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The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility. Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

As states are gradually reopening, organizations are discussing how/when to start bringing their workforce back to the office. This hybrid stage, lasting at least three to six months when organizations begin to reopen, raises complex issues/logistics including D&I and talent considerations. Through our conversations with leading Talent and D&I professionals, we want to share our guidance on this topic:

  1. Engage D&I Professionals. A number of organizations have created task forces to manage the re-entry process. It is important for D&I professionals to be included in these task forces. Without their input, organizations are missing key employee perspectives including health/mental health challenges, individual concerns, and issues of those disproportionately impacted.
  1. Be Mindful of Language. Employees continue to need regular communication from top leadership to cut down on anxiety and uncertainty. Leaders should be mindful of language used. Messages using “return to office” are more compassionate than “return to work” and also recognize employees’ hard work during the pandemic, since many employees have been working harder than ever during this time. Remember, any memos, e-mails and communications will impact employee morale/loyalty and may be sent to the press. Talent and D&I Professionals can offer invaluable advice regarding these communications.

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Members can access the complete Action Step in the Member Resource Center. To read this entire Action Step become a member of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance.  To learn more about your organization’s strategy to return to the office during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Manar Morales.  

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility. Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

As more physical offices are closed due to government mandates and business continuity plans, remote work is the new normal for many employees. Here’s how everyone can do their part to ensure business continuity and individual success. Organizations need to establish guidelines and support systems to help employees be as safe and productive as possible.

  1. Lead with empathy. First and foremost, show empathy, support, and appreciation with your messaging. Discuss the organization’s current remote work policies; address how long new operating procedures will last, when policies will be revisited, and general expectations.
  2. Communicate the policy. Outline a business continuity plan to employees. What are the remote work expectations and how is this separate from a general remote work policy. Remember to note that teleworking under Covid-19 is a different operating situation all together. Communication from the top should be on-going.
  3. Utilize resources. What are your current technology capabilities to support teleworking? Are there ways to support employees with childcare needs (i.e. stipends)? What coaching or counseling can you offer? Are you offering training on how to successfully telework under these unique circumstances?

Members can access the complete Action Step in the Member Resource Center. To read this entire Action Step become a member of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance.  To learn more about your organization’s transition to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, contact Manar Morales.  

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.

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility. Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

The international COVID-19 crisis during the Spring of 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging times for individuals, families, governments and businesses worldwide. While individuals attempt to self-isolate, practice social distancing and preserve some sense of normalcy for their families, organizations are struggling to maintain their products and services. The most critical challenge facing all businesses is how to continue to provide quality services and products while most, if not all, employees are working from home.

Here are five strategies critical to organizational success when employees are working remotely during a pandemic or international crisis:

  1. COMMUNICATE

Constant and clear communication from leadership is vital to ensuring employees are mindful of the need to telecommute, understand the guidelines related to time and work commitments, and are aware of the resources and support that are available. Supervisors should clearly communicate the need for check-ins, updates, deadlines and virtual meetings. They should also be providing regular feedback via phone or email. It’s also helpful for the human resources team to communicate with employees to identify and resolve any issues related to telecommuting and to check in since many employees may feel particularly isolated.

Members can access the complete Action Step in the Member Resource Center. To read this entire Action Step become a member of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance.  To learn more about developing and implementing a successful flexible working policy, contact Manar Morales.  

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

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility. Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

While telecommuting has taken place on an informal and ad hoc basis for years, more organizations are implementing formal, written remote work policies. According to our 2017 Law Firm Benchmarking Survey, 61% of respondents indicated that their formal flexible work policies for attorneys included telecommuting. Remote work is an important job feature for many employees, and a formal telecommuting policy is an effective way to set parameters and expectations around working outside of the office.

However, organizations still struggle with gaining traction with their telecommuting policies. Common issues include: How do we make sure employees know about it? How do we increase usage rates? How do we make sure employees are teleworking in accordance with the firm’s policy? Here are some ways to overcome these issues and gain momentum with your telecommuting policy.

To learn more about effectively communicating about your organization’s telecommuting policy and becoming a member of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, contact Eliza Musallam, Director of Membership. Members can access the complete Action Step in the Member Resource Center

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

In order to recruit and retain top talent, organizations need to offer flexible work options to stay competitive. One of these options, telecommuting, has increased in use and popularity, and millennials in particular value, desire, and expect the ability to telecommute. As organizations become more global and more employees need to travel and work off-site, telecommuting has moved from a form of flexible work to being a business operations necessity. Organizations are also utilizing telecommuting as a way to cut real estate and overhead costs. When employers provide resources and support to help telecommuters succeed, they set themselves apart in terms of recruitment, retention, and productivity.

Employers should clearly communicate tactics and provide support to help remote workers succeed, both in terms of fostering effective team and individual productivity, as well as long-term career success. But like all forms of flexibility, successful telecommuting is a two-way street. Telecommuters need to: maintain visibility by having an active presence, foster relationships with key sponsors and mentors, be responsive, communicate their workload, proactively solicit feedback, be flexible about schedules, and maintain a professional workspace in order to reduce distractions and maintain focus…

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