While no one can look into their tea leaves or crystal balls to predict the future, it’s not hard to make some educated guesses on the future of the workplace just by looking around. Industries must continue to adapt to the unknowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and consumers continue to grow their consciousness when it comes to their consumption.
Over the last few years, a huge amount of time, money, and attention has been paid to more than just the name brands: consumer attention has been trained on the actions, pledges, and follow-through of businesses to create a more inclusive and socially responsible world.
Here are the main themes that we think every organization should be thinking about as they make their plans for the near — and long-term — future.
Creating Diversity Conversations at EVERY level
Beyond adding more Black and Brown bodies to your boardrooms, customers and clients will be looking increasingly at where businesses are spending their money — and using that to determine whether they take their own dollars elsewhere.
Revisit and re-prioritize your organization’s budget. Where are profits still being prioritized over people? Have you increased spending in HR, namely in wellness supports like care time and health care coverage? While the purpose of a business is to make profit, no one gets ahead if the people working for you are unwell.
What commitments have you made to increase equity in your organization and community? What progress has been made on them? If you are coming up short on ideas, we recommend looking through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
Employ a bottom-up approach in tandem with a top-down approach to ensure that all levels of your organizational chart experience the right kinds of change to produce lasting results.
The Great Resignation, Gender, and Recruitment
Recruitment and talent acquisition is a challenge on its own; with the phenomenon increasingly known as the Great Resignation, dynamics in the recruitment, interviewing, and hiring processes are shifting. Workers have become more aware of their collective power, and will likely start to have more (reasonable) demands for their working conditions.
Are you offering enough in salary or wages to actually support employees to be able to take time off and not have to commit to multiple jobs to support themselves and their families? Consider the salary and wage range compared to the living wage, not just the legal minimum wage.
The truth is, even in the 2020’s, more women than men take on caregiving roles in their families and homes, and this became even more stark in the Great Resignation. Reliable child care has become even more difficult to find in the pandemic. Questions that all workers are likely to ask in their interviews, which you should be prepared to answer:
- What supports are there for families with different caregiving needs? Consider kids, increased numbers of people with disabilities (eg. due to long COVID), and other dependents.
- What kinds of flexibility exists in working hours — is it offering hours that can change along with growing families and developing needs, such as school pickup or medical appointments at odd hours?
- Is mental health care supported in your benefits packages?
- What is the culture in your office regarding taking time off for mental health and illness?
Studies have shown that having more women in the workplace makes an organization more desirable to work at, so prioritizing the needs and interests of women as a starting point can increase your retention and diversity in your teams.
Accessibility, Ongoing “Zoom Fatigue”, and More
While working from home was and continues to be a viable option for many workplaces, considering how you will continue to improve accessibility is key. Accessibility is more than just allowing for flexible work locales; it also means accounting for the basic needs of all employees. Some basic ways to make online meetings more inclusive and accessible include:
- Taking breaks at regular intervals, such as a ten minute break for every hour of virtual meeting time. Allow for bathroom breaks, rest time for tired eyes, and standing/stretch breaks.
- Being cognizant of the volume of meetings: without the need to commute between a meeting room and a workstation, meetings can stack up! Are you over-scheduling yourself, your colleagues, your employees? (see above point) Consider capping the average number of meetings each day to allow for project time and rest.
- Including pronouns during introductions to allow employees to affirm their identities, and normalize the use of neopronouns* (*pronouns other than “she/her”, “he/his”, “they/them”).
These are all simple steps to take towards creating the workplaces of the future. Simplicity does not mean ease, however: they will all take work to accomplish, and require ongoing practice to do it right. If anything we have learned over the years is true, it’s that DEI work will never have overnight solutions. Allyship takes practice, intention, and effort.
Tell us in the comments below about your organization’s DEI priorities for 2022!