Why you should celebrate Black History Month at work and how to get it right

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Health Assured team

28 September 2021

Research shows that 45% of Black employees, 26% East Asian, 23% of South Asia and 24% of Mixed-Race workers have experienced racism at work¹. Racism can be detrimental to the mental health of your employees. Black History Month is the ideal time to act against racism and support your BAME (Black, Asian and Minority ethnic) colleagues in the workplace.

Black History Month starts on Friday the 1st of October. So we’re urging businesses to let this serve as a reminder that changes still need to occur at work. Read on to find a range of tips to help you become an anti-racist organisation.

Education

Understanding racism in the workplace is the first step. Individuals must take the time to understand the impact racism has on employees in and outside of work. By providing educational materials to staff members, you can help them to understand racism and its impact.

Use statistics like these in your educational materials to support your efforts. Almost half of Black (52%), East Asian (49%) and South Asian (49%) employees said feelings of not fitting in at work contributed to their poor mental health¹. These kinds of shocking figures can shine a light on issues that have previously gone unnoticed.

Lead with acceptance

Line managers and business leaders have a responsibility to create an anti-racist culture in the workplace. Big changes in an organisation always tend to happen from the top down.

Line managers have a responsibility to check in with BAME employees. Ask about how they are feeling emotionally and see if there’s any support you can provide. It doesn’t take much, but this conversation can help workers feel accepted in the workplace.

Signpost to support

Evidence shows that people who are Black or from a Minority Ethnic background are more likely to feel pressure to change their behaviour to fit in. Employees are often left feeling isolated, exhausted and anxious as a result. Mental health problems are then more likely to occur too.

This can have a detrimental impact on day-to-day life, including in the workplace. So make sure employees know where they can get help and support should they need it. Here are some ways you can support employees struggling:

  • Line manager support
  • HR support
  • An Employee Assistance Programme
  • External charity helplines

Look out for colleagues

Keep an eye on how your colleagues are feeling. You can support BAME colleagues in the workplace by listening with empathy. Check-in with others daily and listen non-judgementally to what they have to say. Be open to your colleagues and offer an ear in times of need. Connecting with others can ease the burden of worried thoughts and emotions².

Race equality training

Providing race equality training to employees will help to create an anti-racist culture in the workplace. The training will raise awareness around racism and highlight the importance of the issue. Employees will be more aware and more informed should any problems occur in the future.

References

¹ Citymha.org.uk. 2021. Mental Health And Race at Work. [online] Available at: <https://citymha.org.uk/docs/CMHMentalHealthAndRaceAtWorkReport.pdf> [Accessed 23 September 2021].  

² Seppala, E., 2014. Connectedness & Health: The Science of Social Connection - The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. [online] The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Available at: <http://ccare.stanford.edu/uncategorized/connectedness-health-the-science-of-social-connection-infographic/> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

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