Coronavirus Has Shown Us How to Create More Supportive Workplaces

Written by
Jon Kauffman

Purpose Inc. podcast episode 1.7: Linda Seabrook, Futures Without Violence

Takeaway: “Employees who feel supported and they feel like they’re a part of something of their work, of the company’s mission, they’re much happier and they thrive.”

In episode 1.7 of the “Purpose, Inc.,” podcast, host Michael Young talks to Linda Seabrook, general counsel and director of workplace safety and equity at Futures Without Violence. The two talk about domestic violence during the pandemic—and the larger lessons we can learn about creating more supportive workplaces.

At Futures Without Violence, Linda designs state-of-the-art training to improve organizational responses to gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination. Her work also helps companies promote a workplace culture that values safety, diversity, and equity, especially for vulnerable workers.  

COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have caused calls to domestic violence services to soar—and the calls aren’t just coming from people stuck in their homes with abusers, but also workplace supervisors reporting signs of abuse they notice on Zoom calls.

If there’s a silver lining to this surge, Linda says, it’s that many businesses have learned their workplace is a safe space for people living in abusive homes. “The public and employers are realizing we bring our whole selves to work, and we do so with whatever family obligations and experiences of violence that we may be experiencing,” she says.

More broadly, this pandemic has shown all of us the true value of low-wage essential workers. “Workers are seeing the power that they have, because they know that they’re the ones who keep these machines running,” she says. “If workers can come together and align themselves with consumers to demand basic workplace protection supports and rights, I think it makes for a healthier economy overall.”

Creating a supportive workplace

How do we do that? Linda offers a few key suggestions:

  • It begins with leadership. “Leadership needs to demonstrate that they want to create that supportive workplace culture,” she says, and connect values to mission or project.
  • DEI officers or departments can focus too much on metrics. Linda is pleased to see the rise of Chief People Officers who see employees as the most critical stakeholder of the business and value a diversity of viewpoints and experiences.
  • Anonymous workplace climate surveys can be a useful tool to ascertain employee perceptions and unearth failures management may not see.
  • Futures Without Violence often recommends companies form Workplace Values Teams whose members represent all levels of the organization and a diversity of life experiences.

“In order to achieve true cultural change, you have to create that shared understanding of values,” Linda concludes. “Workers need to know that they have a stake in creating and enforcing those values for the benefit of everyone.”

Listen to Michael’s conversation with Linda here:

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