Photo by Kaique Rocha
You’ve seen the well-meaning slogans that have appeared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — Isolated But Not Alone – #allalonetogether – Together We Can Overcome – Let’s Be Human Together.
And the likely more apt — We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm.
But our current storm is one of much more than just the tragedies of COVID-19. It’s senseless loss of human lives like Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It’s perpetuating racism, domestic abuse and brutality. It’s chronic loneliness and ever-increasing anxiety.
Some very ugly truths about our country’s collective psyche have manifested and been exacerbated by recent circumstances.
Yet, we have an opportunity here. Consider this – Americans spend approximately one third of their lives working – that’s 90,000 hours working over a lifetime. As business owners and managers, we have the opportunity, ability and responsibility to create positive influence and change.
Acknowledging Perpetuating Problems in the Professional Space
We train employees to push aside their personal feelings and outside experiences in professional environments – unintentionally or not.
We are debilitated by our fear of privacy infractions and a desire to avoid uncomfortableness.
We are seemingly oblivious to larger societal injustices in professional environments and create climates of acceptance as a result.
We stigmatize loneliness, intensifying ever-increasing cycles of despair.
We censure anxiety, even while it’s become the predominant mental illness in America.
Accepting Our Mutuality
To create positive change, we must start with acknowledging and holding ourselves accountable to the influential role we play in the lives of our employees.
Our lives and the world that surrounds us are undeniably interconnected. Just as our personal lives affect how we do our jobs, how we are treated at work, how we interact with our co-workers and managers and how satisfied we are at work directly impacts what happens and how we feel when we go home.
As noted by Dr. Will Rutland of Yale School of Medicine, the interconnection of our world is so strong that a chance meeting of two small animals in a remote wilderness on the other side of the world likely resulted in the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings across the globe and bringing even the most robust of economies to a screeching halt. He writes:
As this chapter of shared fear, solitude and loss is written, the question we will have to confront, is how do we write the next chapter of our collective story? Are we willing, now, to acknowledge our mutuality? Are we willing to concede that our behaviors “here” can profoundly impact conditions “there”? Do we have the courage to consider this mutuality as we weigh our individual thoughts and actions?
I suspect the happiness of our story’s end will depend, in part, on our answers to these questions. COVID-19 has demanded our attention to mutuality, if only as the basis for our current solitude. The true measure of its impact, however, will not be its effect on financial markets, systems of governance, structures of healthcare, or even the individual lives and routines that it has devastated. Rather, the measure of its impact will be the permanence of its ability to catch our attention and turn our thoughts to the role we each play in an undeniably connected world.
Accepting A Larger Responsibility
As business owners and managers, we have a social responsibility that extends beyond company doors. Because how we conduct ourselves, how we run our businesses, how we treat our workforce and the kinds of workplace cultures we create directly impact the lives of our employees and ultimately how they experience and interact with the rest of the world.
Read more about how you can start influencing and creating positive change in your workplace today in a recent Harvard Business Review article.
About Jared Pope
Jared is Founder and CEO of Work Shield, the only start-to-finish workplace harassment and discrimination reporting, investigation and resolution solution that protects employees, employers and cultures at the same time. Jared practiced law and ran a practice focused on human resources, ERISA, benefits and employment matters for over 15 years and is a knowledgeable resource on workplace culture and harassment and discrimination issues.
Connect with him on LinkedIn.