence to every colleague that we are truly in this together.
We've spent so much time learning how to present and engage in an online world that we need to think about how our skills have transformed. Are the human abilities we haven't used in a while still able and ready to influence people?
Finding the balance between what is suitable for your people and what business as usual might look like isn’t an easy task.