There is little doubt that we are all operating in unprecedented times and facing challenges that have never before been experienced. It is important to highlight that the health and safety of all people during this time is paramount, and that as a business, PageGroup is following all government advice to protect the welfare of our staff, customers, and wider communities.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, diversity and inclusion were high on the agenda for businesses. It is important that this does not get lost while companies manage the fundamental challenges they are facing around finance and their people. To get a fresh perspective, we spoke to Vinay Kapoor, Americas Head of D&I at BNP Paribas. During our discussion, he reminded us that although we are social distancing and limiting physical contact with others, human interaction is so important.

“It is more important than ever before to be present for one another. Make time to ask colleagues how they are doing. Pick up the phone, send an email, or reach out through video platforms like Skype wherever possible, even for one-on-one meetings, so that you can make a human connection.”

We are all facing unique challenges at this time 

The uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 global crisis is causing increased anxiety about the unknowns and potential longer-term implications. With people’s wellbeing and business continuity at the top of organisations’ agendas at the moment, diversity and inclusion also need to remain at the forefront. 

“I encourage you to be flexible and respectful of the fact that everyone is facing their own unique challenges,” Vinay highlighted. It is important that we do not lose sight of others’ needs amidst our own fears. 

Be mindful of how others are being impacted. Remember that:

  • For many, mental health concerns may be amplified. Those who suffer from anxiety are especially impacted.

  • Going to work in an office environment may form a core part of social interactions for many individuals, so those who live alone are now more isolated.

  • Our friends, family, and colleagues who have children may be facing enormous needs for childcare and homeschooling, while others cope with eldercare.

  • Those who are of Asian/Pacific Islander heritage may fear an increase in racism and bias (which has been reported around the globe) because of where the virus originated.

  • Individuals who are in high-risk groups (such as the elderly) may fear an increase in inter-generational bias. 

  • Anyone with underlying health conditions, disabilities, or colleagues from countries where travel restrictions have been applied will be managing a plethora of new challenges. 

Inclusion in a crisis: Empathy and respect are key 

This is a time to support and lift one another up. Empathy is key. The fear and panic that has swept across the globe have seen the rise in a tremendous sense of community, whereby people are banding together to protect one another and look after those who are most vulnerable. However, unfortunately it has also resulted in a lot of blame and insensitivity towards particular groups. 

In the workplace particularly, there is a real risk that those from minority groups find themselves less visible and less able to access leadership. This is because when teams work remotely, lines of communication and influence often become narrow. 

“During a crisis, when people feel uncertain and fearful, inclusive behaviour is even more important,” Vinay explained. “Therefore, during this moment in time, I would suggest everyone be extra vigilant against unconscious bias,” he continued. 

To ensure that biases are limited during this time, Vinay suggested following the below tips: 

  • Encourage all employees to be seen and heard during calls.

  • Reach out to quieter team members when you seek input on decisions or during check-ins.

  • Ensure that everyone has access to assignments and opportunities that draw upon their talents, and allow them to shine.

When considering the diversity and inclusivity of your business throughout this period, Vinay says it is important to ask yourself: “Are we leveraging human talent across all lines of difference? Are we continuing to create a sense of belonging for all?” People remain companies’ greatest asset, which is why ensuring their wellbeing and that they continue to feel supported as part of the team is so key to overcoming the challenges of these uncertain times. 

If there is any way we support you, your team, or business during this time, please do not hesitate to get in touch for a confidential discussion.