On Professionalism in 2020

First, I’d like to note the state of some things:

  • I’m starting to write this in mid-June 2020.
  • Spikes in COVID-19 cases are happening as expected as the country reopens more. People are not social distancing, not using masks, and still actively protesting both of those as fake news.
  • The amount of societal unease feels like it is at an all-time high with the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-racism, and anti-police brutality. Protests are still going on.
  • Unemployment rates are high while layoffs and furloughs continue.
  • News cycles transition and overshadow each other between crisis to tragedy and back.

Among many others, and also including events and webinars, I’ve been reading articles and watching things things like:

That being said, there are a few things that I have not stopped repeating to myself and my team:

  • Empathy and emotional intelligence are more important than ever.
  • Never stop learning about how to handle these situations. Read, listen, and observe.
  • This is not “remote working” or “working from home.” This is forced isolation during a global pandemic.
  • Many people’s home situations may not be conducive to working from home, and that’s 100% ok. A few examples, but not limited to are:
    • Having to work while taking care of dependents: children, elderly, people with disabilities or illness, etc.
    • Homeschooling children.
    • Disruptive roommates, pets, or family.
    • Messy backgrounds or poor lighting.
    • Lack of safe-to-use laundry facilities.
    • Lack of private, quiet space to work.
    • Lack of proper ergonomic workspace.
    • Lack of air conditioning, heat, or a fast/reliable internet connection.
    • Loneliness.
  • Everyone handles stress differently.
    • Extroverts may turn into introverts, and vise-versa.
    • You don’t know who is more at risk or more prone to stress for anything, including health risk-wise or living situation-wise.
    • Laws are getting passed that revoke rights, while laws that protect rights are repealed.
    • Some people’s access to their affordable healthcare is at risk.
    • You don’t know who hasn’t seen their family members in months, who might not have been able to attend a funeral for loved one, who hasn’t been able to see their new niece or grandchild, etc.
    • People’s existing physical or mental health issues might be getting amplified.
  • Meetings that are given labels like “Company Update” or “All Staff Checkin” should have agendas. This increases in importance as the meeting is more short-notice. The fear of companies going out of business, furloughs, and layoffs is incredible. Do your staff a favor and save them the stress and anxiety by outlining what the meeting is about in an agenda.
  • Formal workplace attire, hairstyles, or anything else focused on appearance. If you’re doing your job, I don’t care if you’re still in yesterday’s pajamas!
  • The need for process and consistency is at an all-time high as well.
  • Culture, transparency, and preventing burnout & ensuring a healthy work-life ratio should be prioritized.

While I stress positivity, patience, and kindness for my team, I also expect everyone else to do the same, especially managers and leadership. You don’t know what’s going on in anyone else’s life, and you shouldn’t have to in order to treat them with positivity, patience, and kindness. On the flip side of that, you may not notice in yourself that you may be stressed and possibly more sensitive than “usual.” So– and I stress this stronglywithin reason:

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Don’t get offended if someone snaps at you.
  • Don’t take it personally if someone “disrespects” you.
  • Offer an empathetic ear. Offer resources.
  • Suggest the use of personal days / vacation time.
  • Reiterate that “mental health days” are just as important as “physically sick days.”
  • People will have to turn their cameras off, mute their microphones, or step away from video calls unexpectedly.
  • If you feel comfortable, talk to them on the side, or ask their manager/HR to check in on them. Make sure to approach it with empathy, not retribution, or expectations of apology.