Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard from a number of friends and employees about how hard it has been to focus on work because of the devastation wrought on Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Beyond their evident pain, one point that has stuck out to me is how anxious they all are about how it is affecting them at work. There are people who are nervous that their manager is looking over their shoulder while they’re checking the weather, and others who feel uncomfortable with how emotional they are in the storms’ wake relative to their co-workers. I’m here to disabuse you of these notions.
Everyone is in the same boat right now(excuse the pun in this circumstance), and I bet almost everyone you work with is thinking about these storms in one way or another. It would not be normal for them to be taking all of this in stride! Everyone is freaking out. Even those living nowhere near the storms. So, no, you aren’t the only one feeling this way. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes--any natural disaster, really--are always scary, and seeing storms of this size, in succession, is unprecedented. It is human nature to care about our family, neighbors, and friends, and we should all be deeply disturbed by the terrible footage coming out of Houston, Florida and the Caribbean--people’s entire lives, all of their possessions, even their homes, reduced to flotsam floating down a flooded freeway. In the face of so much devastation and destruction, for those of us who are so far away, the sad truth is that we are often largely powerless.
There is however so much work to be done. One thing you can do is donate to The Red Cross and other local charities, and if you have time and the means, you can even take a trip down to help out. If you cannot afford to make a donation, contact some of these charities and see what goods they need. You can then organize a collection in your office or building or neighborhood. I myself have been equally affected by the horrors I’ve seen on my television and have called multiple foundations to pledge donations.
Just because we feel powerless doesn’t mean we can’t help.
This is the essential point, and it should apply to our bosses, coworkers and companies too. In difficult times like these, we need support from those people closest to us. For many of us, the place where we spend the majority of our waking hours is in the office. I am sure your preoccupation with these catastrophic hurricanes will affect your productivity personally, and it might even affect your company’s sales. While no one likes to lose money, the marginal dip in productivity will be so negligible that in the face of your very real concern, I would genuinely hope that all levels of your company would be understanding. In fact, this is a good litmus test for determining whether or not you work for a decent company. If anyone gives you a hard time about being distracted in the next couple of days, explain yourself to them, and if they still don’t get it, well, I’d dust off my resume and start sending it around. In times like these, commissions and profits should be the least of our concerns, if your company cares more about their bottom line than how you’re feeling, then it may be time for a change. You can even look to see if you can get your company involved in the charity work you’re doing. You never know, maybe the whole office is feeling the same way you do and they just need someone to mobilize them. Share how you’re feeling and get active. I think you’ll be surprised by the response you get. We are together in our sadness, and we should work together to take action.