Back to business, but not back to normal

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As our lives collectively continue to stabilize after being upended by COVID, business leaders are being confronted with some critical questions on how to move forward. Their decisions during this pivotal time will have long-lasting impacts on their companys’ overall health, particularly their ability to engage and retain diverse talent.

CIOs in particular have a unique question to ask themselves in this process: How can we thoughtfully leverage technology to create work environments that foster collaboration, innovation, diversity, and retention? 

Back to normal?

The dominant narrative seems to indicate that the goal is to get back to normal. But the pre-pandemic “normal” was not working for significant portions of the tech workforce, particularly those from demographics underrepresented in tech, like women, non-binary folks, and people of color. It may have been normal, but it was an entirely unjust normal. It was only once profits and the global economy were threatened that long-overdue accommodations were made to ensure that employees could continue to get their work done. 

Practically overnight, it was okay for many employees to do their jobs from their own homes, something many folks with disabilities or other obligations at home have been in need of all along. While there has been progress in this area, most offices and internal processes at work were not built with the needs of disabled folks in mind, and there continues to be significant stigma around people with disabilities. The opportunity to work from home is highly beneficial to individuals with mobility issues, as their homes are much more likely to be equipped for their needs. Remote work also allows for needed breaks for medical or therapy appointments. Just as importantly, a remote work environment allows an employee with a disability the opportunity to be seen and known by their colleagues as an equal member of the workforce, something with which individuals with physical disabilities have always struggled. 

The pandemic also created an enormous challenge for parents and caregivers—one with unfortunate and very real consequences that include what many are deeming the “She-cession.” Millions of women were forced to reduce their hours or leave their jobs in order to be home for their children, a tremendous setback for gender equality in the workforce. This pattern is even more pronounced for women of color

That said, there were some benefits for parents who were able to remain at their jobs and work. It became more acceptable, even encouraged, for working parents to acknowledge that their kids existed and needed their attention. This is something women in particular have historically had to strategically compartmentalize. Because schools and daycares were closed due to COVID, parents and caregivers had to build supervising their children into the workday. This allowed teams to see even more of the humanity of one another (and appreciate the balancing act parents and caregivers have been performing all along!) and created space for empathy and support for families. 

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.



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