This was originally published on LinkedIn but is also published here for posterity.
LinkedIn is a professional place. We’re all trying to put our best face forward in hopes of seeming trustworthy, knowledgeable, and ultimately employable. But, please allow me to be a bit more human and vulnerable for just a moment. I’ll explain why at the end.
Today, I simply had enough. The news, the worry, the concern for my friends, family, and coworkers, the madness of our national leaders. It completely overwhelmed me. I was unable to work. Was I sick in the traditional sense? No. Was I able to contribute to my teams in any valuable way? No.
So, I took a sick day and my teams adjusted because they care about me in the same way I care about them, as humans first and coworkers second. It’s a fundamental level of care and concern that we all deserve from those around us.
I am privileged enough to work in an organization where this is not only possible but fully supported. Part of that is based in our value that “We are all in this together” and part of it is because I work in a mission-driven organization trying to dramatically improve the future of all human knowledge. But, every worker in our society should be able to experience this, including the migrant farm worker, the part-time single parent working retail, and anyone who trades their labor for money.
Of course, I know we don’t live in that world. But, we could. If we wanted it bad enough, we absolutely could. Would it stop the coronavirus? No. Would it help people to do what’s right for their health and the health of their community? Of course. We obviously aren’t there yet but in a few months when this crisis hopefully recedes, I’d like to see this country and this world think more deeply about how workers are treated, not just in salary or benefits or work environment but as human beings.
So, I’ll answer the question at the top about why I thought this was important to share in this frank and open way.
First, only by talking about mental health can we ever remove its stigma and begin to make a change in the way we treat it. If you want to know my story, I’ll tell it freely in hopes that it helps you or someone you care about. Maybe along the way, some recruiter sees this and decides not to contact me. I don’t care. If you contact me because you need help, I’ll have gotten way more out of this than a recruiter form email.
Second, many (most) of the people I know can work from home comfortably because of the nature of our work and the privileges we enjoy. Trapped in my head today, this thought alone was a way for me to get outside myself and begin to approach some compassion and empathy. Now, look, I’m no saint. I’m not going to expose myself needlessly to crowds of people because I think love can stop a virus. But, if I’m sharing my thoughts with my elected officials or giving money to the people who know how to handle this situation, empathy and compassion need to be present.
This is why I wanted to share this post on LinkedIn. In some ways, this crisis has impacted our workplaces in ways many of us never thought possible. If LinkedIn is a place to discuss this part of life we call work, then this messy human side is part of it.
This public health crisis and the isolation it requires demands that we elevate our compassion and empathy. That means we need it in our work and with our neighbors. We need it for those we love and for those we’ve yet to meet. If we make it through this without embracing that mandate, we will have merely survived.
Take care of yourselves and each other.