Pandemic impact statements: Addressing workplace inequities to facilitate an equitable recovery

András Tilcsik, Rotman School of Management; Angelina Grigoryeva, University of Toronto Scarborough

"The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and intensified workplace inequalities, disproportionately affecting women and racialized workers. Pandemic impact statements have been widely adopted by organizations to contextualize employee performance, aiming to foster fairer evaluations and a more equitable pandemic recovery. However, the effectiveness of these statements in addressing inequities remains uncertain. One concern is that these statements might draw attention to caregiving roles and thus reinforce stereotypes that harm women and racialized workers in caregiver roles. Additionally, employees from marginalized groups may be less likely to use these statements, potentially amplifying—rather than ameliorating—existing inequities.

 Our collaboration—involving a management scholar, a sociologist, an organic chemist, and trainees at three levels—will assess the effect of pandemic impact statements on workplace inequities and provide evidence-based best practices for organizations considering their use. We seek to understand if these statements contribute to an equitable recovery or exacerbate disparities and how decision-makers can implement more equitable employee performance evaluations during future pandemics.

In the project’s first year, we will assemble archival datasets, create participant databases, run pilots, and conduct a multidisciplinary literature review. These steps will strengthen our applications for SSHRC Insight and Connection Grants. Ultimately, this project will generate knowledge about workplace interventions for equitable pandemic recovery. These outcomes will benefit researchers studying pandemic recovery and workplace inequalities, managers seeking to improve performance reviews, and university administrators formulating tenure and promotion policies. The project will also significantly enhance the research and collaboration skills of our postdoctoral, doctoral, and undergraduate trainees."