By Shane Lloyd and Adriana Rojas | May 18, 2020

We are living during an unprecedented, historic pandemic and our prior experiences limit our capacity to effectively address these sudden changes. This collective trauma is altering the way we live and relate to our fellow human beings, including in the workplace. To adapt to and accept the new challenges we are confronted with daily, requires extraordinary creativity, drive, and stamina. Nothing is simple or second nature; every task, with varying levels of stress, demands conscious awareness and an overwhelming amount of emotional energy.

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) is paramount to a thriving global workforce. Click To Tweet

Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) is paramount to a thriving global workforce. Meaningful engagement of IDEA requires a degree of vulnerability; placing our shared humanity at the center. Each individual embodies a unique story, as socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, abilities, and gender identities play a role in how people experience inclusion and belonging in this new world.

Naturally, our concern as employers is the physical and emotional health and safety of our workforce. Additionally, the delineation between work and home has shifted from bringing work home as a matter of choice to being forced to work from home. As a consequence, private and public boundaries are blurring. It may be the first time that we have a view into our coworkers’ inner lives as well as their homes. The privilege of seeing our colleagues in a new light, necessitates a sense of humility, sensitivity, and responsibility for all involved in this collective new normal. Since homes are sites of intimacy and privacy, work’s entry into the home now takes on a different meaning as more people must balance their loved ones and work, in shared spaces. Therefore, leaders must ask themselves, “In the new remote world how do collegial interactions and teams function effectively?”

In an era of uncertainty and physical distancing, we have an extraordinary opportunity to listen, engage with our teams, and build the collective resilience of our organizations. Building resilience means we need the most comprehensive information from the employee base. Cook Ross has now developed the Belonging in the Remote Workplace Survey, a new tool equipped to address your team’s most pressing concerns about the new, remote workplace. It is designed to help you understand how the social dynamics shift from interacting in the container of the office to a virtual setting.

In an era of uncertainty and physical distancing, we have an extraordinary opportunity to listen, engage with our teams, and build the collective resilience of our organizations. Click To Tweet

As a leader, you will want to intentionally leverage communication channels—whether one on ones by phone or video or group check-ins to get the pulse of your team. When it comes to the broader organization, survey tools are a key modality to gather information from a lot of people in a timely way. Data analysis will help to identify patterns and opportunities for engagement and action. By requesting information in this unprecedented context, leaders have the chance to be advocates of change by directly assessing the concerns of their workforce, and then using this information to cultivate a strong sense of belonging. Inclusive leadership will help organizations weather the storm.

Reviewing this information must be coupled with empathy. Empathy begins with acknowledging how COVID-19 is changing all of us, in our personal and professional lives. While there may be an urge to focus on productivity and innovation, we must take the first step in ensuring the emotional well-being of our staff and leveraging strategies to cultivate a renewed culture of inclusivity in the remote workplace.

As leaders we must be intentional in the ways we assess the climate of the organization. In times of stress it is crucial for leaders to empathize with their teams– to see the world through their eyes and implement strategies that focus on well-being and inclusivity. Based on each person’s circumstance, leaders need to re-envision the meaning of work and adjust expectations accordingly. In this new remote workplace, calm and strategic decisions, based on survey data, are needed now more than ever. Cook Ross is here to walk alongside you and your organization as we acclimate to living in the era of COVID-19.

Empathy begins with acknowledging how COVID-19 is changing all of us, in our personal and professional lives. Click To Tweet

Adriana Rojas is a Cook Ross consultant with 15 years of experience in academe, public schools, and consulting with clients and stakeholders. Her background includes researching, analyzing, speaking, and writing about social justice issues affecting Hispanic/Latinx, African Americans, LBGTQ+, and women. She has also led academic teams and programming in which she fostered program development and reform to implement the organization’s vision and mission statements.

Shane L. Lloyd is a Consultant with Cook Ross. His extensive experience in diversity, inclusion and belonging includes work with Brown University, Yale University, and the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Health Disparities and Access to Care teams. His areas of focus include various dimensions of social identity, expertise in the areas of race and socioeconomic class, and in-depth knowledge of research in behavioral economics; psychology; organizational behavior; sociology; and public health.