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Mental health tops London D&I agenda during lockdown

The Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent five months of home working has pushed London market firms to prioritise mental wellbeing in their D&I efforts, according to research by Dive In

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The Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent five months of home working has pushed London market firms to prioritise mental wellbeing in their D&I efforts, according to research.

A survey of London market HR professionals conducted by Dive In ahead of its annual festival in September found that 67% of respondents had made significant changes to their D&I practices during the UK lockdown, which began on 23 March.

Just over half of respondents said their firm had made long-term changes to their D&I initiatives to cater to concerns under the “new normal” of Covid-19 restrictions.

Since the beginning of lockdown, 48% of participants in the survey said the area in which their D&I initiatives had seen the biggest change was mental health, followed by family and care responsibilities at 27%.

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Similarly, when asked which areas of D&I ought to be addressed first post-lockdown, 30% prioritised mental health.

Some 21% opted for family and care responsibilities as the challenges of working from home, often while caring for children off school and/or older relatives, brought these issues to the fore.

One respondent added: “Employees have missed the routine interaction with colleagues in the office during lockdown, and this has been exacerbated for those who live by themselves.

“Working continuously remotely is more tiring; there is extended screen time and virtual meetings, without the true ability to see people face to face.”

On caring responsibilities, respondents highlighted the pressure on parents in particular during lockdown.

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Some hinted that despite schools planning to re-open in the new academic year, the issue may not be resolved that soon as parents fear putting their children back into school in case of a second wave of the virus.

“I am considering home-schooling my young child instead of sending him to school in September,” one participant said.

“I know others are considering this too. This means longer periods of time, likely well into 2021.”

Race and ethnicity

While unrelated to the lockdown, the ongoing discourse brought to light by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the US and the UK had also highlighted a need to address race and ethnicity in the London market for many companies.

The survey found that 30% of respondents felt race and ethnicity should be a focus of D&I initiatives post-lockdown.

In supplementary comments to the data, one respondent said: “The recent BLM movement has ignited a lot of passion to drive change in this space.”

Another added: “Tragic events in the US highlighted that we need to take about race more openly.”

The research also revealed a variety of ways in which firms had altered their D&I programmes to cater to the new challenges of lockdown.

Working from home

While three-quarters (76%) of respondents said they had not furloughed any staff during the lockdown, more than half of those whose companies had furloughed staff said they had implemented D&I projects to specifically support those staff.

Many company initiatives also focused on helping staff to be more comfortable, healthy and safe while working from home, looking at wellbeing, “ergonomics at home” and providing seminars on resilience.

One respondent said their firm had updated its carers policy with increased paid carers’ leave, while several mentioned allowing more flexible hours to help staff balance work with family duties.

Another said their company had introduced a BLM working group to look at race and ethnicity.

On the social aspect, respondents said they had introduced “TEDTalk Thursdays” to discuss various topics, virtual and virtual book clubs for staff.

This article was first published on the Insurance Insider website on 7 August 2020

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