If there’s one thing we can all agree on, I’m sure it’s that 2020 is certainly not going as planned for most of us.  With COVID-19, natural disasters, and other high-profile tragic events taking place, you may find your employees are feeling overwhelmed and possibly reaching their breaking point.  To add to this, live from our televisions and cell phones, we are currently witnessing growing protests taking place in Canada, U.S., and the rest of the world, as a result of the deaths of George Floyd and other black, and indigenous people. With so much unrest and division going on in the world right now, we have a responsibility to ensure all of our employees feel supported by their place of employment.  This issue is not about what side of political fence we sit on, but one of morality, of what is right… and what is wrong. I encourage us all to take a stand and show our allyship to those in need with the goal of making the world, and our places of work, a more inclusive place.

I’ve outlined a few suggestions for you below to help address these important issues during this period of unrest.

Listen and acknowledge

Due to the events happening all around us, there is so much going on in the world right now that we are all being affected by the world’s events in some way.  I encourage you to reach out to your employees to see how they are coping and offer any support they may need.  We all come from different backgrounds, and it’s important that as leaders of organizations we recognize this and appropriately address the individual needs of our employees. So, please take the time to listen – truly listen – to what your employees have to say and provide them with the appropriate accommodations based on their own individual unique needs

Visibility is of extreme importance at these times.  By reaching out to your employees in an empathetic manner, they will feel more comfortable raising any personal challenges they are currently experiencing that could be impacting their work.  If you choose to wait to address your employees’ emotional needs, it may have negative consequences on their morale, productivity, and workplace satisfaction.  Although we all have a job to do at the end of the day, it’s time to approach these conversations human-to-human, and not employer-to-employee.

Start the conversation

We are all seeing and hearing the distressing images and newscasts which can have grave impacts on our mental health and wellbeing.  As an employer, it’s important that we don’t turn a blind eye to this impact. I encourage you to acknowledge the world’s events as they take place and understand how your employees may be impacted by them.  Starting the conversation about mental health and human rights can be uncomfortable, but it can also lead to meaningful discussions and changes in the workplace.  As an employer, you can take steps to incorporate diversity initiatives into your workplace so that all of your employees feel like they belong.  Additionally, you can use this time to review, rewrite and reiterate company policies regarding discrimination and harassment to ensure all of your employees are protected.  Be sure to effectively communicate these expectations to your employees and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind.

Call for action:  Be a good corporate citizen

Marginalized people rightly call for action on the part of all us – black or white – to right a wrong.  This will not happen overnight, and it will certainly not happen without the support of all people, but as leaders in your organization, there may be corporate initiatives that you could consider offering to your community that will demonstrate your support for black and indigenous communities.  For example, at Aspiria, we have opened a free community mental health line for anyone in the community who is struggling during this time and need a safe place to talk.  There may be ways that your organization can support the marginalized community that you work in where your employees feel that they are contributing a voice in support of this growing movement.

Right now, we all need to be compassionate and empathetic to the people around us.  Encourage all of your employees to take this time to educate themselves on the daily challenges their colleagues may face as a result of their skin colour, socio-economic status, or sexuality.  This will hopefully allow your employees to become conscious of their words and actions and lead to active contributions to fostering an inclusive workplace.  As always, I encourage you to remind them that their Employee Assistance Program is a great resource for them to seek support during these difficult times.

This is not the time to remain silent. Let’s stand in allyship to make our world, and our workplaces, an inclusive place.