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美国商界当前最大的风险,是一个心理学问题

美国商界当前最大的风险,是一个心理学问题

Maria Aspan 2020年10月09日
在疫情发生之前,员工的悲伤情绪每年给雇主带来的生产力损失就高达750亿美元。

在新冠疫情今春于纽约全面爆发之前,Electric的雇员就已经处于悲痛之中。

3月18日,这家科技初创公司关闭了其在曼哈顿市中心办公室,并要求其145名员工开始在家办公。数天之后,其中的一名员工不幸突然死亡。死因并非源于很快波及全体纽约市民的新冠病毒,而是意外的心脏问题。来自于布朗克斯的32岁高级客户支持技师詹姆士•斯德普尼曾希望在纽约市健身房关闭之前最后一次健身。他在办公室中总是带着微笑,热心,而且平易近人。他晕倒在了健身房,然后被紧急送往重症监护室,一天之后身亡。

Electric人事副总裁杰米•科克里在他去世数个月后说:“他是一个了不起的人。这是一个巨大的打击。”然后她还说:“一想到这里我就十分难过。”

对于斯德普尼的同事和其工友来说,其身亡的消息是一个出人意料的巨大打击,更令人感到难过的是,城市还有他们的日常生活和余生都被彻底打乱了。Electric的春季悲剧并没有到此结束,公司另一名雇员的弟弟因新冠疫情而去世。与此同时,乔治•弗洛伊德的死引燃了纽约街头的各种抗议,以及全国范围内对警察残忍行径和系统性种族歧视的痛斥,尤其是对职场黑人雇员歧视的痛斥。

科克里说:“在经历这种事情之后,人们怎么可能在清晨醒来之后还能若无其事地去工作?没法做到。”

然而,超过1.47亿的美国雇员却做到了,他们在今年一边承受着巨大的悲痛一边工作。我们不仅要哀悼到目前为止在美国因疫情死去的20万民众,以及隔离期间我们错过的临终告别和葬礼。我们对弗洛伊德和布里奥纳•泰勒以及所有因系统性种族歧视而受到伤害的人们表示哀思,而且悲叹于这个已经被美国黑人背负了如此长时间的痛楚。我们对因疫情而消失的数千万个工作以及导致的经济压力感到惋惜,我们还哀叹于众多“关键工作者”难以想象的抉择——是维持生计,还是拿自己的生命或其挚爱之人的生命做赌注。我们还哀悼于备受人们敬仰的公众英雄的去世,其中包括鲁斯•巴德•金斯伯格、约翰•路易斯和《黑豹》主演查德维克•博斯曼。我们对那些不是那么严重但依然十分重要的损失而感到遗憾,包括所有推迟的婚礼、取消的假日以及被打乱的儿童照看计划以及混乱的学校日程,这些让未来变得几乎无法规划。就像作者、职场咨询师詹妮弗•莫斯说的那样,我们在哀叹“过去生活的消逝”。

我们会在办公场所寄托我们的各种哀思——不管是在家远程办公的人士从厨房餐桌和卧室办公桌拨打Zoom电话会议、通过Slack聊天,还是在关键员工每天必须到场的杂货店、医院和学校。然而,很多专家警告说,绝大多数雇主还没有为管理这种哀思做好准备,或随之而来的压力、焦虑、倦怠以及广泛的生产力低下现象,这一现象已经横扫美国职场,而且将在未来多年成为美国劳动力挥之不去的阴影。

Grief.com的大卫•克斯勒说:“一直以来,职场对于悲伤情绪并没有很好的应对措施。企业通常并未意识到这一点,但它实际上会对财务造成巨大的打击。雇员生产力会受到丧亲的巨大影响,而现在丧亲到处可见。”克斯勒与伊丽莎白•库伯勒-罗斯合著了两本书,并独自撰写了《寻找意义:悲伤情绪的六个阶段》一书。

在疫情发生之前,据估计,雇员的悲伤情绪每年给雇主带来的生产力损失高达750亿美元,而雇员倦怠每年会产生高达1900亿美元的医疗成本。这些费用在今年过后必然会激增,因为据估计,至少有180万美国民众已经因新冠疫情失去了亲人。美国民众有超过半数的成年人因疫情期间的担忧和压力而出现了精神健康恶化现象,75%的雇员据称自己出现了工作倦怠情绪,40%的人尤其提到了疫情期间的倦怠问题。

如今,悲伤情绪心理专家,精神健康专业人士、医生和人力资源高管正尝试帮助美国企业更好地去应对其业务当前面临的最大风险,而且这个风险并不同于最终能够被疫苗控制的新冠疫情。他们警告说,今年的悲伤情绪和哀思的影响会在未来持续很长一段时间,而且对于雇主来说,他们赖以生存的全美劳动力都受到了创伤,因此有必要像应对其他业务风险一样直接应对这一影响。

IBM旗下Red Hat执行副总裁兼首席人员官德里萨•亚历山大说:“创伤、悲伤情绪和丧亲真的会影响生产力,以及人们专注的能力和韧劲。”

“悲上加悲”

今年的悲痛不仅广泛,而且出现了不平衡的叠加。新冠疫情对黑人、拉美人士以及土著人的伤害最大,他们在疫情中的死亡比例异常之高。“关键工作”岗位的很多低薪雇员都来自于这些群体,他们在疫情工作期间都面临着高风险环境。《华盛顿邮报》Ipsos调查称,到6月底,三分之一的美国黑人都有所熟知的人死于新冠肺炎,而美国白人的比例不到十分之一。

与此同时,在各种类型的工作和社会经济状况水平中,有色人种员工,尤其是黑人雇员,受到了系统性种族主义持续症状的影响,同时也会因为看着其他黑人因歧视而受伤或被杀感到极度痛苦。

肯特州立大学心理学教授及该校非洲裔美国人焦虑症研究项目主任安吉拉•尼尔•巴内特说:“这真的很复杂,这是复合型悲痛。先是新冠疫情,你的同事可能会因此病故,然后是种族歧视这种公共健康危机,而且总的来说,几乎每天都有黑人雇员因此而丧生。我们知道在这个孤独时期的悲上加悲会带来创伤以及非常强烈的焦虑感。从黑人和棕色人种的角度来看,大家都在问的一个问题是:‘接下来会怎么样?’”

专注于种族偏见对精神健康影响的心理学家、医学博士杰西卡•伊索姆说:“悲伤这个话题在我病患中的普遍性比我想象的更高。” 伊索姆在马萨诸塞州多彻斯特Codman Square医疗中心医治一个几乎都是黑人病患组成的群体。

她还表示:“今年充斥着无助和误导信息,这一点让人感到异常不安。一些人已经习惯了这些事情,也有一些人在挣扎,还有些人是刚刚意识到这些事情。”

在疫情期间受精神健康影响最为严重的另一类员工是医生、护士、护理人员、呼吸科专家,以及其他一直在一线照顾受新冠病毒感染患者、目睹其病人接连去世,并担忧其个人安全的医疗工作者。对于诸多在西海岸工作的医疗工作者来说,这种压力如今再次因近些年不断发生的野火而进一步加剧。

南加州医学博士、医师兼Permanente Medical Group执行医疗主任爱德华•埃里森说:“我们有必要为一大波PTSD(创伤后精神紧张性精神障碍)做好准备。它并非在离我们远去,而是需要我们在将来去应对。” 埃里森还是Permanente Federation联席首席执行官。

作为医疗人员精神健康资源改善的长期倡导者,埃里森及其团队在数年前便已实施了多个此类计划。在一些医院,那些因任何压力或焦虑而感到痛苦的医生们可以向其经过精神健康专业培训的员工寻求个人帮助。这些员工会穿着紫色或橙色的衬衣,来彰显自己可接受咨询。在新冠疫情爆发后,Kaiser Permanente医院扩充了其向雇员提供的跨学科心理支持团队,同时还提供其他福利,例如针对突然收到远程学习任务的员工,提供灵活的工作时间和儿童照顾补助。

如今,埃里森对他帮助监管的全国2.3万多名医师感到担忧——59%的美国医疗工作人员据称自疫情开始后都出现了精神健康下滑的问题,但他认为,没有人能够从2020年迅速、轻易地恢复过来。他希望,疫情能够让其雇员花更多的时间来改善其工作人员的精神状态。

他说:“在美国,总的来讲,我们需要减少人们寻求帮助或在谈论自己感受时所存在的羞耻感。”

一些大型雇主正在采取这方面的措施,并承认其所有员工可能需要更多的帮助来消化部分丧亲悲伤情绪,即便是那些在2020年依然健康、安全、在业的员工亦是如此。

Red Hat的亚历山大称:“我的儿子不会上高中念高三。他也不踢足球了,也不碰曲棍球了,而且目睹我最后一个孩子离开家给了我一种完全不同的感受。与他人相比,这种创伤并不在一个层面上。然而在某一天,令我感到非常难过的是,他无法感受到这些事情,而且我们这个家庭也无法感受到这些事情。”

她将这个看法融入了其Red Hat人力资源工作中,并帮助管理办公场所员工的悲伤情绪,该公司在全球共有1.6万名雇员。今年,亚历山大为其人力资源部门的员工提供了悲伤情绪培训资源,并为经理们提供了与悲伤情绪和丧亲讨论指引。她还推荐了创伤专家,对经理和员工进行宣讲,“以帮助人们意识到,即便自身出现了这类问题也不用太担心。”

在乔治•弗洛伊德去世之后,Red Hat还举办了多轮内部对话,倾听黑人雇员的反馈,然后就这些反馈以及公司为解决这些问题所采取的一些具体步骤,面向全体雇员进行了发布。公司还决定确立季度精神健康日,所有的员工在此期间都会放假。

亚历山大说:“当所有人都在上班时,压力在某种程度上会加剧,因为有人会落后。我们会一视同仁,并将采取一切必要的措施让自己变得更有韧劲。”

这些举措或多或少让Red Hat能够在大公司中脱颖而出。然而,这些大公司的领导者们长期以来在雇员的丧亲方面做的并不是很好。

莫斯说:“这对于大型机构来说真的很困难。那些做得非常好的公司都在充分地与员工交流,为经理提供培训来开展上述对话,提供同伴支持以及悲伤情绪支持小组,同时聘请众多外部机构进行帮助。”

她和其他专家以及高管还建议暂停绩效目标,并增加大多数公司寥寥数日的丧亲假(而且并不受到法律保护,俄勒冈州除外)。他们还称,那些希望能够改善其员工悲伤情绪应对举措并控制损失生产力成本的雇主,必须提供耐心、长期的支持。

南伊利诺伊大学爱德华兹维尔分校应用传播研究主攻悲伤情绪的教授乔瑟琳•蒂格鲁特称:“悲伤并不是一种即开即关的情绪,而是像波涛一样一波接着一波。死亡是永恒的,悲伤亦是如此。”

新常态

在Electric哀思詹姆士•斯特谱尼以及更多雇员在今春失去其挚爱之际,公司高管也表达了其对个人和对广泛社会的哀思之情。在一个全体人员虚拟会议中宣布斯特谱尼死亡消息以及向其雇员提供更多悲伤情绪咨询资源之后,Electric承诺以斯特谱尼的名义向IT培训奖学金每年捐赠1万美元。公司还把季度雇员表彰早午餐会冠以斯特谱尼的名字,并“通过这些举措让詹姆士能够长存于公司,让人们记住他”,科克里说道。“我们有必要发自内心地去尊重我们失去了一位挚友的事实。”

Electric还在今年剩余的几个月中设立了覆盖整个公司的月度精神健康日,将丧亲假从5天增至20天,并允许丧亲雇员在返工后采用灵活的工作日程。到目前为止,其他雇员已经能够重新分配那些休丧葬假员工的工作,然而,科克里说:“如果我们没有这么大的覆盖范围,我们就得请临时工。这也将成为我们作为一家企业需要承担的投资。”

在这些政策中,其中很多都有着高昂的成本,但Electric似乎并未受到影响,反而不断发展壮大。这家初创企业为包括Boxed和Resy在内的多家公司提供远程IT支持服务,但并未透露其财务信息。尽管如此,很多公司已经在疫情期间进行了裁员或强制休假,Electric自3月以来反而新聘请了30名美国雇员。科克里说,得益于隔离期间数字经济的崛起,公司今年在财务方面的表现异常不错。

然而,她和Electric的其他高管意识到,其员工在今年受到了巨大的伤害,而且由于这种悲伤会持续数年的时间,因此需要公司不断的支持。

Electric IT服务台高级经理、斯特谱尼的指导者加布里埃尔•西拉说:“自詹姆士去世之后,我们还没有回到办公室,也没有机会作为一个团队再次相聚。当前的局面十分怪异,我们希望一切最终都能回归常态。”

但他自己也知道,新冠疫情前的常态已不复存在。他说:“我曾在梦中回到了办公室并遇见了詹姆士。对于这个团队来说,翻过这一页需要一些时间。”(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

在新冠疫情今春于纽约全面爆发之前,Electric的雇员就已经处于悲痛之中。

3月18日,这家科技初创公司关闭了其在曼哈顿市中心办公室,并要求其145名员工开始在家办公。数天之后,其中的一名员工不幸突然死亡。死因并非源于很快波及全体纽约市民的新冠病毒,而是意外的心脏问题。来自于布朗克斯的32岁高级客户支持技师詹姆士•斯德普尼曾希望在纽约市健身房关闭之前最后一次健身。他在办公室中总是带着微笑,热心,而且平易近人。他晕倒在了健身房,然后被紧急送往重症监护室,一天之后身亡。

Electric人事副总裁杰米•科克里在他去世数个月后说:“他是一个了不起的人。这是一个巨大的打击。”然后她还说:“一想到这里我就十分难过。”

对于斯德普尼的同事和其工友来说,其身亡的消息是一个出人意料的巨大打击,更令人感到难过的是,城市还有他们的日常生活和余生都被彻底打乱了。Electric的春季悲剧并没有到此结束,公司另一名雇员的弟弟因新冠疫情而去世。与此同时,乔治•弗洛伊德的死引燃了纽约街头的各种抗议,以及全国范围内对警察残忍行径和系统性种族歧视的痛斥,尤其是对职场黑人雇员歧视的痛斥。

科克里说:“在经历这种事情之后,人们怎么可能在清晨醒来之后还能若无其事地去工作?没法做到。”

然而,超过1.47亿的美国雇员却做到了,他们在今年一边承受着巨大的悲痛一边工作。我们不仅要哀悼到目前为止在美国因疫情死去的20万民众,以及隔离期间我们错过的临终告别和葬礼。我们对弗洛伊德和布里奥纳•泰勒以及所有因系统性种族歧视而受到伤害的人们表示哀思,而且悲叹于这个已经被美国黑人背负了如此长时间的痛楚。我们对因疫情而消失的数千万个工作以及导致的经济压力感到惋惜,我们还哀叹于众多“关键工作者”难以想象的抉择——是维持生计,还是拿自己的生命或其挚爱之人的生命做赌注。我们还哀悼于备受人们敬仰的公众英雄的去世,其中包括鲁斯•巴德•金斯伯格、约翰•路易斯和《黑豹》主演查德维克•博斯曼。我们对那些不是那么严重但依然十分重要的损失而感到遗憾,包括所有推迟的婚礼、取消的假日以及被打乱的儿童照看计划以及混乱的学校日程,这些让未来变得几乎无法规划。就像作者、职场咨询师詹妮弗•莫斯说的那样,我们在哀叹“过去生活的消逝”。

我们会在办公场所寄托我们的各种哀思——不管是在家远程办公的人士从厨房餐桌和卧室办公桌拨打Zoom电话会议、通过Slack聊天,还是在关键员工每天必须到场的杂货店、医院和学校。然而,很多专家警告说,绝大多数雇主还没有为管理这种哀思做好准备,或随之而来的压力、焦虑、倦怠以及广泛的生产力低下现象,这一现象已经横扫美国职场,而且将在未来多年成为美国劳动力挥之不去的阴影。

Grief.com的大卫•克斯勒说:“一直以来,职场对于悲伤情绪并没有很好的应对措施。企业通常并未意识到这一点,但它实际上会对财务造成巨大的打击。雇员生产力会受到丧亲的巨大影响,而现在丧亲到处可见。”克斯勒与伊丽莎白•库伯勒-罗斯合著了两本书,并独自撰写了《寻找意义:悲伤情绪的六个阶段》一书。

在疫情发生之前,据估计,雇员的悲伤情绪每年给雇主带来的生产力损失高达750亿美元,而雇员倦怠每年会产生高达1900亿美元的医疗成本。这些费用在今年过后必然会激增,因为据估计,至少有180万美国民众已经因新冠疫情失去了亲人。美国民众有超过半数的成年人因疫情期间的担忧和压力而出现了精神健康恶化现象,75%的雇员据称自己出现了工作倦怠情绪,40%的人尤其提到了疫情期间的倦怠问题。

如今,悲伤情绪心理专家,精神健康专业人士、医生和人力资源高管正尝试帮助美国企业更好地去应对其业务当前面临的最大风险,而且这个风险并不同于最终能够被疫苗控制的新冠疫情。他们警告说,今年的悲伤情绪和哀思的影响会在未来持续很长一段时间,而且对于雇主来说,他们赖以生存的全美劳动力都受到了创伤,因此有必要像应对其他业务风险一样直接应对这一影响。

IBM旗下Red Hat执行副总裁兼首席人员官德里萨•亚历山大说:“创伤、悲伤情绪和丧亲真的会影响生产力,以及人们专注的能力和韧劲。”

“悲上加悲”

今年的悲痛不仅广泛,而且出现了不平衡的叠加。新冠疫情对黑人、拉美人士以及土著人的伤害最大,他们在疫情中的死亡比例异常之高。“关键工作”岗位的很多低薪雇员都来自于这些群体,他们在疫情工作期间都面临着高风险环境。《华盛顿邮报》Ipsos调查称,到6月底,三分之一的美国黑人都有所熟知的人死于新冠肺炎,而美国白人的比例不到十分之一。

与此同时,在各种类型的工作和社会经济状况水平中,有色人种员工,尤其是黑人雇员,受到了系统性种族主义持续症状的影响,同时也会因为看着其他黑人因歧视而受伤或被杀感到极度痛苦。

肯特州立大学心理学教授及该校非洲裔美国人焦虑症研究项目主任安吉拉•尼尔•巴内特说:“这真的很复杂,这是复合型悲痛。先是新冠疫情,你的同事可能会因此病故,然后是种族歧视这种公共健康危机,而且总的来说,几乎每天都有黑人雇员因此而丧生。我们知道在这个孤独时期的悲上加悲会带来创伤以及非常强烈的焦虑感。从黑人和棕色人种的角度来看,大家都在问的一个问题是:‘接下来会怎么样?’”

专注于种族偏见对精神健康影响的心理学家、医学博士杰西卡•伊索姆说:“悲伤这个话题在我病患中的普遍性比我想象的更高。” 伊索姆在马萨诸塞州多彻斯特Codman Square医疗中心医治一个几乎都是黑人病患组成的群体。

她还表示:“今年充斥着无助和误导信息,这一点让人感到异常不安。一些人已经习惯了这些事情,也有一些人在挣扎,还有些人是刚刚意识到这些事情。”

在疫情期间受精神健康影响最为严重的另一类员工是医生、护士、护理人员、呼吸科专家,以及其他一直在一线照顾受新冠病毒感染患者、目睹其病人接连去世,并担忧其个人安全的医疗工作者。对于诸多在西海岸工作的医疗工作者来说,这种压力如今再次因近些年不断发生的野火而进一步加剧。

南加州医学博士、医师兼Permanente Medical Group执行医疗主任爱德华•埃里森说:“我们有必要为一大波PTSD(创伤后精神紧张性精神障碍)做好准备。它并非在离我们远去,而是需要我们在将来去应对。” 埃里森还是Permanente Federation联席首席执行官。

作为医疗人员精神健康资源改善的长期倡导者,埃里森及其团队在数年前便已实施了多个此类计划。在一些医院,那些因任何压力或焦虑而感到痛苦的医生们可以向其经过精神健康专业培训的员工寻求个人帮助。这些员工会穿着紫色或橙色的衬衣,来彰显自己可接受咨询。在新冠疫情爆发后,Kaiser Permanente医院扩充了其向雇员提供的跨学科心理支持团队,同时还提供其他福利,例如针对突然收到远程学习任务的员工,提供灵活的工作时间和儿童照顾补助。

如今,埃里森对他帮助监管的全国2.3万多名医师感到担忧——59%的美国医疗工作人员据称自疫情开始后都出现了精神健康下滑的问题,但他认为,没有人能够从2020年迅速、轻易地恢复过来。他希望,疫情能够让其雇员花更多的时间来改善其工作人员的精神状态。

他说:“在美国,总的来讲,我们需要减少人们寻求帮助或在谈论自己感受时所存在的羞耻感。”

一些大型雇主正在采取这方面的措施,并承认其所有员工可能需要更多的帮助来消化部分丧亲悲伤情绪,即便是那些在2020年依然健康、安全、在业的员工亦是如此。

Red Hat的亚历山大称:“我的儿子不会上高中念高三。他也不踢足球了,也不碰曲棍球了,而且目睹我最后一个孩子离开家给了我一种完全不同的感受。与他人相比,这种创伤并不在一个层面上。然而在某一天,令我感到非常难过的是,他无法感受到这些事情,而且我们这个家庭也无法感受到这些事情。”

她将这个看法融入了其Red Hat人力资源工作中,并帮助管理办公场所员工的悲伤情绪,该公司在全球共有1.6万名雇员。今年,亚历山大为其人力资源部门的员工提供了悲伤情绪培训资源,并为经理们提供了与悲伤情绪和丧亲讨论指引。她还推荐了创伤专家,对经理和员工进行宣讲,“以帮助人们意识到,即便自身出现了这类问题也不用太担心。”

在乔治•弗洛伊德去世之后,Red Hat还举办了多轮内部对话,倾听黑人雇员的反馈,然后就这些反馈以及公司为解决这些问题所采取的一些具体步骤,面向全体雇员进行了发布。公司还决定确立季度精神健康日,所有的员工在此期间都会放假。

亚历山大说:“当所有人都在上班时,压力在某种程度上会加剧,因为有人会落后。我们会一视同仁,并将采取一切必要的措施让自己变得更有韧劲。”

这些举措或多或少让Red Hat能够在大公司中脱颖而出。然而,这些大公司的领导者们长期以来在雇员的丧亲方面做的并不是很好。

莫斯说:“这对于大型机构来说真的很困难。那些做得非常好的公司都在充分地与员工交流,为经理提供培训来开展上述对话,提供同伴支持以及悲伤情绪支持小组,同时聘请众多外部机构进行帮助。”

她和其他专家以及高管还建议暂停绩效目标,并增加大多数公司寥寥数日的丧亲假(而且并不受到法律保护,俄勒冈州除外)。他们还称,那些希望能够改善其员工悲伤情绪应对举措并控制损失生产力成本的雇主,必须提供耐心、长期的支持。

南伊利诺伊大学爱德华兹维尔分校应用传播研究主攻悲伤情绪的教授乔瑟琳•蒂格鲁特称:“悲伤并不是一种即开即关的情绪,而是像波涛一样一波接着一波。死亡是永恒的,悲伤亦是如此。”

新常态

在Electric哀思詹姆士•斯特谱尼以及更多雇员在今春失去其挚爱之际,公司高管也表达了其对个人和对广泛社会的哀思之情。在一个全体人员虚拟会议中宣布斯特谱尼死亡消息以及向其雇员提供更多悲伤情绪咨询资源之后,Electric承诺以斯特谱尼的名义向IT培训奖学金每年捐赠1万美元。公司还把季度雇员表彰早午餐会冠以斯特谱尼的名字,并“通过这些举措让詹姆士能够长存于公司,让人们记住他”,科克里说道。“我们有必要发自内心地去尊重我们失去了一位挚友的事实。”

Electric还在今年剩余的几个月中设立了覆盖整个公司的月度精神健康日,将丧亲假从5天增至20天,并允许丧亲雇员在返工后采用灵活的工作日程。到目前为止,其他雇员已经能够重新分配那些休丧葬假员工的工作,然而,科克里说:“如果我们没有这么大的覆盖范围,我们就得请临时工。这也将成为我们作为一家企业需要承担的投资。”

在这些政策中,其中很多都有着高昂的成本,但Electric似乎并未受到影响,反而不断发展壮大。这家初创企业为包括Boxed和Resy在内的多家公司提供远程IT支持服务,但并未透露其财务信息。尽管如此,很多公司已经在疫情期间进行了裁员或强制休假,Electric自3月以来反而新聘请了30名美国雇员。科克里说,得益于隔离期间数字经济的崛起,公司今年在财务方面的表现异常不错。

然而,她和Electric的其他高管意识到,其员工在今年受到了巨大的伤害,而且由于这种悲伤会持续数年的时间,因此需要公司不断的支持。

Electric IT服务台高级经理、斯特谱尼的指导者加布里埃尔•西拉说:“自詹姆士去世之后,我们还没有回到办公室,也没有机会作为一个团队再次相聚。当前的局面十分怪异,我们希望一切最终都能回归常态。”

但他自己也知道,新冠疫情前的常态已不复存在。他说:“我曾在梦中回到了办公室并遇见了詹姆士。对于这个团队来说,翻过这一页需要一些时间。”(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

By the time the pandemic fully swept over New York City this spring, Electric's employees were already in mourning.

On March 18, days after the tech startup closed its downtown Manhattan offices and asked its 145 workers to start doing their jobs from home, one of their number died suddenly and tragically—not from the coronavirus that was swiftly becoming real to New Yorkers, but from an unexpected heart problem. James Stepney, a 32-year-old senior customer-support technician from the Bronx, with a kind smile and an easygoing warmth around the office, had wanted to get in one last workout before New York’s gyms closed. He collapsed at the gym and was rushed to the ICU, where he died a little over a day later.

“He was an incredible person. It was a huge hit,” Jamie Coakley, Electric’s vice president of people, says months after his death. Then her voice catches: “I’m going to get emotional here.”

For Stepney’s colleagues and work friends, the news of his death was an unexpected gut-punch—all the more devastating for coming as their city, their routines, and the rest of their lives were upended. Nor was it the last of the spring’s tragedies for Electric, where another employee soon lost her brother to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the death of George Floyd set off protests through New York streets and national waves of pain over police brutality and systemic racism, especially for the company’s Black employees.

“How do you wake up in the morning and pretend you can come to work after experiencing something like that?” says Coakley. “You can’t.”

And yet more than 147 million U.S. employees are doing so, coming to work under a crushing burden of grief this year. We’re mourning the 200,000 people who have now died in the United States from COVID-19, and the deathbeds and funerals we’ve missed during quarantine. We’re mourning Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all those hurt by systemic racism, in a grief that has been long carried by Black Americans. We’re mourning tens of millions of lost jobs and the financial stresses that the pandemic has created—along with the unthinkable choices for many “essential workers” about whether keeping their livelihood is worth risking their lives or the lives of their loved ones. We’re mourning the deaths of beloved public heroes, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis and Black Pantherstar Chadwick Boseman. We’re mourning less fatal but still meaningful losses, too—all the postponed weddings and canceled vacations and upended childcare plans and chaotic school schedules that have made the future nearly impossible to plan. As author and workplace consultant Jennifer Moss puts it, we're mourning "the death of our previous lives."

And we are doing all of this mourning at the office—whether in the Zoom calls and Slack chats conducted from the kitchen tables and bedroom desks of those who can work from home, or in the grocery stores and hospitals and schools where essential workers are expected to be physically present every day. Yet most employers aren’t prepared to manage any of this grief, many experts warn—or the corresponding stress, anxiety, burnout, and widespread lack of productivity that is already sweeping across corporate America, and that will overshadow the workforce for years to come.

“Grief is not anything we’ve ever tackled well in the workplace. Businesses don’t usually recognize it, but it actually has a huge financial impact,” says David Kessler of Grief.com, who coauthored two books with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and wrote Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. “Employee productivity is so impacted by loss, and loss is everywhere right now.”

Long before the pandemic, grief was estimated to cost employers up to $75 billion every year in lost productivity, while employee burnout caused up to $190 billion in health care costs every year. Those expenses are certain to skyrocket after this year, in which at least 1.8 million Americans are estimated to have already lost a relative to COVID-19. More than half of adults in the United States have seen their mental health worsen due to worry and stress during the pandemic, and 75% of employees are reporting burnout at work, with 40% reporting burnout specifically during the pandemic.

Now grief experts, mental-health professionals, physicians, and human resources executives are trying to get corporate America better prepared to handle the biggest risk in business right now—one that, unlike COVID-19, can’t eventually be contained by a vaccine. The effects of this year’s grief and mourning will linger far into the future, they warn—and for employers who are relying on a nationally traumatized workforce, this fallout needs to be addressed as directly as any other business risk.

“Trauma and grief and loss really impact productivity, and people’s ability to concentrate and to be resilient,” says DeLisa Alexander, an executive vice president and chief people officer for IBM’s Red Hat. “This is not life as usual—this is life in a crisis.”

“Grief upon grief upon grief”

This year’s grief, though widespread, has accumulated unevenly. COVID-19 has taken the biggest toll on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people, who have disproportionately died in the pandemic. These communities also make up many of the “essential” and often low-wage workers who have faced hazardous conditions on the job during the pandemic. By late June, one in three Black Americans knew someone who had died from COVID-19, compared to less than one in 10 white Americans, according to a Washington Post–Ipsos poll.

At the same time, across all types of jobs and levels of socioeconomic status, workers of color and especially Black employees have been affected by the ongoing symptoms of systemic racism—and the mental anguish of watching other Black people hurt and killed by it.

“It’s really complex, compound grief. It’s COVID, where you might be losing coworkers, and then racism as a public health crisis, where collectively your Black employees are losing people on almost a daily basis,” says Angela Neal-Barnett, a professor of psychology at Kent State University and the director of its Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders among African-Americans. “We know that grief upon grief upon grief, in this time of isolation, brings about trauma and very, very high anxiety. And from a Black and brown perspective, the question that everyone is asking is, ‘What next?’”

For Jessica Isom, MD, a psychiatrist who focuses on the impact of racial bias in mental health and who works with a mostly Black patient population at Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Mass., “Grief as a conversation is more common than I think it should be among my patients.

“It’s been such a year of powerlessness and misinformation, which is so destabilizing,” she adds. “There are some people who are used to those things and are still struggling—and then there are those for whom it’s very novel.”

Another group of workers that has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s mental-health burden are the physicians, nurses, paramedics, respiratory therapists, and other health care workers who have been on the front lines of caring for those infected from COVID-19—and who have seen their patients die in droves, while also worrying about their personal safety. For many health care workers on the West Coast, that stress is now compounded, again, by the wildfires that have become a recurring disaster in recent years.

“We need to be prepared for a wave of PTSD,” says Edward M. Ellison, MD, a physician and executive medical director of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group as well as co-CEO of the Permanente Federation. “This is not in the rearview mirror. We’re going to be dealing with this for time to come.”

A longtime advocate for better mental wellness resources for health care workers, Ellison and his team years ago implemented several such programs. In some hospitals, doctors struggling with any sort of stress or anxiety can seek support in person from staff who are specially trained in mental wellness, who wear purple or orange shirts to signal that they are available for counseling. In the wake of COVID, Kaiser Permanente hospitals increased the multidisciplinary psychological support teams available to employees—while also providing other benefits, like flexible hours and childcare credit to employees suddenly faced with remote learning responsibilities.

Today Ellison is immediately concerned about the more than 23,000 physicians he helps oversee nationally—and the 59% of U.S. health care workers who report a decline in mental health since the pandemic's onset—but he cautions that no one will be recovering from 2020 quickly or easily. He hopes that the pandemic will persuade other employers to spend more time prioritizing their workers’ mental wellness.

“In this country in general, we need to reduce the stigma about seeking help or talking about your feelings,” he says.

Some large employers are taking steps to do just that—and to acknowledge that all of their workers may need more help processing some sort of loss, even those who have remained healthy and safe and employed throughout 2020.

“My son's not going to high school for senior year. He’s not playing football, he’s not playing lacrosse, and it’s a very different experience of seeing my last kid out of the house,” says Red Hat’s Alexander. “It’s not the same level of trauma as someone else. But some days, it just makes me really sad that he can't experience these things and that, as a family, we can't experience these things.”

She’s bringing that perspective to her role overseeing HR for Red Hat’s 16,000 global employees—and helping them manage their grief at the office. This year, Alexander provided grief training resources for her human resources staff as well as discussion guides related to grief and loss for managers. She also brought in a trauma expert to speak to managers and workers, “to help people understand that it’s okay not to be okay.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Red Hat also held a series of internal conversations to listen to the feedback of its Black employees, then to communicate that feedback, and some of the concrete steps Red Hat is taking to address it, to all employees. The company is also instituting quarterly mental-health days—when all employees are off at the same time.

“When everyone else is not off, it just creates more stress in some cases, because you’re behind,” Alexander says. “We’re all taking a collective breath, and doing whatever it is we need to do to make ourselves more resilient.”

These steps make Red Hat relatively rare among big companies, where leaders have long struggled to respond well to employee bereavement.

“It’s really difficult for a large organization,” says Moss. “The ones that are doing really good work are overcommunicating, creating training for managers to have these conversations, providing peer support and grief support groups, and enlisting a lot of external agencies to help.”

She and other experts and executives also recommend suspending performance targets and expanding bereavement leave beyond the scant few days offered by most employers (and not guaranteed by law, outside of Oregon). They also cautioned that employers who want to improve their response to employee grief—and contain the costs of lost productivity—will have to commit to patient and long-term support.

“Grief is not a start-and-stop situation. It comes in waves,” says Jocelyn DeGroot, who studies grief as a professor of applied communication studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “Death is forever, and your grief is forever.”

The new normal

As Electric mourned James Stepney and more of its employees lost loved ones this spring, its senior executives grieved both personally and widely. After announcing Stepney's death in an all-hands virtual meeting and increasing the grief-counseling resources it offered employees, Electric committed to donating $10,000 annually to an IT training scholarship in his name. The company is also renaming its quarterly employee-recognition brunch in his honor and “building in those monuments that will allow us to create long-lasting space for James in the company, and preserve his memory,” Coakley says. “We need to really honor the fact that we lost a friend.”

Electric also instituted monthly all-company mental-health days for the rest of the year, expanded its bereavement leave from five to 20 days, and started allowing bereaved employees to have flexible work schedules after they return to the job. So far, other employees have been able to redistribute the work from those taking time off to grieve, but “if we didn’t have that coverage, we would have hired a temp,” says Coakley. “That would just be an investment that we would take on as a business.”

Many of these policies are expensive—but Electric seems to be thriving regardless. The startup, which provides remote IT support services to companies including Boxed and Resy, doesn’t disclose financial information. But while many companies have laid off or furloughed workers during the pandemic, Electric has actually hired more than 30 new U.S. employees since March. Coakley says that thanks to the booming digital economy under quarantine, the company has had “an excellent year,” financially.

Still, she and the rest of Electric’s executives realize that this year has fundamentally hurt its workers—and that they will need support to continue grieving for years to come.

“We have not been back to the office, and we haven’t had the chance to be together as a group since James died,” says Gabriel Sierra, a senior IT service desk manager at Electric and Stepney’s supervisor. “We’re in a weird situation, where you hope that things will go back to normal eventually.”

But as he knows, the pre-COVID normal no longer exists. “I’ve had dreams about being back in the office and seeing James,” he says. “It’s going to take some time for the team to have closure.”

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