Written by Stacey Buttel, Career Facilitator at Goodwill Columbus
I had the pleasure of conducting a panel discussion on the topic of “Strategies to Support Mental Health and Resilience in the Workplace.” The final question that I asked the panel was “what is one piece of advice to share regarding supporting mental health in the workplace?” I was expecting answers such as “talk to a trusted person if you feel as though you are struggling” or “ask for help.” Instead, my friend and colleague stated simply “be kind.” He further explained his point by saying “…. the relief you get when everyone is kind to you. If you can count on the people that you work with being supportive, that is one thing that will help get you through.” His response really made me stop and think. It’s something so simple that can be done that could easily affect the day of another.
His comment really made me think about how I have been approaching work lately. Of the many side effects of working from home, I have found one that particularly gives me pause. I have found that I have become so guilty of getting caught up on processes, deadlines, getting work done right, completing tasks, hitting goals, etc. that I feel that I am forgetting the human side of work – relationships. I feel that working from home has changed me in a way and I have lost a very important part of being at work. I am referring to the informal conversations and interactions that we often have when we occupied the same workspace. I am noticing that working from home has transformed me of some version of a robot focused on output and getting things done. I guess that is because I do not have any “regular” interactions with my colleagues other than the occasional virtual conference that is focused on tasks at hand.
Recently, I have been going back into the office more frequently. We are all returning slowly and are scheduled on different days to minimize the amount of staff being in the building. The days that I am there around my colleagues are so refreshing. The informal conversations and small chats that flow are energizing. The simple sharing of the frustrations you feel, the celebrations you had, the fear of the unknown….that is the form of kindness that I miss that we need to constantly inject into our daily work lives in this new way of working. I am going to challenge myself to make sure that I am kind and express empathy to my colleagues every day. Whether that be a short text to say good morning, or to check-in to see how someone is doing, or a question during a virtual meeting inquiring about something they did over the weekend. We can’t lose this human side of work. We can’t lose this kindness and empathy. I know that we are all doing our best, and sometimes our best looks different day by day. Some days are overwhelming with loneliness, uncertainty, and stress, some days are less so. We need to remember that all of us are dealing with this pandemic in very different ways. If we remember this and keep being kind and empathetic to one another, we can get through this.