Building a Supportive Workplace in the time of COVID-19

By Bridge

At Bridge, we believe in building workplace cultures where people can thrive. That is one of the reasons our team is part of our organization’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council. We recently met virtually and talked about new challenges some teammates are facing – specifically COVID-19-related racism – and how companies can support employees during these times.

To ensure this topic can be addressed at work, several team members collaborated to share a few stories in this blog post and provide useful tips. These recommendations can help people support each other and create safe spaces for conversations about this sensitive topic. 

Here are some insights from individual members of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Council: 

Keep a global perspective  

COVID-19 is a global problem, and we are learning as we go through this. What we do know is that this is a shared issue faced around the world.     

Offer support and check-in 

One Asian-American colleague shared that the verbal attacks she has seen and heard about in her community had her staying at home before any stay at home order was given. She has experienced neighbors – people she has known for a long time – avoid eye contact and not speak to her while she gets her mail. She felt very alone. 

During this time, she shared that she appreciated colleagues who have reached out to see how she is doing. Her tip is, don’t be afraid to acknowledge what’s happening and check in with your colleagues. Whether in team meetings, 1:1s, or over Slack, let colleagues know you are here for them. Intervene or seek help if you are a bystander and witness something that isn’t right. 

 Combat fictions and prejudice

One article captured combating prejudice perfectly in the article ‘Don’t Blame Bat Soup for the Coronavirus.’ At a time of heightened fear over a viral pandemic, some have chosen to renew an old narrative about the mislabeled eating habits of various groups of people, especially Asians. Don’t believe everything that you read. 

If you hear these stories being shared at work, speak out or connect with a manager or HR. One recent Society for Human Resources Management article noted that if someone is flippant or makes a joke about COVID-19, speak up and say something such as, “That’s not funny. And that is not how the virus works.” 

While we socially distance, don’t avoid colleagues 

One colleague who has lived in several countries throughout his career shared that, unfortunately, he has grown to expect discrimination because of life experiences, and it was only through support from colleagues that he realized that it isn’t okay and that it helps to share experiences. And COVID-19 has reminded him on a couple of occasions that he is a visible minority and that some people see this as an Asian pandemic, not a global one. 

He said he couldn’t imagine what work would be like if colleagues treated him in the same way as what he has experienced in his day-to-day life. He appreciates how he can talk about this with his team and have their support. 

Lastly, he said companies should use this time to remind employees of Employee Assistance Programs, mental health benefits, and other available resources. He feels fortunate to work for a company that included details about the Employee Assistance Program and additional resources in company-wide communications related to its COVID-19 response. It helped him realize he could ask for help and was reminded to check in on friends and colleagues. 

More resources can be found here: 

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