How public sector organizations can foster DEI in a remote work environment

When COVID hit, some public sector organizations responded by letting employees who do not interact with the public work from home. Many will continue to work remotely post-pandemic. Those organizations will, therefore, need to adjust their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs to fit a remote working model.

Achieving this won’t be without its challenges. A split workforce may have caused conversations around DEI to stall. Employees may be less likely to bring up their concerns and minority groups may feel more invisible now that they’re working in isolation.  As a public sector organization, you serve a diverse population and your workforce should reflect that. That’s why public sector organizations should double down on their commitments to DEI, especially now that employees are not under one roof.

5 Ways Public Sector Organizations Can Foster DEI in a Remote Work Environment

According to McKinsey & Company, public sector organizations are ahead of the private sector when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. However, COVID-19 has interrupted DEI progress in some organizations. To get back on track, here are five tips on how to foster DEI in a remote work environment.  

1. Recruit a Diverse Workforce

One of the advantages of remote work is that you’re not bound by location. You can recruit talent from anywhere in the country and that means you can build more diverse teams. Many people view diversity as race- or gender-related but it encompasses much more than that. Diversity also includes religion, culture, age, sexual orientation, disability, education, languages, backgrounds, skills, experience and levels of seniority.

2. Support Diverse Employees Who Face Challenges Working From Home

Working from home isn’t easy for everyone, especially for low-income earners and certain ethnic groups. A report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that roughly one in five African-American workers and one in six Hispanic workers are either not able to work from home or struggle to work efficiently at home.

The reasons for this include:

  • Living in a small home with no designated workspace.
  • No access to high-speed internet, particularly for those living in rural areas.
  • Having to look after kids at home.
  • Sharing a home with multiple people, which can create a noisy environment.

So, how can you support employees facing challenges working from home?

  • Assist with the cost and set up of a reliable internet connection.
  • Provide office equipment. If they will be working from home permanently, perhaps their office desk, printer and other equipment can be moved to their home.
  • Allow a flexible arrangement where they split their week between home and the office.
  • With fewer employees working in the office, your overheads should decrease. Consider using the savings to increase an employee’s salary so that they can afford full-time daycare.

3. Create an Inclusive Virtual Workspace

Team leaders should encourage diversity, equity and inclusion in remote work. That means creating a virtual space where employees feel comfortable having conversations around DEI. Check-in with your employees regularly by having one-on-one conversations, group discussions online and creating diversity and inclusion activities for remote employees.

Conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion can be a sensitive subject for some employees. Consider bringing an external consultant on board to facilitate respectful discussions around DEI.

4. Foster a Culture of Compassion and Empathy

Some employees face greater personal demands than others. For instance, having parents or other family members live with them may be the norm in their culture. Circumstances like these place pressure on the individual’s time and resources. Those demands could increase when working from home and lead to higher stress levels and burnout.

That’s why it’s important to foster a culture of compassion and empathy in your organization. Your employees who face fewer of those challenges should be understanding of those that do. Managers should maintain open communication, allowing employees to share their struggles and be ready to support their needs. For example, if a team member is dealing with a crisis and needs time off, the rest of the team should be willing to step into the gap if needed. This demonstration of understanding and support lets an employee feel accepted and included.

5. Educate Leadership on the Need for Diversity

Change begins at the top and your leadership team should also reflect diversity. If, however, your leadership harbors unconscious biases or doesn’t think diversity is important, it won’t trickle down to the rest of the organization. Leaders should be educated on why diversity is important and how it benefits the communities you serve.

If you need DEI and remote working solutions, contact CPS HR Consulting. We specialize in HR solutions for public sector organizations and will help you develop a comprehensive DEI plan. To book a consultation, complete this online form.

Regina W. Romeo

Ms. Romeo has more than 20 years of experience in public sector human resources as an analyst, manager and director. In her role as Chief Human Resources Officer, she is responsible for managing the day-to-day HR operations and organizational development for CPS while also consulting and managing special projects for clients. Regina has worked for both large and small public sector agencies and brings a unique perspective and real-world experience to her role.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.