Getting cornered out while working from home- measures for diversity and inclusion
With the announcement of lockdown, many companies closed down their offices and made it compulsory for their employees to work from home till further notice. The idea of working remotely was appreciated initially as employees got more time to be with their families and could take short breaks from their tasks now and then. The change felt refreshing since it reduced the amount of time spent in commute to zero. But the routine gradually became tedious, stressful and agonizing to the extent that the line between work and home became thin to non-existent. In the time span of a month into lockdown, working from home has become a challenging adjustment for many. It is been widely acknowledged that people are experiencing different issues amidst working remotely.
The stress of working alone can be frustrating for the people, especially working in the field of technology, who are largely involved in everyday meetings and part of many group discussions. Feeling stressed and isolated in such a scenario is increasingly felt in the wake of global pandemic when all of us have to not only stay at and work from home, but also, prevent ourselves from venturing out of our homes for a mere stroll or recreation.
Emotional Distancing vs. Social Distancing
An important fact being ignored in all this chaos is the ‘emotional distancing’ which is in ply vis-à-vis social distancing. The emotional distancing here largely refers to the likability factor among the employees. Since the absence of physical proximity, it has become difficult for employees to watch, understand, and observe the overall attitudes and behaviors of the fellow colleagues along with the verbal discourse. The virtual meeting rooms and office spaces have made it difficult for some to understand the context of the words being spoken. And for others it has become an excuse to purposely bully, ignore, or overlook a co-worker, somewhat disagreeable to them.
When we interact with our colleagues every day in the physical space, hang out with them, talk to them, we get to know them better, and understand their non verbal cues well. But in the present scenario where everyone is expected to be compulsorily at home and work remotely, it has been observed that people are getting frustrated more, not because of being home bound and working for longer hours than usual, but because of the unresponsiveness of the fellow employees and their lack of attention towards pressing issues in many cases.
See what the professionals have to say?
Few excerpts below, from the professionals working in different fields, give the real picture of the difficulties coming across while working remotely.
My manager is unable to keep a track of my work done every day. It leads to undue pressure and workload and unrealistic expectation. Getting the approvals/managers attention is becoming difficult for me. On top of that, miscommunication is widespread, which is leading to misconceptions among colleagues a particular employee starts getting cornered by others in all this.”
–Shankar, IT professional.
Many employees are sadly using this ‘out of sight’ time to purposely cornering or bullying their less liked peers or subordinates. The abuse of power is rampant since one is not physically present to make understand his or her message not only verbally but also with his her body language. I have been personally facing the issue of continuous unresponsiveness from some of my peers and reporting manager which has reduced my productivity of late.”
–Sourav, IT Professional.
My subject coordinator is always unavailable and unresponsive when it comes to providing solutions for pressing issues regarding teaching and delivering of online lectures. How many times can one make calls to a co-worker and wait for any response? Even the messages are not being answered back in time which delays the work by hours.”
While I was enjoying my work and expressing myself freely, I was happy with my family- suddenly I realized my peers have lobbied, unable to understand the situation in time then, I am going through sleepless nights since, as I feel cornered. I am now apprehensive of providing my views on work front as I feel; it would lead to further escalation of things from bad to worse.”
Diversity and Inclusion: Why is this important?
The need for the fellow employees is to understand, accept, and value the differences between people coming from different backgrounds like, ethnicity, age, nationality, sexual orientations, disabilities, religions etc. One must also keep in mind that no two persons are alike in an organization when it comes to their skill sets, education, experience, and learning. The diversity of people with these different backgrounds must therefore be taken as an advantage by including their varied experiences and differing personalities as an opportunity which may lead to innovation and growth.
It becomes the responsibility of the reporting managers and senior management to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance at representing themselves at a common platform meant for all to showcase their talent.
Another key issue in maintaining this workplace diversity is to keep all the communication channels open and transparent. It is very important to keep the communication within the organization flowing to and fro. The quick and fair response is at the heart of teams collaborating together to achieve the common organizational goals.
In the wake of these uncertain times people are dealing with chaos all around, listening to everyday news of increasing death tolls, and the spreading of COVID-19 with no respite from the disease in the near future. With so much happening around, it is even more necessary for employees to stick to each other for any emotional and social support. The teams and the managers should ensure that employees interact with each other on things other than work related.
What we can do to avoid conflict?
- Team members should listen to each other, spend time on virtual coffee, and know more about each other’s family and how they are dealing with lockdown at home.
- One should avoid being aggressive while talking over phone or in a web meeting. The frustrations are bound to happen when working from home and unable to resolve work issue as amicably as it is done in-person, but we must not give way to our temper over reasoning.
- The sooner one clarifies the arguments, the better it is. Instead of keeping a tab on the people who repeatedly misbehave with you, it is rather wise to sit and have a one-on-one virtual meeting with them and put an end to further speculations.
- One must also keep in mind that we should keep our professional and personal life separate. The lines must not be blurred and overlapping. We can have a friend as a colleague but not all colleagues and team mates are your friends. Keep the professionalism in your work and maintain the status quo.
- We must not forget that, we are in this together and it is not going to be a permanent situation. Once things get back to normal, we would not want our fellow employees to have an altered opinion for us, after we join back the office.
- Things can be really bad sometimes at someone’s home and we must be considerate of this fact keeping ourselves in their shoes. The key is to be empathetic of the work they do and we must avoid escalation of the petty issues and try and resolve them amicably.
Remember! We are not here to change people or their attitudes. We must acknowledge diversity and include the varied skills and traits of the people coming together to achieve common organizational goals.