On January 21, 2020, the US announced the first case of coronavirus from an American who had recently traveled to China and so commenced the early indicators of the end of life as we knew it.
As of this writing, the world has experienced 164 million cases and 3.4 million deaths. In the last year, 34% of small businesses in the US have closed forever. Pre-pandemic, small businesses employed 47% of the nation’s private workforce.
That is a lot of heavy-hitting experience to take in. Every company that is still in business is busy working on its plans to carry on from here.
If you’re trying to figure out how to get back to normal, I think you’re missing the mark. Now is not the time to transition BACK. It is the time to evolve FORWARD.
In the coming days and weeks, those companies that thrive will likely have embraced the challenges faced by their workforce head-on. Employees who remained on the front lines during the pandemic are weary. Those who worked from home? Also weary. During the crisis, people demonstrated their willingness and ability to rise above, carry on, and get the job done at whatever cost.
Much of that cost was personal. It was emotional. It was psychological. It was draining. People cobbled together some form of getting by that included work, school, and daycare – some did all simultaneously. Fueled by fear and adrenalin, employees managed to learn the fundamentals of new technology while shushing small children and dogs.
Don’t let the curated video conference background fool you. There is a mental health crisis bubbling under the surface for much of the world’s workforce today. While most people are grateful to still be employed, personal care and mental wellness can’t be put on the back burner forever. In an article written for the New York Times, Adam Grant described the current state of the mental health fog enveloping the country as “languishing” – that sense of stagnation and emptiness, of feeling aimless and joyless. If flourishing is the peak of well-being and depression is the valley, languishing is the middle ground – functional but muddled. Maybe best described by the Simpson’s – “Meh.”
I think the path forward is paved with hope and candor. Businesses that make intentional space for candid, honest communication and supply real tools in service of the mental health of their employees have the best shot at retaining a workforce that feels heard, safe, and engaged.
So, slow the roll on trying to get back to anywhere – now is firmly the time to create a pathway to something new.