Returning to Work in the Midst of National Chaos


As I write this article, the land of the free and the home of the brave is crying out for peace and order. Every news channel and social media outlet is broadcasting and posting videos of riots, assaults, and destruction in cities throughout our nation. We are consuming images that are violent and graphic in nature or watching interviews of pained, desperate citizens who want change.

The public display of disturbance, disruption and turmoil on the streets throughout America is a sharp contrast to the controlled, virtual or phased-opening COVID-19 business environments. USA Main street is what we all have in common; where we operate, make a living, and work together. So, how do we return to work in the midst of this unrest?

Here are recommendations that may help:

  1. Be Ready to Return. Truly evaluate your mental fitness to return to work. If you make an honest assessment that you can not be productive because of the external distractions and can not interact because of your emotional state, then stay at home. Explain to your manager or Human Resource Representative you need time to mend and restore mentally.
  2. Say How You Feel. If someone asks you, “Are you ok? How are you doing? ” share how you are feeling. Open up to peers and leaders, whom you trust, and tell them what’s going on inside. Do not mistake silence for strength. Your self-expression displays a professional maturity, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence that will help guide safe, productive dialogue.
  3. Don’t Isolate Yourself. Employees often feel their only accountability is getting the work done and avoiding interaction, visibility, and communication. This is the time to show your unique self. By humanizing yourself more to your peers and colleagues, you are doing your small part of eradicating racism and injustice in the marketplace.
  4. Don’t Pick a Fight. If there are co-workers that do not share your point of view, respectfully distance yourself from them. Understand most people make changes over time after they hear the testimonies, witness the strength, and experience the love from those they once polarized in disagreement. Just continue to walk your walk peacefully and at a distance.
  5. Know Your Rights. Everyone is not going to see things justly. Familiarize yourself with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law was passed to ensure workplace equality and prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment on the basis of the color, religion, gender, national origin, etc. Also, if you are faced with mental health issues needing accommodation or protected time off, review your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  6. Ask for Company Training. Education and Awareness is critical in this journey to end racism. You are not equipped to sustain these necessary, difficult conversations on your own. Request company wide training on Diversity and Inclusion. Training and education on this topic will assist in all employee’s return to work and establish a culture of awareness.