How coronavirus is set to increase workplace diversity

- July 8, 2020 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
The COVID-19 crisis has been a challenging time for the world at large, however, there have also been surprising positives.

With workplaces changing and more employees working from home, companies have been able to tap into diversity in new ways.

Through the pandemic, we’ve seen new attitudes being created towards flexible and remote working. This shift in mindset is an opportunity for businesses to diversify their workforces and will open up jobs for those who aren’t able to or don’t want to adhere to the 9-5, or who can’t commute to a major city each day.

It is also valuable for businesses as it opens the door to a wider pool of talent.

Shazia Juma-Ross, co-founder and CEO of Skills and Thrills

With more businesses embracing flexibility, one of the big changes we can expect is to see more women, particularly mothers, in jobs that would previously have required them to be in the office and working traditional hours.

For a long time, many women returning to work after maternity leave have been forced to reduce their hours or change roles to balance their new caretaking duties with work – a decision that often impacts their career progression. The change in mindset towards remote working and improved flexibility will see an increase in roles offering these ways of working. In turn, this will give working mothers more optionality when it comes to managing careers and their families.

Alongside the acceptance of remote working and perhaps a core part of it, is the movement towards managing staff by outcome rather than by input. It’s no longer about working a set number of hours, at a set time – but about what you produce and the outcome you generate.

Managing by outcome will also benefit working parents as they will be able to fit their workload around their family commitments – school pick-ups and drops offs. Parents can make use of early mornings or evenings, and capitalise on the saved commute time.

Aside from being able to work from home with flexible hours, the coronavirus pandemic has also prompted organisations to implement new measures to better support parents. This includes subsidised childcare, referral systems or even by providing at-home care for employees’ kids.

At Skills and Thrills we’ve introduced bespoke care programs that many corporates have been taking advantage of to keep kids busy and ensure parents can focus on their work. The programs are live streamed with tutors who run each workshop and interact with the kids at home, and activities are all skills-based and engaging.

Businesses have recognised the value in providing these tools to employees, and we can expect them to become more prevalent in the future workplace, allowing more mothers to continue work effectively from home.

Not only will this new attitude toward flexibility post COVID-19 create more opportunity for working women, it will also increase accessibility for other groups who require flexibility, such as those who live in regional areas and people with a disability.

Regional areas are known for a strong sense of community and lower cost of living, however there are often less employment opportunities available. There are a range of barriers to securing higher paying stable employment for rural workers, who live outside major cities and towns, including long commutes, lack of jobs in their area of interest and less high paying professional jobs.

Remote working effectively increases higher-paying employment opportunities for people living in rural areas. Corporates who historically only employ staff living in or close to their city hub, have or will start to expand their recruitment searches to include more remote areas, where capable staff can work remotely.

The post coronavirus workplace also has significant benefits for people with a disability, who often face challenges succeeding in the workplace. The most obvious advantage is the increased acceptance of remote work, removing the need to commute to the office.

Travelling to work can be a stressful process, for those with both physical and mental disabilities. The option to work from home means the environment is already designed with the needs of the individual, maximising both productivity and job satisfaction. This can be an empowering experience for employees, as they are recognised for their skills rather than their disability.

This is a trend seen across the board when it comes to diversity – whether it’s gender, race, sexual preference or accessibility. With workplaces increasingly becoming more flexible, the focus is increasingly on skills and the ability to deliver results. This output based perspective means that while work used to be a place to go, it is turning into something we do – no matter where we are or who we are.

As we enter the new normal, let’s hope businesses continue to shift in this direction, opening the door to a wider pool of talent, and creating a future workforce that supports greater diversity.

  • Shazia Juma-Ross is the Co-founder and CEO of Skills and Thrills and former Global COO of Macquarie Capital