This week I have been taken aback by the amount of people in my network and friendship circles that are isolating due to Covid here in the UK. I hear its frustrating, tough and most people can’t wait for it to be over, understandably.
This got me thinking about what isolation means, and if there can possibly be any benefits to it.
The act of separating someone or something; the state of being separate (Oxford Dictionary)
Isolation is often looked at as challenging in relation to our mental health and well-being as we have all learned over the last 2 years that it can lead to adverse health consequences such as loneliness, reduced immune function and sleeplessness.
However, I want to explore the possible positive effects of isolation, in relation to how we develop and grow by using it as a tool to focus, understand, act and improve.
Could there be a positive side to isolation?
Anyone that has been to a fitness class or developed a new gym routine will have come across isolation exercises. Isolation exercises in weight training tend to involve just one joint and a limited variety of muscles. The benefits of isolation in this sense are clear to understand. By targeting just one muscle group at a time (and neglecting the rest), you can train your body to focus on good form and technique while at the same time building muscle.
You are focused on isolating that muscle, and by doing so, can give it the attention it needs to prevent pain and injury by having a heightened awareness of its niggles and issues. I was recently prescribed isolation exercises after the birth of my second child by a physiotherapist to stabilize my muscles and joints and was amazed by how quickly I started to feel a difference in other areas just by spending time understanding a single muscle group I had previously neglected - it was hard work though!
So…what has this got to do with equality, diversity and inclusion?
Well, if the body is your organisation, and your muscle groups are your staff members’ protected characteristics, the muscles will have different levels of strength (or equity) based on how much work you have done on them in the past.
Therefore, to increase success of EDI initiatives, each protected characteristic should be looked at as an individual issue initially to be fully understood (not withstanding the need to also develop an understanding of intersectionality), and prioritised based on it’s overall impact on the health, well-being and success of the organisation.
To improve overall success in EDI initiatives, we need to intentionally understand, prioritise, and apply attention, time and resource to individual areas in order to start to see improvements in EDI.
By taking a more generalist approach to this work from the start, trying to tackle all protected characteristics under the Equality Act (2010) at the same time, and treating them all in the same way, we are unlikely to feel the impacts and results of our hard work.
Isolating EDI issues rather than tackling them all together helps us make progress quicker.
By having a deep and focused understanding of the equity and inclusion issues in our organisations, we can put in measures to strengthen those areas generating most impact first, this will make the work on other EDI issues easier as there will be a stronger foundation, and a well nurtured technique, which can then be applied to the other areas of progress you wish to make on your journey.