Unconscious Bias in COVID Times


COVID-19 may well turn out to be the biggest story of our modern-day life experience, it may be years before we comprehend the full ramifications of COVID-19 on the workplace and in society. It has brought new challenges, magnified pre-existing inequalities, and exacerbated the mental health crisis. What we do now will affect the lives of millions of people in the future.

Economic inequalities have grown at an alarming rate due to the pandemic, causing greater damage to underprivileged populations. The industries that have been worst hit by the pandemic including hospitality, retail, and leisure have some of the lowest paid workforces. Impacting low-income households, women, and people of colour worst of all. Rendering many people unemployed and unable to support their basic needs.

McKinsey has revealed that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s. Globally women have lower wages, hold less secure jobs, and fall prey to societal bias. The existing structure of the workforce doesn’t support women and is forcing them out of their jobs through redundancies, stresses of trying to juggle work and increased burdens of unpaid care. Gender perceptions have been formed over a long time and are ingrained into society, they have huge implications on a woman’s role and status in the workplace.

During the pandemic women’s voices have been lost, 100% of the members of the daily Covid-19 decision task force were men, if women had also been on the daily task force would that have affected policy decisions?

Societal and economic systems across the world expose all kinds of flaws in the way we work — especially around remote working. Perhaps for the first time, colleagues and associates are getting a sneak peek inside many of our homes, leaving us feeling exposed. On a weekly Zoom call a split-second judgement of someone’s living arrangement, style, or a child needing their parents’ attention in the background is unconscious bias.

Bias and stereotypes are a natural consequence of how our brains attempt to process information. They are present in our daily routines, without us even realising. It’s for that reason we need to understand and have awareness of them. We are all influenced from a young age by our upbringing, the people we spend our time with, our surroundings, what we read, watch and listen to. Biases are heightened during times of uncertainty and stress and can determine how we live and work, how we behave, how we treat others, how we allocate our time, and how we manage challenges.

If we are going to live and work in a fairer and more human-led world, unconscious bias needs to be recognised and managed – regardless of the changing landscape. If it is not addressed it can affect a person’s work/life balance, mental and physical health, and confidence in their long-term career prospects.

Let’s not allow COVID-19 to leave a bitter taste in our mouths, instead, let’s use it to define a better way to work and care for one another. The energy and trust we build from creating human connections are what makes successful teams. Be open, understanding, and embrace vulnerability as it helps to build a culture of wellbeing, inclusion, and belonging.

It’s important for leaders to demonstrate empathy and provide fair opportunities for teams and individuals to learn and grow. Regardless of someone’s personal circumstances, gender, colour, everyone deserves an equal chance to excel in life and work. If time is taken to really care about your workforce, it is not just good for people, but good for business, it has the power to be transformational