COVID-19 means that growing numbers of us are working from home. Many businesses are considering making remote working a permanent operation as more employees report its positive effects, including higher productivity and better mental health. But while remote working can feel liberating for some employees, it can feel like a burden or even a danger to others.
Why remote LGBT+ staff need support
Various factors impact the wellbeing and safety of employees working from home. Not everyone will have the same access to private workspaces including good broadband. Others could be dealing with loneliness, caregiving responsibilities, and even domestic abuse, where LGBT+ workers are more likely to be affected.
For employers to remain inclusive when operating remotely, they should pay extra attention to certain groups, including LGBT+ staff who may need more support and access to vital resources at this time. Jack Mizel, Founder and CEO of Pride365, an organisation that champions inclusion in workplaces globally, has provided eight quick insights on what employers can do to better support LGBT+ employees remotely:
1. Be mindful
“Coming out” is one of the most personal things an LGBT+ person can do. Many people living with family throughout the pandemic may not have come out at home (especially those under 35), so be mindful with comments during instant messages, calls, or video chats that could “out” them before they are ready.
2. Resource allocation
Make resources available to all staff without being asked. Communicate the availability of resources and associated budgets and services often, and encourage employees to make use of them.
3. Work is still work
Whether working from home or an office, clear HR and managerial support pathways should be available to discuss how individuals are coping with their workload and circumstances. Reassure your employees that seeking managerial support is always an option, regardless of their work environment.
4. Social support
Social support should be encouraged and facilitated. Remote company events and online social conversations are essential to combating feelings of isolation and loneliness. They have been proven to boost mood and morale and encourage feelings of community and belonging.
Effective workspaces may be a challenge for those who have been displaced or live in temporary accommodation or have been thrown out of their family homes. Being flexible to location changes and access to resources is vital to minimise unnecessary and unwarranted anxiety and embarrassment.
6. Bereavement and leave
Traditional HR processes for bereavement and compassionate leave typically exclude time off for friends despite their significance in the lives of the LGBT+ community. Employers must remain mindful of how the loss of someone might affect this group of workers.
7. Crowdsourced support
Show your company support for the LGBT+ community by donating to a relevant charity or fund for mutual aid. Consider providing help to hostile regions or countries where being LGBT+ is illegal or even punishable by death.
8. Concern and reaction
If you are seriously concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of an employee, LGBT+ or not, reach out to them privately and offer support. If you’ve provided in-house resources and directed the individual to external helplines and organisations but are still concerned for them, consider calling an LGBT+ or mental health helpline on their behalf to alert the support team of their situation. It is vitally important however to do this as a very last resort, as unwelcome help can sometimes have an adverse effect.