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Washington, DC – July 10, 2020 – Today the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance released highlights from its Pulse Poll: COVID-19 and Re-Entry that emphasized the need for continued focus on inclusion for all employees in office re-entry practices.

The poll was developed to uncover important data and trends related to the approach law firms and corporations are taking during this initial office re-opening phase and to provide advice on best practices. The poll’s questions were related to office re-opening task forces, guidelines regarding which employees could continue to work remotely once states re-open, and the types of resources and training provided to employees.

“While many firms and corporations have pledged their commitment to diversity and inclusion in recent years, their actions as they re-open their offices during the COVID-19 crisis will demonstrate their sincerity and have a meaningful impact on all employees,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “While I am pleased to see that a significant number of firms and corporations are focusing on inclusion during office re-openings, I hope that more organizations will follow suit. It’s critical that firms and corporations incorporate D&I professionals in their Office Reopening Task Force, allow requests to continue to work remotely to be “reason-neutral,” and provide necessary virtual trainings,” she added.

The Pulse Poll revealed several noteworthy highlights, including:

  • The vast majority of participants (85.3%) have a task force focused on re-entry and nearly two-thirds of these task forces include a Diversity & Inclusion professional.
  • A significant share of participant organizations will allow all of their employees to work remotely (35.3%) and will use a “reason-neutral” process to determine who can work remotely  (44.1%). However, too many organizations are still limiting which employees can work remotely based upon their function and/or their risk level.
  • A significant share are planning on launching the following trainings: Best Practices for Working Remotely (38.2%, or 13 of 34), Best Practices for Leading Remote Teams (32.4%, or 11 of 34), and Unconscious Bias (23.5%, or 8 of 34).  Only a small number (3 of 34, or 8.8%) indicated they will have no trainings to support re-entry.

The Pulse Poll: COVID-19 AND Re-Entry consisted of responses from 34 law firms and corporations between May 14 and June 5, 2020. The complete report will be available exclusively to members of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance as well as poll participants.

The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

Contact Manar Morales at manar@dfalliance.com for information on membership in the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance or for guidance on fostering flexibility and inclusion in your organization during this crisis and beyond.

 

Contact: Manar Morales

manar@dfalliance.com

202-957-9650

This article was published  April 16, 2020 in THRIVE GLOBAL.

By Manar Morales, President & CEO, The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

There’s no doubt we’re living through one of the darkest and most uncertain times in modern history. We’re anxious and overwhelmed by the news of so many people affected by COVID-19 and the corresponding financial damage. However, many of us are fortunate to be able to work from home as we shelter in place and distance ourselves from others.  In the midst of so much heartache and chaos, we’re grateful to maintain our professional responsibilities, continue to receive a paycheck and stay home safe with our families.

Ultimately, it’s this gratitude that will help us through this struggle and is critical to remote working success during the pandemic. The most important tool in your crisis-mandated remote working toolkit is mindset. We may not be able to control the chaos around us, but we can control our mindset and outlook. It’s essential to train your mind to focus on what you’re grateful for and what’s going well. Once you’ve focused on the positives, other strategies critical to your remote working toolkit include:

Routine

Create a routine that works for you, your colleagues, and your family. Wake up at the same time and identify blocks of time when you can work most effectively (i.e. early in the morning, late at night, or when the kids are doing online schoolwork). Make sure to communicate these and any changes in timeframes with your team.

Space

Finding a quiet space where you can focus solely on your work will help you transition from your personal responsibilities to your professional obligations. Even without a dedicated home office space, a quiet corner will help you maintain focus and productivity.

Communication

While in person meetings are restricted, virtual and written communication should be increased. Be proactive; outreach to your supervisor and colleagues and make sure to communicate when you’re available for calls and video chats. Provide email updates on projects and express realistic expectations and deadlines. Some projects may be temporarily shifted to the back burner and others will become priorities.

Support

Seek out resources if you need training on new technology or if you need mental health support. Turn to your employee resource group or affinity group for support and connect with peers, mentors, and sponsors.  Provide and solicit feedback on how things are going; be open to solving challenges with colleagues during this unique and difficult time.

Self-Care

It’s important to take care of yourself both mentally and physically, especially during times of crisis.  Take a walk or engage in some kind of physical activity each day. Try to maintain healthy eating habits and reach out to friends regularly.

Flexibility

In a recent article I explained how important it is for business leaders to be optimistic, empathetic, and realistic as they weather the challenges of maintaining  business continuity during this crisis.  It really boils down to everyone being flexible. Dogs will be barking and kids will be heard during phone calls. You may not always be prepared to be on a video call, and that’s OK. It’s really up to all of us to come together, be flexible, and do our best right now.

In time, we’ll return to our physical offices. But in the meantime, care for your families, lean on your friends and co-workers, and rely on these success strategies in your remote working toolkit.

We are here to help you navigate your crisis-mandated telecommuting plan. Please contact Manar Morales to schedule a complimentary call today.

This article was published  April 3, 2020 in THRIVE GLOBAL.

By Manar Morales, President & CEO, The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Many organizations around the country have completed their first week or two of transitioning to working remotely. No one knows exactly how long this stay-at-home mandate will last or the extent of the economic or mental health impact. With no clear end in sight, we must prepare for the long haul. Telecommuting 100% of the time for 100% of staff may be the new normal for US businesses and firms for several months.

However, there is a Bright Spot for business leaders during the COVID-19 stay-at-home mandate. This crisis provides leaders with an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate their gratitude, empathy and commitment to their employees at this pivotal time. My suggestion to business leaders is take this unique opportunity to shine and focus on being optimistic, human, and realistic.

Be Optimistic

Just like Presidents in war time, business leaders are faced with the challenge of setting the tone and sustaining employee morale and engagement. During this crisis-related remote working, it’s essential that business leaders increase their communication to their teams to reassure them and ensure that no one is left feeling isolated or overwhelmed. The more vocal and positive the leader, the less anxious the employees will be. Business leaders must continuously send a message of optimism and hopefulness. Employees will need to sense a “We’re in this together” tone and know that their leaders are there to support them during the crisis.

Be Human

It’s equally important for business leaders to demonstrate their humanity. Undoubtedly, leaders are feeling just as much stress, fear and anxiety as everyone else. It’s critically important for leaders to walk the delicate balance of being positive while also demonstrating that they too are human and they have the same stresses and challenges. Take the time to ask your team members how they are doing personally and share a humorous story about your family life. Explain that babies crying and dogs barking during calls are to be expected. Clearly communicate your schedule of availability and encourage your team to do the same. And, finally, understand that some employees may need remote working training, technology stipends or mental health resources to successfully complete their responsibilities at home.

Be Realistic

The reality is that business leaders will need to temporarily redefine their expectations. While in normal times you may expect to receive immediate responses from your team members, you may now need to be more realistic about deadlines, clarify expectations and prioritize workflow. It’s important to understand that some employees may only be able to work for a few hours at a time while their children are occupied or their babies are sleeping. Understand that some may need to take sick leave if they become ill or to care for sick family members. It’s very important to understand that this is not the same as everyday telecommuting where an employee is expected to perform at the same level as they would in the office. The reality is that with all the obstacles we are facing right now — including school, care center, church, restaurant and gym closures coupled with increased stress, anxiety and illness — this crisis-related telecommuting will look very different.

One day we will go back to business as usual and your employees will remember how they were treated. How do you want to be remembered as a leader? You now have the unique opportunity to increase loyalty…or lose it.

 

We are here to help you navigate your crisis-mandated telecommuting plan. Please contact Manar Morales to schedule a complimentary call today.

Washington, DC – March 16, 2020 – Given the growing number of organizations allowing employees to work remotely to reduce the spread of Coronvirus (COVID-19), the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance today released guidelines regarding telecommuting best practices to help ensure employees are safe, engaged and productive.

“We encourage all corporations and organizations to offer remote working to their employees, to the extent possible, during the Coronavirus crisis,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “However, it’s important that employers exercise patience as they implement remote working, in particular in organizations where telecommuting has not been the norm. Employers should be mindful of the unique challenges employees are facing during this unprecedented crisis, such as childcare during school closures, eldercare and a heightened level of anxiety and stress,” she added. “Employers should consider offering resources such as remote working training, as well as childcare and technology stipends to ease the economic and emotional tolls this crisis is taking.”

The following guidelines are relevant for both those organizations that already have a formal telecommuting policy, as well as those that don’t:

  1. Clearly Communicate Availability and/or Need to Telecommute. Organizations need to be crystal clear with their employees regarding telecommuting in the wake of COVID-19. For employees that need to telecommute due to possible exposure, organizations should reach out, clarify the need to telecommute and the length of time it is necessary, and offer resources to help with this arrangement. Additionally, many organizations are offering the option to telecommute to avoid exposure – again, it is important to communicate the length of time (if any) this option can be used and resources/support available.
  2. Best Practices for Telecommuters. It is not enough to simply inform employees that they can or must telecommute. It is important to provide employees with guidelines on ways to telecommute effectively. For example, employees need to communicate well with team members regarding deadlines, project updates and availability; communication is especially important in this situation as workers are more isolated and may have more personal conflicts than usual (i.e. children home from school). As another example, organizations should clarify the difference between working remotely and taking a sick day.
  3. Best Practices for Supervisors. It is equally important to provide supervisors with best practices and guidelines for managing remote workers and teams. Supervisors will need to remain patient and be mindful that employees are dealing with many unusual challenges at this time. Supervisors should clearly communicate expectations with those working remotely (i.e. specify when they should join meetings via phone vs. video), foster communication (i.e. virtual meetings/check-ins), and provide regular feedback.
  4. Communicate Support/Resources. Organizations should carefully think through available resources/support for telecommuting employees. This is particularly important now, when there may be employees who are not used to telecommuting regularly and a larger volume than usual who may be working remotely. Human Resources, Talent Development and D&I Professionals should convene and discuss available resources, including organization-wide support that can be leveraged from an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and membership organizations.
  5. Consider Providing Additional Resources. As employees who need to telecommute now may face different challenges, organizations need to think through ways to help them. Work with your IT Department to understand what additional technology might be necessary. Does your organization have enough bandwidth to support a large volume of telecommuters? Does your organization have an application for virtual meetings? Do you want to consider providing technology allowances to make sure employees have the necessary resources to be as productive as possible? In addition, it is important to think through childcare/eldercare support. Some employees may face school closures and need childcare. Have you communicated any childcare resources and/or dependent care policy to employees? Have you considered providing a paid subscription for childcare/eldercare sourcing platforms (i.e. Care.com, Sittercity.com, UrbanSitter.com, etc.)? Would your organization provide a special childcare/eldercare allowance to help defray costs?
  6. Check-In to Understand Experiences. A member from the human resources or talent management team should check-in with employees to understand their telecommuting experience, including what’s working well and what needs to improve. This way, organizations can resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and gather success stories. For employees who are mandated to work remotely due to possible exposure to COVID-19, it is particularly important to check-in as they may already feel isolated.

The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

 

Contact: Manar Morales

manar@dfalliance.com

202-957-9650