As vaccination numbers continue to increase and restrictions ease, businesses and employees have begun to envision what the future of work will resemble, specifically when it comes to a return to office.  However, while more than half of Canadian employers are planning a return to office by early 2022, not all employees are enthusiastic about it. 

According to recent studies, only 3% of Black workers want to return to full-time in-person work compared to 21% of white workers, while 1 in 3 women are considering leaving the workforce altogether.

For many minorities and marginalized communities, working from home has provided safety and refuge from dealing with microaggressions often experienced in the workplace. People of colour, women, and those with disabilities have cited a sense of freedom from working at home – one removed from constant expressions of bias that had taken a toll on their mental well-being and productivity.

Return to office presents a unique opportunity for employers to prioritize DEI post-pandemic and pivot to a more inclusive, fair, and level work environment. The first step to addressing these concerns is to be aware of the situation and to acknowledge that not everyone may be feeling excited to return to work, and it may be for different reasons. Ensuring open communication with your team and honest discussions around hesitations and expectations will help ensure a smooth transition back.

Here are some tools to help your team prioritize DEI and create a safe environment for all employees to thrive:

  • Complaint Reporting System: Ensuring the availability of a safe feedback system will help employees feel more comfortable reporting instances of racism or harassment at work. Employees fearful to speak up may do so more readily if able to anonymously or to an objective partner that will listen to their concerns and help resolve conflicts.
  • Equity & Inclusion Training Program: Diversity training is never a finished task; it should be ongoing to ensure all employees, including leadership, are aware of the company’s standards of conduct and what is considered appropriate and tolerated behaviour. Specific microaggression training may be helpful to bring attention to these actions and language that can be unintended, but still hurtful.
  • Employee Resource Groups: Organizations should encourage the creation of employee resource groups that are specific to marginalized or minority communities. These can provide additional support for under-represented communities and allow for more space and a voice in the office. It also sends an important message within the organization that these diverse groups are valued and respected.

Programs such as these can support making your workplace more inclusive however, real change needs to start from the top. Setting the tone from leadership down will ensure internal alignment and create a strong, united team working together to drive real change. 

For more resources to help your team transition back to the office and maintain healthy minds at work, visit our dedicated Headway page or download our free resources:

  • Business Case for Healthy Minds at Work: Hard facts that show the positive financial impact of implementing mental health programs in the workplace.
  • Resource Roadmap: Links to Canadian organizations that specialize in supporting mental health in the workplace.
  • Employer Guide: An integrated and holistic way of thinking about workplace mental wellness.