Career Development, Work From Home, Human Resources
COVID-19 has changed the workplace infrastructure from one that was largely in-office to its current state of many employees working virtually.
Worldwide, employers have seen their employees continue to perform work objectives successfully, while commuting time has diminished, and families have gotten a chance to spend more time together at home. However, when a deep dive is taken beneath the surface, working from home (WFH) has also presented unexpected obstacles.
As we consider the positive impact of WFH, let us also look at the challenges that have been created for underrepresented groups including women and African-Americans.
Whether it’s receiving constructive feedback following a meeting or being included in a key project due to workplace proximity, there are benefits of being in-office which diminish when an employees’ main form of face-to-face communication with others is via a Zoom phone call. Let’s look at three common challenges people WFH are facing.
Less access to informal networks
In the movie, The Banker, which follows two of the first African-American bankers in the United States, one of the first skills the main characters wanted the white man, who posed as the front of their company, to learn was golf.
African-Africans and persons belonging to minority groups have long known the importance of access to informal networks.
Successful executives spend a substantial amount of time within their informal networks to do business. By participating in these networks, employees derive benefits including tips to further their careers.
WFH limits employee’s chances of face-to-face networking, which can impede their career advancement.
Passed over for critical assignments
It’s natural for people to turn to those who they’ve partnered with before to work on assignments. During a pandemic, it’s easy for managers and co-workers to adopt a philosophy of out-of-sight, out- of-mind, and overlook colleagues that are capable of getting a job done. For many, the goal is to accomplish a task while juggling home life, therefore ensuring diversity on assignments isn’t at the forefront of their mind.
Blurring of work/life boundaries:
As employees try to navigate the demands of home life with getting the task at hand done for their job, some are steering into unpaid overtime, while others are becoming increasingly stressed.
Where home was once a physical boundary that allowed employees to mentally decompress from the office, WFH has shifted the line.
For some, adapting to the WFH world has been a struggle with many people neglecting their mental health, choosing to exceed normal working hours out of fear of losing their jobs, and taking up unhealthy habits in order to cope.
To combat the challenges, leaders are being tasked to come up with constructive solutions that can be implemented within the virtual workplace.
The inequities within the workplace have to be considered, as they may be harder to pinpoint within a virtual ecosystem. Employees of underrepresented groups can excel once managers focus not only on output, but how workers can best navigate through this “new normal” together.
Be aware and monitor potential bias
Managers must examine the possible challenges workers face, whether it’s a mother taking personal leave due to childcare not being available or an employee expressing surprise on a Zoom call about a coworker’s space highlighting their cultural identity.
Biases at work have to be checked, whether it’s based on color, class, or culture. Managers should monitor biases against styles of dress, hairstyles, and household roles as coworkers are virtually invited into each others’ personal space.
Perceptions based on stereotypes can have serious consequences. Fostering relationships through collaborative assignments with employees of different backgrounds can help dismantle preconceived notions.
Educate managers and coworkers
Developing rules as WFH becomes more accepted is critical. Managers must play an active role in communicating the WFH arrangements of coworkers and implement rules that allow for the satisfactory completion of work.
Likewise, respecting both the company and personal time of coworkers is important. Implementing systems of communication other than Zoom calls, such as group WhatsApp groups, can also make the path forward smoother as it allows for quick messaging and replies.
Listen to Suggestions
As we all try to adapt to a post COVID-19 world, managers who are good listeners and who understand that employees will look for support and feedback from them will not only empower professional development but a positive company culture.
Listening allows others to see you as trustworthy and aids in transparency among co-workers. For any organization to become fully aware of workplace happenings, as well as effectively respond to it, someone in management must be a good listener.
Post COVID-19, problem-solvers will move to the forefront and workplaces that recognize and embrace the strength of differences will thrive.