Diversity & Inclusion – How to manage through lockdown

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Our approach to Diversity and Inclusion has been embedded in the culture of Vextrix from when we started up 11 years ago – we employ a diverse workforce who we encourage to challenge the way we work so that we can continuously improve.

Being in the advantageous position of employing such a diverse workforce means we have always encouraged the sharing of innovative ideas and best practice solutions. Smaller working groups encourage self-development and support colleagues to improve themselves, their teams, and the company as a whole.

But this has recently been challenged. From the outset of the lockdown, we announced it was ‘business as usual’. We were to continue working on projects, albeit from a lockdown position, we were to provide the same high level of service to our clients, albeit, over the new found Zoom calls we have all become so accustomed to, and we were to talk to each other, no more quick catch ups in the kitchen area, but more formalised, scheduled discussions.

So it wasn’t ‘usual’ but it was the new situation we found ourselves in. All the team now found themselves working from home, some who embraced the situation, others who found it more difficult, juggling personal circumstances. Who becomes the children’s teacher? Which room in the house now becomes the working office?

Back before Covid-19 was even a term, we employed an external consultant, Steve Rossiter, to work with the team to develop our employee engagement. Confidential, one-to-one meetings were held with employees giving them the opportunity to discuss ideas for improvement, any issues they may have and any personal issues they would like to develop on. The findings were communicated back to the Board of Directors and a roadmap for improvement is in development.

Steve states, “The position we found ourselves in, came at a time when we were already reviewing engagement with our team. Very quickly, we re-examined our methods of communication to ensure all staff could continue to carry out their roles and felt fully engaged.”

Steve explains the steps we took to future proof the company throughout these unprecedented times;

Communication

We talk. A lot! More than ever, it was important to engage with staff to understand their personal positions, how they could continue to work throughout lockdown and most importantly, ensure all the team could speak out if they were struggling.

To keep the team motivated and engaged, the Board deliver regular and planned updates to the whole team and also to smaller working groups to deliver company updates and plans for the future. This was important to eliminate any confusion and anxiety of what could have been an uncertain time and to ensure everyone received the same consistent information.

Support

Our mental health first aider, Michelle Cottam, has continued to share her advice even more so since lockdown. Michelle, Principal Designer and CDM Advisor, has shared information and ideas of how best to manage your working day when working from home, encouraging staff to take their one piece of exercise a day and assessing their working environment.

Regular one to one calls with the team have now become the norm. Larger group Zoom calls aren’t for everyone and not always the platform for people to discuss issues and to ask questions. The Board believe that by engaging with the team on a more personal level, will empower them to be the best they can be.

We also felt as a business we could support the team to cover some expenses. Due to our Covid-19 working policy stating that staff should refrain from using public transport where possible, support has been given to cover expenses for parking locally at our head office in Liverpool.

Remote working

Flexible working has always been the norm at Vextrix but we soon found ourselves in a situation where all staff were to set up their day to day office at home. Support was given to provide the right equipment so that everyone could continue to support their clients.

Individuals were consulted with to understand external pressures they were facing. A recent study of more than 35,000 workers with spouses or live-in partners in a variety of professional sectors found that 89 percent of women and 70 percent of men are part of a dual-career couple (DCC)*. At Vextrix this is a common situation for our team and with schools and general child care unavailable, some team members found themselves working flexible/split days to look after their children and home school which was encouraged by the Board.

More recently, we have opened up our head office to allow those who were unable to work from home, to come in to the office and use an allocated desk space. A booking system was developed on our shared drive to allow visibility of who and how many people were looking to come into the office on a certain day and restrict numbers to a safe and manageable number.

Summary

We’re still adjusting to new ways of working to ensure everyone feels engaged and fully inclusive in our team. We continue to communicate and update everyone on a regular basis and find new ways of working to support the team in the new working climate we are currently experiencing.

*McKinsey & Company September 12th 2019