Categories
Wellness

Quick tips for supporting a burned out employee

Emerging from the pandemic and adjusting to new ways of living has made many of us reevaluate our lives. In some situations, it may have also caused people to spend more time working and less time relaxing, since working from home can make it hard to switch off. As you can imagine, this is a quick way to wind up with a burned out employee on your team.

Work isn’t the only cause of burnout, of course, but it is one of the main causes. So, in this post, I want to share with you some advice on how to support a burned out employee.

But first, let’s look at what the signs of burnout are…

The signs of burnout

If one of your previously top-performing employees is acting differently lately, and you’re concerned they might be burnt out (or at risk of burning out), here’s what to look for:

  • Feeling exhausted
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Brain fog
  • Disinterest in things that they previously found interesting
  • Grumpiness/irritability
  • Self-doubt
  • Detachment
  • Procrastination 
  • Cynicism
  • Social withdrawal
  • Physical health problems (joint pain, getting sick more often, etc.)

This isn’t an exhaustive list. And it’s important to remember that burnout looks different for everyone. 

But if someone has been doing too much and racing toward the finish line, or they have personal problems that are draining, they could well be burnt out already.

When someone is burning out, or burnt out, one wrong turn could be all it takes to push them over the edge and mean they can’t get back up.

So, if you think there’s a burned out employee on your team—or you know there is—here’s what to do:

Listen

I know I say this in a lot of my posts, but it’s because most people aren’t very good at listening. And most of the people who are terrible listeners don’t realize how bad they are at it.

Thing is, we’re not taught how to listen. Nobody actively tells us when we’re growing up that to listen, we need to stop talking and consider not just what someone says, but how they say it.

It’s also worth remembering that listening isn’t about finding solutions. It’s usually more about giving someone an outlet for how they feel than trying to solve anything. After all, you can’t fix burnout. The only way is through.

Make accommodations

If you have a burned out employee, consider how you can make their life easier.

Can you split a big project up so they’re not the only person dealing with it? How about allowing them to work remotely a few days per week (if they don’t already)? Can you reduce the number of meetings they have to attend?

For some people, having too many things to do can make them feel worse. For others, it’s being around people too much. Even video calls can be challenging sometimes.

So, be willing to make accommodations. Burnout isn’t permanent, but it will last a lot longer if an employee feels like their employer isn’t supporting them. That’s because they’ll be spending most of their time somewhere that doesn’t understand or empathize with what they’re experiencing.

Be sure to ask them what they need, but keep in mind that they may not know. 

Get them to do some research on things that might help, and also do some research yourself so that you can suggest accommodations that may help.

Unless, of course, you want to lose the burned out employee who’s already struggling, or add to their stress levels so that their burnout lasts longer. I’m going to assume you don’t want to be that kind of employer.

Encourage breaks

Not using your vacation days isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a one-way ticket to burnout city.

Work work work work work isn’t a healthy way to live. And the longer someone works 24/7, the closer they’ll get to crashing into a wall.

If you’re working all the time, you have no time to spend with your loved ones, cook a healthy meal, go for a walk, or even just chill in front of the TV. Those things, while small, are important to maintaining our physical and mental health.

That’s why it’s important to encourage employees to take regular breaks throughout the day. This could come in the form of getting up out of their chair to get a hot drink or make a healthy lunch. Or even just go for a quick walk to stretch their legs. 

We all know how unhealthy sitting at a desk all day can be for our minds and bodies, but how many of us actively work to change that, not just through routine workouts, but from regularly getting up out of our chairs?

Don’t draw attention to their situation

What a burned out employee is experiencing isn’t your story to share. They may not even know that they’re burnt out. 

Or they may not feel comfortable talking about it, especially not to their employer. 

I certainly wasn’t ready to talk about my burnout until I came out on the other side of it. And to be honest, I’m still not comfortable talking about it to some people. But I think it’s important to share my story because it shows people that there is a way out. It just takes time. 

Regardless of whether a burned out employee is ready to talk to you about what they’re experiencing, don’t draw attention to it. Either take them aside and ask them how they’re doing, or suggest accommodations you could make to ease their stress levels, such as working from home.

Conclusion

The more you can show your employees that you really do support their physical and mental health, the faster their recovery will be and the happier they’ll feel in their role.

Knowing they have a supportive employer in their corner is great, but support from colleagues can also go a long way towards helping a burned out employee. If you want to build thriving employee communities that encourage team members to bring their whole selves to work, check out Workrowd.

Bonding with peers around shared identities and interests can make the difference between prolonged burnout and a quick recovery. Send a note to hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

Categories
Company Culture

10+ signs of a toxic work environment

A toxic workplace is a recipe for disaster. In addition to making less money because unhappy employees are unproductive employees, it also costs more money to run because of the high churn rate created by a toxic culture. Do you know how to recognize the signs of a toxic work environment?

Some areas, like sales and customer service, will always have a higher churn rate than other areas of your business. 

And some generations don’t stay in the same position for as long as others. 

But it’s your job to create a culture that people want to be a part of. 

Not just because of the perks—which are turning into red flags for many people, for reasons we’ll look into—but because they believe in the business and its mission. 

And you pay people what they’re worth.

In this post, we’re going to explore some key signs of a toxic work environment–some subtle, some more obvious.

Too many perks

“Our employees are happy here. We have a pool table, free fruit, nap pods…”

Stop right there.

If you have any of those things, be very careful. 

Because so-called “perks” are increasingly becoming signs that you’d rather focus on things that encourage employees to stay in the office for longer, rather than paying them what they’re worth—and respecting the fact they have a life outside of work. 

Let’s not forget that embracing and enjoying a life outside of work is good for mental and physical health. Which also helps their working life.

You may think you’re making their lives easier by providing all these amenities. But are you really just asking them to stay in the office for longer? To work more hours?

Pay people what they’re worth instead of worrying about how many shiny objects you have in the office.

If you don’t, there are plenty of recruiters out there who’ll snap up your best employees. And it will be hard to convince new ones to join when they see all the signs of a toxic work environment during their interview.

Bad pay

The market rate for many industries is higher than it used to be right now because some industries are so hot. 

Keep an eye on these trends, because if you advertise a role that pays considerably less than your competition, you’re not going to attract the types of employees that you want. 

Employees are happier when employers pay them what they’re worth and appreciate them. It’s as simple as that.

Lack of diversity

Diverse workplaces are happier and more profitable. Saying that you’re worried a particular individual from an underrepresented community won’t fit in is just an excuse. Of course they won’t fit in—their lived experience is vastly different from everyone else’s!

It’s time to snap your business out of its groupthink before it does any further damage.

Diversity is where the real innovation comes from. That’s how you’ll grow your business faster—and stand out more from your competitors.

Discrimination 

If there are rumors of discrimination within the workplace, listen and investigate

There’s no smoke without fire, as they say. 

If you don’t investigate it, it says to employees—and outsiders, if employees talk about what’s happened—that you don’t care how your employees are treated. 

It also implies that everyone can get away with putting themselves first and not thinking before they speak. It’s a culture like this that leads to a lack of respect between colleagues and discriminatory behavior. Lack of respect is one of the most serious signs of a toxic work environment.

Microaggressions 

Microaggressions may be small, but they can have big consequences

Always listen when someone reports microaggressions.

It can also help to train managers in what these look like so that they can spot the signs. 

Micromanagement 

Micromanagement is never okay. It’s anxiety-inducing for the employee on the receiving end of it, and it’s just a bad management style. 

If a manager feels the need to do this, either they need more management training, or the employee isn’t doing the job they were hired to do. Either way, you have a problem, and it may be one of the signs of a toxic work environment.

Dictation over discussions

No business should be a dictatorship. Organizations should value everyone’s opinions, regardless of how long they’ve been there or what their role is. 

Embracing as many opinions as possible is what will lead to the best problem solving.

Employees don’t last long

A high churn rate is one of the most glaring signs of a toxic work environment, especially if this happens among higher-paid staff. 

Those who are paid more know what they’re worth. They won’t stick around if they’re unhappy because they know they won’t have to wait long to find something else.

Nobody wants to do exit interviews 

Not every business does exit interviews, but if you do, and nobody ever turns up (or fills in the survey), it could be a sign they don’t feel their opinion is worth sharing. 

Some people don’t do them because they’re worried about burning bridges. This is still one of the signs of a toxic work environment because employees shouldn’t be concerned their employer will hold negative opinions they express against them. 

Regardless of what their feedback is, the organization should appreciate it and take it into consideration. It shouldn’t affect any references the company or their colleagues may give them.

Employees barely leave their desks

Employees should have regular screen breaks to give their eyes a rest and move their legs about. This helps to protect their eyesight and prevent muscle loss.

If organizations penalize employees for leaving their desks, this encourages unhealthy habits that can have long-term physical and mental health consequences.

Eating at their desk can also mean they have too much work and don’t have the time to take a break to eat their food and fully enjoy what they have for lunch. This can lead to employees eating more and gaining weight because the distraction of work means they’re less conscious of how much they’re eating.

Employees work unreasonable hours

Unless someone is scheduled for shift work, or works in certain industries, most employees shouldn’t have to work unreasonable or unsociable hours. They deserve time with their family, just like they deserve the money they’re paid for work. 

If employees do work longer hours to, say, finish a big project, make sure this is acknowledged and appreciated, and they’re compensated accordingly. 

Ignoring when someone has gone above and beyond is likely to mean they don’t stick around long enough to help with the next big project.

Conclusion 

No one wants to work somewhere toxic. And I’m going to assume you don’t want to be in charge of a toxic workplace, either. 

If you spot any of these signs of a toxic work environment, it’s important to address them as quickly as possible. The sooner you do, the less likely they are to become a bigger problem.

Addressing these signs quickly also sends a clear message to everyone in your company that you support your employees and won’t tolerate any kind of toxic behavior.

If you’re concerned about toxicity in your workplace, consider checking out a platform like Workrowd. With tools to ensure every employee can find community and voice their opinions, you’re more likely to catch any signs of a toxic work environment early. If you’d like to learn more, email us at hello@workrowd.com and we’ll be happy to set up some time to chat.

Categories
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Bias series wrap-up: Strategies to counter bias at work

We’re wrapping up our series on bias at work, after covering gender biasracial biasdisability biasheterosexual bias, age bias, and trans bias. We hope you’ve found it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Wanting to support employees from underrepresented communities and avoid implicit bias in the workplace is one thing. Knowing how to do it – and putting that knowledge into practice – is something else entirely.

It can be easy to feel bogged down and like you have too much to do. 

But if you were a member of an underrepresented group (or a different underrepresented group), imagine how you’d feel working somewhere that didn’t notice you experience the world differently. 

It’d make you feel even more excluded than you already did. 

You wouldn’t feel supported, meaning you’d be less productive in your role. It could impact your mental health, and you may decide to go work somewhere else instead.

So, with that in mind, here are some simple (often common sense!) ways that your business can take steps to counter bias at work, and show you really do support employees.

Listen 

Listening is one of those skills that everyone thinks they have, but that most people are actually pretty terrible at. 

If you interrupt people, you’re not listening. If you try to project your point of view on to someone, or tell them they’re wrong, you’re not listening. You’re trying to control the conversation.

Listening is about shutting up and paying attention to what the other person(s) has to say. 

You may not like what they’re saying. 

It may make you uncomfortable or even a little anxious. 

But it’s only through listening and challenging our own opinions and beliefs that we grow as people and business owners.

Even if we disagree with what we’re hearing.

So, the next time an employee from an underrepresented community comes to you with feedback, a query, or a complaint, listen. Then consider how you can take action against bias at work.

Change your hiring practices

The typical hiring process we’re all used to of submitting a resume, doing an interview or two, then getting a job offer (or not), is outdated and inaccessible. It also leads to biases against many underrepresented communities.

From blind resume screening to group activities that allow you to observe someone’s skills rather than asking them to describe their abilities, there’s more than one way to hire a new employee.

Have a reporting system

There has to be a way for employees to report any issues that they experience. This especially applies to instances of bias at work.

Ideally, you should give employees the option to report anonymously. Not everyone will want their name attached to an issue for fear of retaliation. That doesn’t mean the issue should go unreported, though. Journalists never give up their sources for a reason.

Believe your employees

It’s not unheard of for an employee to draw attention to issues of bias at work and get ignored. 

Or worse, the person who raised the issue gets punished instead of the person causing the issue.

Don’t be that business. Be the business that supports and believes your employees, punishing the person who committed the offense, not the whistleblower.

Send sensible surveys

Too many times, I’ve seen businesses ask employees to provide feedback on their jobs and employers via questionnaire…

…then require the employee to submit that questionnaire to their manager, who’ll forward it to HR.

If an employee is having issues with their manager, they’re not going to raise it somewhere their manager can see. And that manager may well delete what the employee has said about them, then go on to make their life even more difficult.

A simple solution to this is to get employees to send their responses directly to HR.

Or make sure that HR is accessible enough for employees to feel like they can talk to someone if/when they have a problem with bias at work.

Be flexible

What works for one employee may not work for another. 

Some differently abled employees won’t be able to use the stairs, for example. 

Other employees may need a more supportive chair or a filter on their monitor. There are plenty of minor changes you can implement to support employees in the workplace.

Offering employees the option to work from home is another example. It opens up your talent pool, encourages homemakers back into the workplace (many of whom would consider a return to work if they could work from home, instead of needing to be in an office), and it can save you money on office overheads. 

Many businesses still assume they can’t trust employees to work from home. But if you feel you can’t trust your employees when they work from home, well, you have bigger problems…

Put policies in place

There are many areas where businesses don’t have to have policies in place, but where doing so can protect both the organization and its employees. 

Policies on issues like menopause and transgender rights aren’t required, but they mean that when an employee goes through menopause, they know what to expect from you. They mean that when a trans person considers applying for a role at your company, they can clearly see you’re going to support them – and what sort of support they will receive. 

The clearer and more accessible you make these policies, the more supported employees will feel.

Build a diverse culture

The more diverse your culture is, the more welcoming it will be to everyone. When a Black woman walks into a room full of white men, it immediately makes her the odd one out. When a wheelchair user is asked to meet his colleagues on the third floor of an office without access to an elevator, it makes him feel excluded.

The more diverse your company’s culture is, the more mindful everyone will be of these types of issues and the impact it can have on someone’s mental and physical health.

Diverse company cultures are also more productive, make more money, and they’re doing more about climate change.

So, tell me, what’s the downside to a diverse company culture?

Conclusion

Countering bias at work really boils down to two things: building a diverse culture and listening to every employee. 

Because you never know which employee will have an idea that could completely alter your business’s trajectory for the better. 

They may have the perfect way to solve a problem you’ve been stuck on for months. Because they aren’t a part of the “in” crowd though, they’ve never been given the chance to share their thoughts. 

Sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to remind you of what you could achieve.

Building a truly inclusive company culture is key to helping your team members counter bias at work. Creating opportunities for your people to get to know each other beyond the surface level will not only help them overcome their own biases, but will also ensure they feel comfortable calling out issues when they see them. If you want to drive real belonging at your organization, check out Workrowd’s platform, or send us a note at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

Categories
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Countering transgender discrimination in the workplace

Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks, we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, including gender biasracial bias, disability bias, heterosexual bias, age bias, and now trans bias and transgender discrimination in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

60% of transgender people have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace. 38% have experienced it from colleagues, 25% from management, and 29% during job interviews.

Which really makes it unsurprising that 53% have felt the need to hide their trans status from colleagues.

But why, in 2022, is this still happening? And what can businesses do to prevent transphobia and transgender discrimination in the workplace?

The ugly stats

The unemployment rate for transgender adults is twice that of cisgender adults.

Even if they are in employment, cisgender adults make 32% more per year, regardless of whether a trans person has similar—or higher—education levels.

Not only do trans people earn less, but two-thirds of them remain in the closet at work. 

Sadly, they feel like employers support them less than their cisgender colleagues in the workplace. Given the stats we’ve already looked at, is that really surprising?

Overcoming transgender discrimination in the workplace to include more trans people could create a $12 billion boost to annual consumer spending. 

It would help businesses to really understand their market, and give them more diverse opinions to solve their customers’ problems. Which may also give them a competitive advantage.

Let’s not forget that diverse companies are significantly more profitable!

A long way to go

Even though the UK’s Equality Act (2010) should protect LBGT people from workplace discrimination, a 2018 report found that 43% of businesses were unsure if they’d hire a trans person, and almost a third said they’d be “less likely” to hire a trans person.

The retail sector had the highest number of businesses unlikely to hire a trans person, at 47%. IT was close behind with 45%. 

Construction and engineering were the most agreeable to the idea, but even then, 25% of businesses reported they’d be unlikely to hire a trans person.

That’s still a large percentage of the industry that’s closed off to the idea of hiring someone because of their gender. These businesses are just perpetuating transgender discrimination in the workplace.

The trouble with ‘culture fit’

Unsurprisingly, only 3% of businesses have an equal opportunities policy that welcomes transgender people to apply for roles. Which could be off-putting for potential candidates because they’ll have no idea whether their colleagues will welcome and support them if they join.

Only 8% of that small group of businesses that have a trans hiring policy believe trans people deserve the same rights to a job as everyone else. 

This stat seems odd to me, but it came from the same survey as the industry stats. It seems to suggest that even the businesses with a trans hiring policy in place may only have it as a form of lip service. I really hope that’s me being cynical, but then, it gets worse.

Only 4% believe they have a diverse enough workplace culture where trans people can “fit in.”

If you hire someone purely based on cultural fit, you end up with a culture of zombies. Everyone thinks, looks, and acts the same way. Innovation becomes harder and groupthink becomes more common.

Hiring someone based on cultural fit alone isn’t an option anymore. 

You want someone who’s different because they’re the very skills, opinions, and attitudes that your business lacks. If you embrace them, they’ll be the ones who help you to outperform your competitors.

There really isn’t a downside to avoiding employing the same person over and over again.

What can employers do?

Leaders within a business need to set an example. If they’re active supporters of the trans community, and they hire trans employees, the rest of the company will follow. And if someone doesn’t support these decisions, they don’t belong in the new environment.

Creating a diverse workforce requires a mindset shift from those at the very top of the business. That mindset will trickle down over time.

If leaders don’t set an example, employees will believe they can get away with discriminatory attitudes, policies, and hiring processes because they either don’t know that they’re doing it, or they’re still full of prejudices and don’t see a reason to change. 

Many people don’t have the right language to talk about transgender experiences, or they worry about offending someone. Meaning that transgender experiences get ignored or erased.

The transgender community has a lot more visibility now than it did a few years ago, but onscreen representation takes time to trickle down into everyday society.

Education, support, and community are important here. Documentaries like Disclosure explore how trans people have been depicted in film over the years and how that’s impacted American culture. It shows that we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.

There are also plenty of online resources that can help employers to educate themselves on how to best support trans employees.

When it comes to the hiring process, a blind process only goes so far. It won’t change the prejudice that can come from an in-person interview. 

And the prejudice is big—44% of trans people feel an employer has turned them down for a job because they were trans. Clearly, transgender discrimination in the workplace is still a very real and pressing problem.

Conclusion 

One thing I noticed when doing my research for this blog post is that all of the stats are high. Higher than they are for any other underrepresented group. And the odds are really stacked against trans people in ways we need to talk about more.

20% have been, or are currently, homeless. Trans people are also four times as likely to live in poverty. Businesses can play a role in changing these stats. Your business can play a role in changing these stats.

The trans community is heavily discriminated against. The workplace is just one of the places where they have to deal with transphobia just to pay the bills.

Employers have an obligation to set an example to their employees who may be responsible for transgender discrimination in the workplace. They also have a responsibility to educate themselves.

They can then use that education to start meaningful conversations within the business to develop more inclusive policies, and help to create a more supportive workforce for trans employees.

If you’re looking to break down biases and drive real belonging at your organization, Workrowd can help. Check out our suite of tools for ensuring that every team member can get fully immersed in your company culture from day one, alongside real-time analytics. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

Categories
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Countering age bias & ageism in the workplace

Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks, we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, including gender biasracial bias, disability bias, heterosexual bias, and now age bias and ageism in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Society is full of contradictions. It values both the wisdom that comes with age and the looks that come with youth. (And probably the cheaper pay, too.) 

Which is how businesses end up writing job descriptions that require three years of experience for an entry-level position.

There comes a point where that wisdom is no longer valued, though. 

The National Bureau of Economic Research found in 2020 that someone 40 or older was half as likely to get a job offer as someone younger if an employer knows their age.

In the UK, 50-year-old job seekers are up to three times less likely to be chosen for interviews than younger job seekers with less experience.

Age discrimination laws in the US protect anyone 40 or older. But only 9% of Americans know this, even though 49% are aware that age discrimination laws exist.

So, let’s dive into what these laws cover, the responsibility businesses have to protect and celebrate their more seasoned employees, and what the consequences of ageism in the workplace are.

What does ageism in the workplace look like?

A study in 2020 done by SeniorLiving found that 41% of workers reported they were passed up for raises or promotions because of their age. And 45% felt they were passed up for other opportunities.

27% had been on the receiving end of unwanted jokes, and 27% had also experienced harassment or bullying.

This means a significant portion of people over 40 have experienced some sort of negative reaction to the natural (and uncontrollable) process of aging.

Some people also believe age discrimination is going to increase because the number of older Americans is going up, too. 

The US risks missing out on almost $4 trillion of economic contributions provided by older Americans because of age discrimination.

Companies often want to hire younger workers with the goal of training them up and promoting them within the company. But most people don’t stick around long enough for this to really matter. 

The overall average length of time someone stays in a role is 4.1 years. For employees aged 55 to 64, that number is 10.1 years. Employees aged 25-34 stay just 2.8 years.

All this raises the question: what do companies really want from an employee? Do they want youthfulness or experience? Are they looking for someone to stick around long-term?

And if they know someone isn’t going to stick around for a decade or more, why does age really matter?

What are the laws?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects people over 40 from ageism in the workplace. Some states also have laws that protect employees under 40.

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

“The law prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.”

It’s not illegal to favor an older employee over a younger one. However, it can still be age discrimination if both people involved are over 40.

The law also states:

“Harassment can include, for example, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s age. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

“The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.”

Ageism in the hiring process

Both of my parents found themselves unemployed on the other side of 50 through no fault of their own. 

And, when my partner and I suggested they get part-time jobs to stave off boredom and keep money coming in, they both had the same response: “I’m too old. Nobody will hire me.”

It gets worse, though.

Not only did they think nobody would hire them, but they also believed that age discrimination laws wouldn’t protect them.

And I totally get their point. Because how do you prove that someone didn’t hire you for a role because of your age? It’s really hard to do. 

Which means businesses can get away with ageism in the workplace, as well as the contradiction of requiring experience for an entry-level role that probably doesn’t even pay what someone with that level of experience is worth.

Studies show that when the hiring process is age-blind, older people are just as likely—sometimes even more likely—to get invited to interview.

But, of course, to interview someone, we have to see/meet them. Meaning that ageism is still likely to kick in at this point.

Even when someone older had superior qualifications and experience, they were 46% less likely to be offered a job.

What, exactly, does society have against people over a certain age?

What can we do about ageism?

The real problem is identifying ageism. Because nobody really talks about it.

Many people assume that, as a society, we’re not ageist. But just look at the stats. Look at how people treat female celebrities as they age, compared to their male counterparts. We view male actors as silver foxes, getting more attractive with age. Female actors find their work drying up because there aren’t as many roles for women over 40.

There’s no denying that ageism exists throughout the western world. 

Society places value on both youth and experience, traits that can’t coexist in one person. 

Yet many businesses still strive to find that magical candidate, even though, if you spoke to any hiring manager, I’d guarantee they’d tell you they got wiser with age. Who doesn’t?

So, if we all know we get wiser with age, why do we hold age against other people? Age is a privilege that not everyone gets to experience, and we should value and honor that.

If you’re looking to counter ageism in the workplace and drive real inclusion, it’s crucial that employees have a chance to connect with each other as whole people. A platform like Workrowd can help, ensuring that employees participate in groups and events together. If this sounds like a fit for your workplace, send us a note to hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

Categories
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Countering heterosexual bias & homophobia in the workplace

Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks, we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, including gender biasracial bias, disability bias, and now heterosexual bias and homophobia in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

7.1% of American adults identify as LGBT, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Nearly half of LGBT employees have experienced workplace bias at some point in their careers. One in ten have faced discrimination within the last year.

On the flip side, 91% of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

So, many big businesses are being proactive and putting policies in place to try to protect these individuals, even though the actual experience of LGBT employees might not reflect it.

What does homophobia in the workplace look like?

Homophobia in the workplace can come in many forms. It could be someone not getting a job, being looked over for a promotion, or being on the receiving end of snide comments or so-called jokes, all because of their sexual orientation. 

While that may sound like it wouldn’t happen in the modern world, a McKinsey study spoke to one employee who found a client wouldn’t work with their employer unless they were taken off the team because the client didn’t want to work with someone who was gay. Thankfully, their employer backed them up and refused to work with the client.

That doesn’t always happen, though. 

Another person had bible verses recited at them in their cubicle by a senior colleague when said colleague found out they were gay. They didn’t feel they’d be believed if they reported that person for their behavior because of their colleague’s seniority.

(Not) coming out at work

Based on those stories, is it any wonder that 31% of people are afraid coming out will negatively impact their relationship with their colleagues? Or that 23% think it’ll negatively affect their ability to advance in their role?

Even employees who do come out to their colleagues find that isn’t the end of it. They often have to come out repeatedly. 

The McKinsey study found that one in five employees came out to their colleagues weekly, while one in ten had to do it daily. Daily!

Could we just stop making assumptions about people’s lives, please? It’s really a very simple solution.

You wouldn’t assume someone who doesn’t talk about their partner is single. (Or you shouldn’t; they may just be private.) So why assume someone who doesn’t talk about their love life is heterosexual? And why does it matter, anyway?

If you really want to ask about someone’s dating life, ask about their partner rather than boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. It’s much more inclusive language and means you’re not making assumptions about someone’s love life.

How can businesses support LGBTQ+ employees?

It all starts with kindness and common sense. Don’t make assumptions.

Studies have shown that if you think you’re not prejudiced about something, you probably are prejudiced about it. Remaining open-minded is an important part of being an ally and identifying your own—and other people’s—detrimental attitudes and actions.

If you want to foster an inclusive workplace, hiring people who are onboard with this mission, and who follow through on their commitments to diversity, is a good way to show LGBT employees that you really do support them.

Sensitivity training may also be beneficial, particularly for team leaders and above. We’re often not aware of our own implicit biases, so this training can help to point them out so that people can be more mindful of their biases going forward.

When it comes to any sort of training, make sure it’s as engaging as possible. Don’t just tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. That’s asking for them to feel lectured to and fall asleep halfway through.

Get them to understand why something might hurt another person’s feelings, or why it’s inappropriate in the workplace. 

The more concrete you can make the examples, and the more engaging you can make the training program, the more likely employees will be to remember the lessons and implement them at work.

And also remember that you should take the training, too. Being in charge doesn’t make you immune to enabling homophobia in the workplace.

Show, rather than tell

The more open you are about your business’s diversity policies, the more likely you’ll be to attract employees who support an inclusive, diverse workforce. 

This goes beyond copy-and-paste equal opportunity statements at the end of a job description. Or even asking people what their sexual orientation is on a job application. (I’ll save those rants for another blog post.)

Instead, it’s about showing how you support LGBTQ+ employees. 

Don’t just change your brand logo to include the Pride colors in June—do something to show your support instead. 

Communicate with employees about LGBTQ+ rights, and if they need to travel abroad to less accommodating countries, talk to them about it beforehand. This will show them that you take their wellbeing seriously.

You can also offer parental or adoption leave for both parents. After all, regardless of someone’s sexual orientation, or the gender of their partner, you never know who’s going to end up being the primary caregiver.

Conclusion

Managers are your employees’ role models. It’s imperative that they set a strong example of countering homophobia in the workplace. A big part of it is just being open, honest, and supportive. Managers shouldn’t force anyone out of the closet, nor should they make assumptions about anyone’s sexual orientation or gender.

Inclusive language goes a long way towards demonstrating that your company is inclusive, too.

Small things like offering Mx alongside Mr, Ms, Miss, and Mrs, or asking if someone has a partner rather than a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, can impact the atmosphere within your business.

The more work organizations do to identify and challenge assumptions about gender and sexual orientation, the more secure employees will feel being themselves in the workplace. And the less likely they’ll be to have to come out to their colleagues on a daily basis.

If you’re committed to reducing implicit bias in your organization, it’s time to go beyond trainings. Drive deep belonging and help employees see their colleagues through a lens of commonality rather than difference. Workrowd helps your people find their people, giving them the opportunity to build real, sustained connections with team members across the organization. Write us at hello@workrowd.com to learn more.

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Countering disability bias & ableism in the workplace

Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks, we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, including gender bias, racial bias, and now disability bias and ableism in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

15% of the global population—that’s 1 billion people—experience some form of disability. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.1% of US disabled people were employed in 2021, up from 17.9% the year before.

However, I do wonder if this number is actually a lot higher. 

The difficulty with disability disclosures

Some people who have conditions such as depression, anxiety, autism, or ADHD don’t class themselves as disabled. Others whose health conditions have improved may not class themselves among this group either.

As someone with chronic pain, I have days where I feel disabled and days where I don’t. 

And, while I’m open about my health issues, I wouldn’t discuss them with an employer unless I really had to. 

Just because I’m comfortable talking about my health issues, that doesn’t mean I don’t notice the common reaction of the person I’m talking to. It usually involves squirming, frowning, or an abrupt change of subject. It doesn’t exactly make me feel listened to.

Many of my friends with disabilities feel the same. They wouldn’t ever check the box on those “equality” questionnaires to say that they are differently abled. 

Especially not when 1 in 3 employers won’t hire someone with a disability. Even though not hiring someone because of a health condition is illegal.

It’s also illegal for an employer to ask someone if they’re differently abled in a job interview. 

But they can ask them in those questionnaires. 

And you can tell me they’re anonymized or not attached to job applications or any other excuse you like. 

But I’ve never yet found evidence of them being used in someone’s favor, or purely for data. And stats like the ones in this article just prove my suspicions.

38% of people believe someone who’s disabled is a burden on society. Only 7% believe that mental illness counts as a disability. 

Two thirds of people don’t see being hard of hearing as a disability. Which really shows that most people don’t know what a disability is.

What is a disability?

Let’s go back to basics for a moment. A disability is, according to the CDC:

Any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).

They go on to explain that a disability includes anything that impacts someone’s:

  • Vision
  • Movement
  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Learning
  • Communicating
  • Hearing
  • Mental health
  • Social relationships

Considering the stereotype is someone in a wheelchair, this list demonstrates that a disability goes much further than that and also includes conditions you can’t always see or easily define.

That means that discrimination laws in the workplace go further than you may think, too.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that:

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments they cover.

(Bold text my own.)

Disabled or differently abled? Which term should you use?

This one really depends on who you speak to. 

Some people dislike the word “disabled” because the “dis” implies that they’re not able to do something or that there’s something inherently wrong with them.

When really, the main reason someone who fits the criteria above can’t do something is often because of society, not their condition.

Differently abled is more inclusive and is less “othering” than “disabled.” 

Personally, I don’t have a preference and flit between the two. But that’s just me.

If you’re unsure, I’d talk to the person(s) you know who are affected so that you can make an informed decision. You may find that different people have different preferences.

Disability in the workplace

Unfortunately, a third of differently abled employees have experienced disability bias and/or ableism in the workplace. 

This can include people insulting, excluding, or underestimating them because of their disability. It can also involve people seeming uncomfortable around them solely for that reason.

Unsurprisingly, only 39% have disclosed their condition to their manager, and just 24% to colleagues.

Fear of discrimination is definitely a reason I’ve seen hold people back from disclosing their health issues. And, given the stats, discrimination is sadly pretty likely. 

However, 65% of those who’ve disclosed their condition are more content at work. 

I think it really depends on the culture. If somewhere is truly inclusive, the whole company will be supportive and take the right steps to help someone succeed in their role. Regardless of their disability status, gender, race, sexuality, religion, or anything else. Bias of any kind, including ableism in the workplace, has no place at these organizations.  

What can employers do to support disabled employees?

It’s up to employees to ask for accommodations that they need in the workplace so that they can do their job. 

Employers don’t always have to do exactly what the employee requests. They do need to come up with a similar solution that achieves the same outcomes, though.

For example, if a wheelchair user can’t get to their floor, you could install an elevator. 

Or move their department on to the ground floor so that they’re still around their colleagues.

Somewhere I used to work moved a whole department on to the ground floor for a wheelchair user, making sure there were ramps in as many places as possible. 

This person become a respected part of the company and happy in their role because their employer had taken steps to accommodate them, rather than giving in to ableism in the workplace.

Conclusion

This may seem like a lot of work. But we’ve all seen that meme asking different animals to climb a tree. 

A fish can’t climb a tree, but does that make it useless? No. They do other important things in the world instead. And none of those things require them to climb trees.

So, the next time you’re hiring, or talking to a newly disabled employee (since any of us could become disabled at any time), remember to keep your bias in check. 

And remember to ask what accommodations you could make so that they can succeed in their role, instead of wondering how they can work around you.

If you’re looking for new ways to counter bias and specifically ableism in the workplace, a platform that fosters real inclusion can help. With Workrowd, employees can join programs, groups, and events that highlight their intersectionality, and ensure that peers see them for more than any visible disabilities. If you’d like to learn more and explore how Workrowd can drive belonging at your organization, send us a message at hello@workrowd.com.

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Countering racial bias & racism in the workplace

Welcome back to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. Over the course of several weeks we’re spotlighting various categories of bias, starting with gender bias last week, and following now with racism in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Racial diversity is an important part of any business. It makes companies more profitable, and means they can better tap into their audiences’ needs. It also leads to a happier, more engaged, and more productive workforce.

Yet, for many businesses, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) isn’t a priority.

In fact, a recent survey by Deloitte revealed that more than 40% of upper management respondents feel their organizations are “too focused on DEI”. More than 60% predict their organization will reduce its commitment to DEI as new business threats emerge.

Unfortunately, racism is a lot more prevalent than many people realize. One in four people of color report having experienced racism in the workplace.

Young Black employees are even more likely to experience racism in the workplace than their older colleagues.

Black workers under 40 are twice as likely as Black workers 40 and older to report experiencing discrimination at work in the last year. This reinforces other findings that suggest young Black employees are more likely to experience microaggressions at work.

What does all this show? Businesses aren’t doing enough to support their employees of color and address racism in the workplace.

Identifying microaggressions and implicit bias

Microaggressions are statements, actions, or incidents that happen because of discrimination against a marginalized group. They can be intentional or unintentional, direct or indirect. 

They’re called microaggressions because their size can make them seem inconsequential or unnoticeable to outsiders. But these small acts can have big consequences.

For example, a hiring manager could overlook someone’s resume because of the name that’s on it. This is a sign of internal attitudes that often go unnoticed but can have a major impact for those on the receiving end of them. It can even impact the culture at the company.

And this does still happen. People with non-anglicized names have to send more job applications to get a call back.

Nuffield College’s Centre for Social Investigation sent around 3,200 fake job applications for a range of jobs, from shop assistants to chefs to software engineers. The applicants had identical CVs (which are slightly different from resumes but a similar idea), cover letters, and experience. Only 15% of Black, Indigenous, and person of color (BIPOC) applicants received a call back, compared to 24% of white British applicants.

This isn’t a new trend, but it is a frustrating one. Removing the name from resumes before they’re looked at is a simple way to avoid this discrimination. Without a name, someone’s merit, education, and attitude can shine through with a lower risk of implicit biases seeping in.

Of course, this isn’t foolproof—reviewers can still find aspects to bias them against an applicant, such as where they went to school. But it’s a start.

Embracing natural hair textures

Half of Black women report being sent home from work for wearing their hair in an afro, braids, or twists.

And, while it may be illegal to fire someone for wearing an afro to work in the US, it’s legal to fire someone for going to work wearing protective styles like braids.

Black women are 50% more likely than white women to be sent home from work because of their hairstyle. They’re also 80% more likely to change it to fit in. 

And they’re 30% more likely to be given a grooming policy before applying to or starting a new job. A grooming policy? If that’s not a clear example of racism in the workplace, I don’t know what is.

“Banter”

Offensive comments are another example of racial microaggressions. The speaker may try to mask their comments as “teasing” or “banter”. Ultimately though, banter is really only banter if the person on the receiving end finds the comment funny. Otherwise, it’s bullying.

People have increasingly used the word “banter” as a euphemism for bullying, and it’s unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the workplace, at school, or at home. It. Is. Bullying.

Management needs to foster a culture that encourages supporting each other and telling jokes that are both funny and inoffensive.

There are plenty of businesses with “bro cultures” that are now experiencing a backlash.

Companies building the right sort of culture now are going to be much more future-proof than those that have traditionally had racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, or otherwise unwelcoming environments to underrepresented minorities. 

Why businesses need to try harder to support BIPOC employees

Employee engagement is important for the success of every business. How a business responds to racism in the workplace, or how a BIPOC employee feels their employer would respond, is directly related to how engaged they are. When employees believe their employer would “do what’s right,” they’re more engaged.

And, let’s not forget, engaged employees are more productive and more likely to stick around. So, you get to save money and make more of it.

It’s a manager’s job to support their employees. Great managers, those who build the right type of culture, are more likely to have engaged employees. Their employees are also less likely to feel discriminated against at work.

Listening here is really important. Managers need to remember that employees want to feel heard.

And, they want to know that their manager will support them if they ever experience discrimination, in any form.

Dismissing claims without investigating them, or telling an employee what they’ve experienced isn’t important breaks trust and leads to a more toxic work environment.

Some types of implicit bias and microaggressions can be hard to spot. It can be helpful to ask BIPOC team members for their opinions, experiences, and suggestions of ways you can improve.

It’s only with this knowledge that businesses can make more informed decisions and avoid enabling a culture built on racism, microaggressions, and implicit biases.

Conclusion 

Racial discrimination at work has been illegal since 1964. Yet there’s plenty of evidence that racism in the workplace is still a major problem.

If businesses truly want to outperform their competitors, attract the right employees, and make a positive difference in the world, embracing diversity and fostering an inclusive culture is the way to go. This has countless benefits to all areas of a business.

If you’re ready to take on racism in the workplace, Workrowd’s all-in-one inclusion platform can help. With a central hub to manage everything from employee resource groups to manager-in-training programs, alongside automated surveys and real-time analytics, you can drive belonging for every team member. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com if you’d like to learn more.

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

The impact of gender bias in the workplace & how to counter it

Welcome to our series on systemic bias in the workplace. For the next several weeks we’ll be spotlighting various categories of bias, starting today with gender bias in the workplace. Our aim is to add to the ongoing conversation and help everyone build more inclusive environments. We hope you find it informative. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

We all have biases that impact how we perceive others and the ways in which we behave. These biases can span an array of different traits and situations. Today, we’ll be discussing gender bias in the workplace.

I’ve had many conversations with females who believe that we’ve achieved equality and feminism is no longer necessary. I’ve had just as many conversations with women and non-binary individuals who feel people treat them differently because of their gender.

But this is all anecdotal. What do the stats about gender bias in the workplace say?

Brace yourself, because it isn’t pretty…

Believing you’re not sexist doesn’t mean you’re not sexist

So, before we get started, it’s worth noting that studies have found that when you believe you’re objective—for instance, you believe you’re not sexist—it actually makes you less objective and more likely to behave in a biased way. 

This may be because when someone believes they’re objective and not sexist, they’re not going to put the work in to really consider their behavior and how it impacts others. Or factor in the changing times.

Think about what people considered acceptable in the 1960s workforce compared to now. Sexism was rife back then, and many things that would get someone fired now were once accepted. 

Many of today’s managers grew up in families and cultures that held those beliefs. The 1960s really wasn’t that long ago.

So, if no one is challenging those beliefs, they have no idea that what they’re doing could be harmful. Or that it could be a sign of gender bias in the workplace.

Business priorities and gender

Tech startup founders ranked having a diverse workforce seventh in the list of business priorities.

One quarter of these founders stated they weren’t interested in diversity or work/life balance. Yet their main goal was “hiring good people.”

So, they want to hire good people, but don’t believe addressing gender bias in the workplace is important. Hmm.

In the US, women hold 26% of the jobs in ‘professional computing’. Compare that to an average of 57% across other industries.

The idea that you have to be intelligent to work in tech doesn’t help. Girls aged five believe just as much as boys that women can be “really really smart.”

But, by age six, boys and girls believe women aren’t as intelligent as men. So, we don’t encourage girls to pursue careers in industries like tech based on the idea that they’re not smart enough.

And that belief can come across subconsciously. Most people don’t instill it consciously. It can be as simple as encouraging girls to focus on more feminine hobbies or activities. At the same time, they’ll encourage boys towards an enjoyment of tech or math.

This is a societal problem, but it has a wider reach. Girls lose their confidence, along with their desire to go on to become the next innovators and entrepreneurs. And it’s all because society tells them girls aren’t intelligent. (They can be, and are, for the record. But of course you already knew that.)

Then, when it comes to male-dominated industries, there’s also the issue of…

Sexual harassment in the workplace

When researchers surveyed senior-level women from Silicon Valley, the results were horrifying. 90% of respondents had witnessed sexist behavior.

Almost as many—87%—had received demeaning comments from male colleagues, and 60% had fielded unwanted sexual advances.

This from somewhere that claims to be forward-thinking, meritocratic, and supportive of its employees.

It gets worse, though. 60% of women had been propositioned. More than once.

And 65% had been propositioned by a superior.

The culture was so bad that a third of respondents had felt afraid for their personal safety.

What does that say about the working environments of firms that are developing much of the technology we rely on today, and will rely on in the future? 

Is it really going to support other genders, races, or backgrounds if it isn’t a safe place for someone who isn’t a white male? Is it even going to consider the needs of non-white, non-male customers?

Office environments 

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again, because temperatures were the bane of my life when I worked in an office. Most companies still set the temperature based on a formula from the 1960s designed for a forty-year-old, 150-pound white man.

However, women performing the same type of work have a lower metabolic rate. Which means the average office temperature could be five degrees too cold for them.

It doesn’t help that female clothes are generally made from thinner fabric than men’s.

As someone who used to wear an average of five layers to work, including thermals and a wool sweater, while sitting typing articles just like this one, I can confirm how painfully true this is. Many of my female friends have had similar issues, too.

I’ve never spoken to a male who finds an office too cold unless the A/C has been cranked up because it’s hot outside.

There has to be a compromise, doesn’t there?

How to build a more gender diverse workforce

The London School of Economics found that quotas ‘weed out incompetent men’. They do not promote unqualified women or non-binary individuals, like many people assume.

So, the next time you feel uncomfortable having a quota for something, consider the implicit biases that may be taking hold. Especially given that even females are sometimes reluctant to hire other females because they believe other women are either their competition, or less capable of performing a role.

When it comes to sexual harassment, make sure you actually listen to employees who report it. Don’t dismiss them because of what they’re saying, or who’s involved. It shouldn’t turn into a game of he said/she said.

Boundaries are important and people deserve to have theirs respected. Especially in the workplace.

Also, make sure that employees know you have a zero-tolerance attitude towards sexual harassment.

If there’s a “bro culture” where people feel they can get away with sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive language, that kind of language is more likely to be used.

Free speech doesn’t give someone a license to be rude or offensive, just the same as a diversity statement on a job description doesn’t mean you really have diverse hiring and employment practices. ‘Actions speak louder than words,’ as my old teacher used to say.

Conclusion

Lastly, don’t underestimate the difference allowing employees to work from home, or offering them flexible hours, can make. Not with 76% of American homemakers saying they’d go back to work if they could work from home, and 74% willing to if a job had flexible hours. 

Given that 97% of American homemakers are women, that’s a big portion of the working-age population businesses are cutting out. A lot of these facts come from the eye-opening book, “Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men,” by Caroline Criado-Perez.

If you’re looking for other ways to reduce gender bias in the workplace, start by talking to the women and non-binary folks on your team. If you have relevant ERGs, consider sitting down with them to learn more about their experiences.

Managing your employee programs through a platform like Workrowd can make it easier for everyone to speak up and find ways to feel included. To find out whether this is a fit for you, send us a note at hello@workrowd.com.

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

Navigating menstruation, miscarriage, and menopause at work

Around half of the workforce will go through menstruation and menopause at some point in their lives. But how often does anyone talk about these issues in the workplace? It’s certainly not standard for managers to broach topics like menstruation and menopause at work.

If we don’t talk about them though, there’s no way employers can understand the true scope of the problem. 

Obviously, it’s not a business’s job to find treatments or a cure-all for any sort of health issue. 

But, when employees spend more waking time working than with their loved ones, a little accommodation can go a long way to making them feel appreciated, understood, and supported.

Which is why businesses need to do more to support those who experience periods, pregnancy, miscarriages, and menopause at work. But with so little understanding around them, how can they?

Menstruation

For most people who menstruate, periods are a monthly occurrence. For those who battle conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), periods can be irregular and/or incredibly painful. 

And healthcare practitioners don’t always take this seriously—it takes an average of eight years to get an endometriosis diagnosis, despite the significant pain and fatigue it can cause.

There are over 200 symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)—not including PCOS or endometriosis symptoms—although nobody has done an official count because there are so many and it’s so different for everyone.

Things like pregnancy and stress can transform someone’s experience of PMS and any other menstruation-related conditions, temporarily or permanently. And yes, workplace stress can be one of those triggers. 

There are still many people who don’t want to talk about menstruation and stop the conversation as soon as you mention the P word. 

One of the best things you can do to support someone who’s menstruating is to offer them flexible working options. 

For instance, the average workplace temperature is based on the metabolism of a 150-pound, 40-year-old man. So, it might feel comfortable for some of the team. But it probably won’t for most of them. And it certainly wouldn’t for a petite female menstruating, as they may well feel cold differently—especially on their period. 

Allowing employees to work from home, at hours that work for them, means they can get things done in an environment they’re in control of. And this can make a huge difference.

They can have a hot water bottle when they need it; turn the temperature up or down; grab painkillers when they need them; more easily visit their doctor.

These are simple things that can improve an employee’s quality of life. The main thing they require is a culture of trust.

Yet many businesses fail to consider how these changes can improve the quality of work someone produces, in addition to boosting their happiness and reducing employee churn.

Pregnancy

While it may be illegal to ask someone if they’re pregnant or plan to get pregnant when hiring, that doesn’t mean some businesses don’t still subconsciously use it as a deciding factor when hiring women of child-bearing age. Which is insane. 

Pregnancy causes many changes in someone’s mind and body, some of which are permanent. It can also affect how they want to work. 

Being flexible and allowing future mothers to attend doctor’s appointments without question also means they have one less stressful thing to worry about. 

You could even go one step further—if you know someone’s partner is pregnant, allow them to go to appointments, too. This not only provides the pregnant person with moral support but also shows your employee that you value them and care about their life outside of their job.

So-called “mommy brain,” is a regular occurrence because of changes in the brain after someone gives birth. This can impact how they want to approach work, and even what the best working environment for them is. 

There’s also a common saying that suggests that at work, women should pretend they don’t have a child, and at home, pretend they don’t work. In a constant, always-on world, with many people now working remotely, this just is almost impossible.

It’s therefore important to be mindful of this and ask people what they need when working while pregnant, and when they return after maternity leave.

They may not always know, so be prepared to do your own research, too. Consider what other businesses have done successfully, or what other parents have requested in the past.

Miscarriages 

Researchers estimate that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Ectopic or molar pregnancies are less common, but the numbers are just as significant. Some people may go through multiple losses.

Some employees won’t be comfortable talking about their loss in the workplace because they’re embarrassed, keep things private, or they’re worried about discrimination.

Even if you’ve experienced miscarriage yourself, remember that everyone’s experiences are different. And so are their needs.

When talking to employees who’ve experienced this type of loss, approach it from a place of empathy and understanding. Let there be silences; don’t try to fill in the gaps.

You don’t have to say or do anything profound; simply acknowledging their loss can be a source of comfort and support.

Menopause

When more than 40% of women report they’ve considered leaving their jobs due to menopause symptoms and the lack of support from their employer, there’s obviously a massive gap. A gap in knowledge for what’s needed, and possibly a gap in productivity as these health issues aren’t given the time and consideration they require.

Menopause can last a decade, but there’s still a taboo when it comes to talking about it, sometimes even among female relatives. 

People who experience menopause often feel uncomfortable sharing their symptoms in the workplace in case they’re stigmatized. Yet, out of all the areas in someone’s life, menopause is most likely to impact their job.

Physical and psychosocial factors play into this, which is why an open dialogue is so important. If people feel like they can talk about menopause at work, and especially to their manager, they’re less likely to suffer, and they’ll perform better in their role, too.

Conclusion 

Supporting people through menstruation, miscarriage, pregnancy, and menopause at work is an important part of managing a diverse workforce. But it’s often a neglected one. 

It starts by researching these experiences and considering how best you can help your employees.

Knowledge and awareness are really key to supporting employees as their minds and bodies change in ways they can’t control.

It can also help to create policies on these experiences, as well as having, and making sure every manager is aware of, your compassionate leave policy. That way, managers know exactly what’s expected of them and employees are aware of how their employer will support them.

Setting up a focus group with your women’s ERG can be a great starting point. Members can advise on ways the organization can better accommodate health issues like menstruation and menopause at work.

If you’re interested in an easier way to manage and measure initiatives like ERGs, focus groups, and more, come visit us over at workrowd.com. We’ve got a slew of tools to support you, along with best practice guides and resources. Drop us a line at hello@workrowd.com if you’d like to learn more.