Wife and I paid our respects to a friend last night, who lost his son to COVID impacts.
This whole COVID stuff is having interesting impacts on people. The “fluff” of everyday life is taking a backseat, and people are checking their priorities. The need for a double americano just doesn’t seem all that important. People are managing without awesome haircuts, and plenty of women are getting by without their nails done. The concept of “essential” is really hitting home.
I’m not dismissing the joy of those specific luxuries, at all. There are people that make a living providing luxuries, and frankly, provide a larger benefit to the world than any hedge fund manager ever would. I won’t go into the whole wants / needs / rights conversation – blogs can’t convey the context required for it.
Instead I’ll take a different look here and focus on loss. In the past 4 months, I’ve had 2 employees pass, one lost his dad, and 2 hockey buddies lose their adult children. There’s no right way to mourn, and no consistent way either. You could lose two uncles and one hits more than another for a billion reasons. The stages of grief may apply, but the time between them is unique to the relationship.
When the 2 staff passed, it was within a week of each other. One numbed the impact of the other. Was a reminder of the humanity behind the work, and that each person matters. When my employee lost his dad, I didn’t even think to ask what he needed, I just said “take what you need”. Some prefer to focus on work, others to reflect. When my hockey pal’s children passed, that was a reminder to look at home and what I have here. No parent should ever say goodbye to their child. There’s a level of empathy here that’s made me take pause.
I’m an advocate for mental health in the workplace. It’s easy to see someone with the flu who shouldn’t be at work. Someone who’s suffering from mental health issues is a whole lot harder to see, but the impacts are similar. Their productivity suffers (often for longer periods) and their situation can certainly impact others. Taking pills generally wont fix it, just hide the symptoms. It’s a much longer road to health.
I know when I lost my uncle a few years ago, I took a few days off to reflect and tried to go back to work. I was not at all ready for that, and lasted about an hour before I just got up, told my boss I needed more time, and took another week to sort some stuff out. No questions asked, no guilt trips. Someone replacing me at 25% of my rate of work would have been better than me sitting there staring blankly at the wall.
My wife’s a teacher. There are a significant number of kids who find refuge at school. Not everyone has an ideal home – it wouldn’t be ideal then would it? Same with people who work, or who socialize. They may do it to avoid another situation. There’s a spike in domestic violence, and people are struggling left right and center. It feels like a boiling pot, ready to overspill.
To cycle back, this COVID stuff is making me re-think my approach to life and work. Corners are a bit less sharp. Making sure the foundational stuff is taken care of first, so that people feel value in their work lives. The bells and whistles will come when they come. For now, it’s more important that we treat each other with humanity and compassion, and realize that our neighbour needs it as much as we do.