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How companies can better support their AAPI talent returning to the office

Many companies plan to return to the office next year, either full-time or through hybrid models. But to ensure a smooth transition for employees, new initiatives need to be put in place to ensure they feel safe and supported.

According to Bain, a management consulting firm, Asian workers surveyed in the United States, Canada, France and four other countries feel more excluded in the workplace than any other demographic group, and they often lack representation. in management positions.

Bain’s report “The Fabric of Belonging” found that only 16% of Asian men and 20% of Asian women felt included at work. This is due to issues of acceptance, assimilation, and stereotyping, including the belief that the AAPI community is the “model minority” and more successful than other communities of color.

Manjusha P. Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of the AAPI Equity Alliance, says increased inclusion efforts, employee resource groups and an encouraging company culture can help AAPI employees feel better supported in the workplace.

Social discrimination affects morale at work

According to Kulkarni, concerns about workplace safety and acceptance actually start before you set foot in the office.

“We are increasing our interactions now, maybe at the dry cleaners when we get coffee, or a donut or a bagel…all of these different places, unfortunately, have potential opportunities for hate and for things like denial of service or harassment verbal,” Kulkarni told CNBC Make It. “And I think that’s part of the reason why a lot of employees may be reluctant to return to work.”

Kulkarni says having anti-discrimination protocols in place is the first step.

“It’s important to have policies and protocols in place, in the event of discrimination, that are accessible and truly offer employees the opportunity to voice concerns and report incidents,” she says. “HR is not enough because sometimes they are only there to serve the organization and not the staff or the employees.”

The power of inclusive programming

Kulkarni also says that having programming in place that empowers AAPI talent and employees from diverse communities can help with the transition back to the office.

“It’s important that employees are heard. Whether that’s through employee resource groups where people have the opportunity to be themselves, or through affinity groups where they can discuss these issues with like-minded employees or employees who share their experience as far as race, gender identity, LGBTQ status, etc.”

During the covid-19 pandemic, violence against the AAPI community has increased dramatically, with over 9,000 Asian hate incidents reported from March 2020 to June 2021. According to Kulkarni, situations like these can cause racial trauma that affects not only productivity, but also physical and mental health.

For this reason, Kulkarni believes companies should also incorporate mental health days into their culture.

“We did a survey with the American Psychologist Association, which found that of people who reported to us that they had experienced racism and discrimination, more than 20% said they had experienced symptoms of racial trauma. is very similar to PTSD, with symptoms like anxiety and depression, and can have physiological symptoms like high blood pressure.”

For employees who want to support their AAPI colleagues, Kulkarni says opening up to conversation, lending a listening ear and offering support has a huge impact.

“You just have to go up to someone and say, ‘Hey, I heard about what happened. I just want to say I’m really sorry. I’m sure it’s impacting you. What can I do to help you?, ‘go far.’

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