Diversity and innovation are essential for the future. That is why inclusion becomes so important for companies. Everyone is entitled to a workplace where job satisfaction is also an important goal.

We have all seen it at the beginning of the corona crisis: the countless calls via online platforms, where children, partners and pets were part of the background. We all got a glimpse into the lives of our colleagues and how diverse they actually are.

There was no lack of flexibility, not even in my office. If someone lost access to the internet because work was in progress, we understood that, and the meeting went ahead without that colleague. A report would be drawn up afterwards, so that everyone could be informed about what is happening. If it was noisy in the background, due to the presence of siblings who could no longer get rid of their energy at school, nobody made a comment about it. And when, during a meeting, a client had to help his daughter start up her iPad, we laughed about it and continued the conversation afterwards.

We learned to take into account someone else’s personal circumstances. That may seem obvious, but it certainly was not before corona. Our sometimes rigid way of working was challenged, and we were forced to be creative and learn to understand each other’s world. Let that be precisely what inclusion is about.

We have learned that our colleagues, just like us, are just people who are always trying to reconcile their professional and personal lives. Whereas before, most companies set up the rules that every employee had to comply with, it now has become painfully clear that this was never obvious to everyone.

For single parents, late meetings are often not a gift, for people who commute for more than three hours, very early meetings are neither. The ability to work from home is an advantage for people who have the space in their home environment to isolate and focus on work. Those who share a small space with many others are more likely to prefer a physical workplace elsewhere.

Flexibility is central in an inclusive corporate culture. One size fits all does not work in a super-diverse society in 2020. Therefore, it is often the vulnerable groups in our society who are struggling with the fixed structures in a company. And it is also those people who rarely dare to bring this up, for fear of a conflict or simply afraid to lose their job.

But corona has taught us that things can also be different. Suddenly, every company was forced to question rules. Whereas previously it was often accused that the rules could not be changed for just a few individuals, now there was no other choice. Inclusion requires that differences between employees to be recognized and that those differences should not hinder them. Everyone has the right to a workplace where not only optimal performance, but also job satisfaction is among the most important goals.

To do so, we must dare to engage in conversations that may make us feel uncomfortable, but of which I hope employers will now really listen to and act upon. There is nothing to lose in having constructive conversations that can make people feel better in the workplace.

The so-called new normal can very easily become a pre-corona story. We can retrieve the old structures, reimplement them and get everyone to conform to them. Or we can really learn something from this crisis and come out stronger and more inclusive. With a view to a future in which diversity and innovation are essential, I hope we choose the latter.