HR doesn't have to be a cheerleader to support its Work From Home Staff; it just needs to be Responsive
The year 2020 was one of the most difficult for societies to contend with in modern history. Illness, the loss of jobs, plunging economic activity, working from home, taking care of children, loneliness, isolation. This is the first time within living history that so many around the world have had to contend with so much. For diverse professionals, these can be especially challenging times.
Not only are members of their communities falling prey to the virus at greater numbers than mainstream Americans, but employment figures have plummeted for the segments. African-American, Latin-Americans, Asians, and women, who historically have received little direct support from corporations, lead especially fragile lives during this time. Diversity Managers, though, do have the wherewithal to make a difference in these people's lives and careers through compassion and reassurance:
Assure diverse staff HR is always open and available — Reassurance there is a supportive function in HR — Let staff know that HR is open for business. Though staff in the department may have been relegated to working from home, it is affirming for staff to know there is someone within the organization to whom they can reach out. While HR may not have counseling services, a warm response and a listening ear may be all an isolated employee may need.
Be a clearing house for support resources — This is a time when all of us are suffering at some level. Reassure employees that the organization is willing to work with them on issues such as work-life balance. Flexibility and the opportunity to set one's own hours will help parents — especially mothers — find the calm and build the resilience they need to perform their jobs well. Though HR will not have all the answers, offer to work with staff to find the resources that can help.
Denial and knowing all the answers are unhelpful — Don't deny there is a crisis and that we all know when it will end. The response creates a cognitive dissonance for the employee that generates more stress than before her. The great uncertainties that she sees announced on the TV or through social media vie in her psyche with the contrary information HR may be communicating.
Be an advocate for employees — Employees are experiencing stress at levels that are life-threatening. Many staff have to contend with a public health catastrophe, managing work, an economy gasping for life, and physically supporting families in ways that families were not built for in modern times. The strains contribute to sleepless nights, heart palpitations, anxiety attacks, poor diets and more. Monitor distressed employees positively to help them push back deadlines or relieve workloads when you can.
Forgive Sick Days — As 2021 looks to be as extraordinary as 2020 was, help staff preserve their mental health by accommodating their requests for sick days. Treat them as adults who want and need to be at their best. In most instances, people don't want to feel bad. They don't want to have blinding headaches. Even just letting them know that it's ok to take time off when events overcome them helps them to heal faster. They bounce back faster. They'll even be more greatly appreciative of the organization that employs them than they would otherwise.