Written by: Anuska Roy
The Coronavirus outbreak situated workplaces worldwide in an unprecedented state of remote working without physical interactions. Workplaces were transformed into Zoom meeting rooms and conferences and communications became dependant on online hosting platforms.
For many workplaces, this switch to an online mode of communication and transference of information led to a disconnect between integral aspects of inclusivity in terms of language, demeanour and the overall praxis of implementing policies.
The sudden switch to communication dispersion through online modes led to a huge amount of confusion. Consequently, confusion with regards to following inclusive policies for all members of the workforce also increased. Corporate sectors and HR professionals can take up some important steps towards building an inclusive and diverse workforce. These policies are useful for the queer community starting off as employees. Furthermore, these can be implemented while conducting their work through an online mode.
For members belonging to the LGBTQIAP+ community, inclusivity can have ramifications through various actions. Consequently, given the importance of June as the Pride month, it is doubly important now for workplaces to take accountability for queer employees within their workforce.
Pronouns are the most basic aspect of respectability that workplaces can give to their employees. A welcoming and inclusive atmosphere wherein non-cis individuals must feel comfortable in their own identities is of importance.
Moreover, workplaces can cause be a huge trigger to non-cis persons who feel the need to constrict to heteronormative ideals of gender. Information dissemination through pronoun identification in mails, internal communications and so on can help them feel comfortable and included in the workplace as an integral and valued member of the team.
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It is important to acknowledge that queerness is a deeply personal identity for some that they may not wish to put out on display. Consequently, invasive questioning along the lines of asking employees about their romantic history, current attachments or even their process of coming to terms with their identity can cause massive triggers for them. Furthermore, workplaces must remember to respect boundaries for queer persons just as much as they respect boundaries for cis-heterosexual persons.
Workplace culture can often forge an identity for their queer employees as existing to provide free information to allies. It is essential to remember that queer identities must not be seen as a module for study or research. Moreover, their time and efforts are not to be taken for granted by colleagues or supervisors. Many queer individuals have often faced the brunt of educating their colleagues.
This education could have been learnt by them through simple Google searches. However, this responsibility always falls on queer employees. Queer identities must not be pigeon-holed into study courses that are available for free.
Queer friendly policies for remote workplaces can range from implementing support programs for queer employees or even participating in capacity building workshops. Moreover, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown have placed many young queer individuals starting out on their first job stuck in homophobic homes. Consequently, having support programs for queer employees can help them gain access to necessary support groups and solidarity which they are missing in their own homes.
The development of a workplace is not solely measured by the technological or materialistic advances that one might have made. A diverse and inclusive work environment is of notable importance. A focus on nurturing space of comfort for all their employees goes a long way in building an embracing space of work. Hence, gender-neutral language is an integral aspect. Sensitive terminology for parental leave, menstruation and pronoun identification can help queer employees feel welcome in the workplaces they are a part of.
The remote mode of working has not been an easy switch for many. For some queer individuals, a lockdown meant being encaged with their family members. Some of who are not accepting of their identities.
Hence, for them, a virtual space of acceptance and support is the only platform where they feel safe. In such situations, workplaces must cater to creating a safe space for their queer employees. Consequently, having access to queer-friendly workspaces and policies not only makes queer employees feel safe and welcome. Moreover, it also lets them know that they can reach out to their supervisors.
It is difficult to build these safe spaces without the help of any advisories or dedicated bodies that can supervise the structuring of the same. While legal boundaries can help workplaces achieve surface-level policy implementations, an advisory that works for inclusivity and compliance can curate strategies that help each workplace stay true to its culture while being inclusive to their employees. This Pride Month, workplaces must focus on building their culture to inculcate values that traverse beyond rainbow capitalism.
Ungender Insights is the product of our learning from advisory work at Ungender. Our team specializes in advising workplaces on workplace diversity and inclusion. Write to us at email@example.com to understand how we can partner with your organization to build a more inclusive workplace.