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The current global health pandemic will likely change the way we incorporate diversity and inclusion (D&I) in our workplaces. We are living in unprecedented times and are in the midst of adjusting to a new normal of social distancing and economic uncertainty. Meanwhile, unconscious bias is becoming more prevalent as the COVID-19 outbreak and media coverage are bringing to light prevalent racial bias and discrimination that occur inside and outside the workplace. Borrowing from findings by Brown University, below are useful tips on how organizations can maintain D&I in their workplace during the global health pandemic, especially those that have gone remote.

1. Be Mindful
Everyone is being affected differently by the virus outbreak, so do not assume that everyone is experiencing this global health crisis the way you are. As Brown University poignantly states, “Be mindful of the ways in which a crisis can impact various communities.” Be aware that the global crisis is bound to increase tensions and induce heated discussions, as many are dealing with emotions such as fear, anxiety, depression, and so on. If unconscious bias occurs, notify staff of whom they can report bias incidents to without fearing repercussions.

2. Use Good Judgment in Language and Word Choice
Communities of Asian descent are experiencing more racial bias and aggression as the COVID-19 virus has been loosely referred to as the “Chinese Virus.” Use good judgment when speaking about the pandemic with your employees and use scientifically based, objective terminology in both oral and written communication. Most importantly, do not use derogatory terms that are offensive to or target certain communities, especially those of Asian descent.

3. Make Materials Accessible to All Employees
Make sure your employees are equipped with everything they need to work remotely, especially for individuals with disabilities or those who are “differently abled.” For instance, companies who are utilizing Zoom and other video conferencing software for meetings can record the meeting and enable captions for when it is downloaded. This will make it easier for employees who struggle to use or communicate through Zoom.

4. Be Kind, Flexible and Adaptable
Leaders should remember that employees may be operating from home with limited resources and could have additional stressors during this time, such as an ill family member, a loss, a job or wage loss in the household, and more. Employees are not only facing unique challenges working remotely, but also juggling more responsibilities at home, especially if they have children or are caring for household members physically and/or financially.

Employers and leadership should not only be understanding of their employees’ struggles, but also be flexible so that employees can give their best performance at work and at home. Examples of adaptability might include letting employees have flexible work schedules so that they can balance their responsibilities in a productive manner while also maintaining quality of life.

Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, Entrepreneur.com named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit www.nawrb.com.

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