Seven ways the workplace must evolve

17.07.20

by Katie De Paoli

Our Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Katie De Paoli, attended the first Women in IT London Virtual Summit earlier this month. Read on as she shares seven ways workplaces must respond to today’s changed world.

17.07.20

by Katie De Paoli

Our Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Katie De Paoli, attended the first Women in IT London Virtual Summit earlier this month. Read on as she shares seven ways workplaces must respond to today’s changed world.

The term ‘new normal’ has filled newspaper columns and website pages for weeks now. But what does it actually mean? During a period when many of us are experiencing certain freedoms once more, how will our workplaces be impacted? Will any changes be permanent?

With this in mind, I attended the first Women in IT London Virtual Summit earlier this month where I spent three days listening to fascinating presentations and workshops. The event was led by 35 leaders from varied backgrounds all working towards greater workplace inclusion.

During the invaluable conference, multiple presentations covered the way the workplace must adapt to suit the changing needs and mindsets of today. Read on my summary of seven key insights and let us know what you think in the comments below.

1. Make inclusion and diversity front and center

There is a risk during challenging times that inclusion and diversity will recede as a strategic priority for some organizations. But now is not the moment to pull back. Companies that take this tact will put themselves at a major disadvantage – not just by facing a potential backlash from customers and talent, but also by failing to better position themselves for growth and renewal.

Many of the qualities that characterize diverse and inclusive companies; notably innovation and resilience, will be even more vital as companies recover from the crisis. After all, everything is different so you can’t carry on with the same ideas or processes as before.

Now, more than ever, it’s so important that organizations create safe spaces in which employees can have conversations and actively listen to each other. It’s through conversation that we learn together and realize that we have so many similarities as well as differences.

The way leaders manage this challenging time is the legacy they will leave.

Katie De Paoli, Head of Inclusion and Diversity

2. Focus on mentorship

Champions and allies are so important in making sure everyone feels included and ensuring under-represented groups are seen and heard. Coaching is so valuable and can help people to step in others’ shoes to see alternative perspectives, overcome imposter system, and build confidence.

When finding a mentor, you need a role model who can introduce you to people and help you step up the career ladder. It’s important that you pick people who are different to you and may approach things in new ways. Difference shouldn’t be shied away from; it should be celebrated.

3. Be empathetic

We need to change our mindset and approach new, more empathetic ways of working. We must trust employees and give them the time and space to perform their work when they can, knowing that they will deliver and ensuring they have the support and check-ins they need along the way.

4. Demonstrate strong leadership

The way leaders manage this challenging time is the legacy they will leave. In a global crisis like this, leaders need to step up – they need to take care of themselves to be able to do so with their team, they must be conscious of the state of mind they are in. They need to have compassion and empathy and lead with strength. It couldn’t be more vital to have open and honest conversations. Leaders who openly share and show genuine support create much stronger connections.

During a time when we have all faced so many challenges together, the workforce is becoming more human.

Katie De Paoli, Head of Inclusion and Diversity

5. Understand requirements for many have shifted

We are all different, but for many, Covid-19 has made us reevaluate what matters when it comes to the world of work. Four things that many are looking for within a professional setting are:

  • Work that matters
  • Flexibility
  • Support
  • Appreciation

6. Be human

During a time when we have all faced so many challenges together, the workforce is becoming more human. Barriers have been broken, whether that’s sharing a screen with pets, admitting honestly that you’re struggling, or being open about the challenges of balancing work with childcare. It's a cultural shift and we have to be more accommodating in so many ways, including the following:

  • As it’s difficult to judge body language online, look for little signs in our colleagues, peers and direct reports and pay closer attention to their behavior
  • Be brave, ask people to turn on their camera to help build relationships and ensure that people stay engaged
  • Be confident in your own opinions – they are just as valuable online as they are in person
  • Give people air and the space to breathe – respect that they may need to take time away from their screen
  • Leaders don’t always have to run every conversation – it’s so important that they give others the opportunity to speak freely and that they listen
  • Embrace silence – for some people it can take a while to think about what to say, that’s okay!

7. Build an online culture

Culture is about the vibe in the office, the interactions, how we debate, how we celebrate. However, a work culture still exists, even if the workforce is communicating virtually. To bring culture to life, you must be specific about what you want to achieve and be authentic and transparent.

For example, when onboarding staff virtually, it’s important to make them feel just as welcome online as offline – a welcome video can be sent ahead of their first day and interactive sessions to meet existing employees should be set up.

What do you think? Are there any other ways you believe the workplace is changing? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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