Maggie Stamets is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out builtbygirls.com.
Remote offices are becoming a bit more normal for everyone, and while staying home in many states is worth the technical hiccups and distractions for the safety of everyone, it has highlighted some vast disparities across racial and socioeconomic lines.
The ability to work from home itself is a privilege with only 20% of Black Americans and 16% of Hispanics reporting the ability to stay safely at home. For those who can work from home, factors such as a lack of childcare, poor WiFi, noisy homes, shared computers, and the code switching required to appear “professional” on the near-constant video calls can affect productivity and lead to burnout.
All of these factors and others can greatly affect how well — or not well — working or learning from home is going for you or your co-workers. You also may find that you’re privileged to not have these disadvantages working against you.
In that case, it’s important to be aware of that privilege and look for areas where you can be an ally, especially in professional or academic spaces. (If ally-ship and privilege aren’t areas you’re well-versed in, check out this Career Bound video hosted by BUILT BY GIRLS explaining these concepts further. )
Here are a few ways you can make offices more equitable — remote or not:
Introduce yourself with pronouns
It may seem small, but just by saying “Hi I’m Maggie and I use she/her pronouns,” you’ve created an inclusive environment for everyone regardless of their gender.
It also lets everyone know that you’re someone who is committed to doing what you can to make it a welcoming workplace or class and are actively trying to be an ally.
Speak up and step back
When you see something in a meeting, on a chat, or in a smaller group that doesn’t sit well with you, be brave and be specific in saying what is inappropriate.
However, be aware of when you should step back and let someone else speak on their lived experience. A huge part of being an ally is making space and then letting others fill it.
Help others break into the conversation
It can be difficult in an office or class discussion to get a word in.
However, if you notice someone who is continuously being talked over, ignored, or their ideas are just repeated by someone else, give them a shout out: “Hey, I think Jackie has something to say.”
Managers and educators are all doing their best right now, but they may miss when this is happening, so stepping up will help make everyone’s ideas be heard.
Be aware of cyberbullying
It’s no secret that the anonymity of the internet can embolden people to say wild and sometimes hurtful things.
If you notice someone on your team, in your office, or on a company-wide group Slack being directly picked on or bullied in a side chat or video call, you have a few options. You can stand up to the bully in that moment or confront them less publicly in a direct message.
However, it’s easy online for a bully to just shut down a conversation. You may need to escalate the behavior to HR or your manager. They can then talk to the bully directly and take necessary actions, like turning off the chat feature.
This isn’t an easy time for anyone and adding the stress of being picked on can be extremely detrimental, so be sure to check in on whoever is being picked on. Ask them what they need or if they want you to step in. Sometimes the best way to counteract bullying is with good old-fashioned kindness.
While we all wait to re-enter the professional or schooling world in person, you have the power to make this isolating, work-from-home environment a little less difficult for your co-workers. Ally-ship takes practice but if you keep this advice and your own privilege in mind while interacting with co-workers, you’ll be able to make a real difference.
Read more information and tips in our Advice section