As of today, 3/4 of all U.S. states are under “Shelter In Place” orders, as are many other countries around the world. Office buildings and workplaces are mostly deserted, with the exception of some personnel required to be on sight during this pandemic. Currently, there are 300 Million schoolchildren around the world who are being homeschooled on a full-time basis by their parents, with educators supporting them through distance learning for the very first time. Some students may not return to school for the rest of the school year! This all happened swiftly and is still very new to ALL of us.
Most employees are now working from home 100% of their workweek, which is a new concept for some. It is taking time for all of us to adapt while trying to stay focused and productive without having a manager looking over our shoulder or monitoring our daily activities. “Social Distancing” is now a thing, and is a safety and survival requirement. As a result, we now depend on virtual EVERYTHING (meetings, lunches, coffee, dinner, dating, visiting family & friends, happy hours and birthday celebrations…just to name a few). This is our “New Normal.” This is WORKPLACE 2.0.
But I cannot let you off the hook so fast. Yes…we are all dealing with the same crisis at the same time. Protecting the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones are top of mind for all of us at this time. However, I cannot let the focus on Diversity, Inclusion, Equality and Belonging fall on the back burner. Our work is not done yet. Now more than ever, each of these may be more challenging to focus on and may not be viewed by leaders as imperative key business initiatives…but they are still very relevant and necessary!
As teams continue to work remotely, managers will need to make a more concerted effort to be inclusive in their virtual team meetings and decision-making process. Be certain to give everyone a voice on your conference calls or video meetings, even the introverts on your team. It will take more effort to ensure everyone feels included and like they belong in this new virtual workplace. Continue to build a sense of community and ensure your culture remains inclusive for all employees. We are all sending and receiving more emails now that we can no longer stop by a colleague’s desk or office for a quick chat or question. Craft your communication in a way that eliminates any tone of bias, inequality, unfairness or discrimination. Remember, you are not in the room with your team member when they receive your email or phone call. They can’t see your face or body language, and may interpret your message in way you did not intend. Slow down and be intentional with each interaction. Managers should also meet with their direct reports in regular 1:1 meetings…you have time now, so no excuse! Check in more often than ever before – not in an overbearing, micromanaging kind of way, but in a “I’m here for you” or “How can I help you” way. Be transparent about what this experience is like for you and ask what can you do to better serve and help them during this time.
Some leaders may feel the spotlight is off of them as it relates to their commitment to Diversity, Inclusion, Equality and Belonging, and may revert back to old habits. This is not the time to relax and think you can deal with these initiatives when everyone is back in the office. Recruiting and onboarding is now fully virtual for most companies, which is historically when a lot of bias tends to take place. Most team meetings are fully virtual now, too. You still have to lead and show up everyday and set the example for others to follow. Now is not the time to take your foot off of the gas pedal of Diversity, Inclusion, Equality and Belonging. Continue to keep these top of mind as you engage with your employees in WORKPLACE 2.0…because in a lot of ways, it is here to stay and we all have to get used to it.
THIS IS OUR NEW NORMAL…and I will be watching you…so show up great!