In 2020, one of the phrases we have become most accustomed to hearing is that we are experiencing “challenging, unprecedented times.” Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home and wearing masks while running errands have become second nature.
But that does not mean the “new normal” is any less challenging than it was in March. That is, in part, the inspiration behind the newly-formed Wellness Employee Resource Group (ERG). Spearheaded by Jodi Weisberg, manager of staff affairs at the Fox School and a board-certified Holistic Health Coach, the ERG group is a voluntary, employee-led group with the mission to create and to build community.
Throughout her ten years of experience of coaching, Weisberg observed many approaches for the essential human need for connection, how people manage stress and the ways in which they thrive.
“I have the opportunity to interact with all staff around both schools (the Fox School and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management),” says Weisberg. “Since going remote in March, many people have expressed a wide range of concerns, worries and challenges they are experiencing.”
The group is made up of members of the community across all levels and responsibilities—from deans, faculty, and staff from Fox and STHM. Weisberg connected with members of the group to ask them about why they joined.
“I found myself seeking out opportunities to connect with people at work, especially the forums that allowed for some chatting,” one member said. “I was really missing being around people, hearing about their lives, and most importantly, it really was uplifting to compare our quarantine and pandemic situations, and to help one another. On the days that I was able to connect with others in that way, they were happier days for me. So, when this group was offered, I figured it was the perfect way to connect with others to get to know one another and listen and help one another in small or big ways.”
With stay-at-home orders and then social distancing measures, we are all looking for ways to connect. While back-to-back Zoom meetings can feel arduous, the platform also provides a way for members of this community, and people everywhere, to be candid and open with one another.
After a handful of sessions, members are seeing the benefits of coming together with colleagues in a format where they feel comfortable and encouraged to express themselves. One member of the ERG says, “I’ve realized that I do not have to be the superhero all the time, and it is okay to admit that this intense remote work situation can take a slow toll on us. I know I need to take time for myself and not let work consume me, but that is still a work-in-progress.”
A common thread across the group is good listening, empathy and reflection, one member noted. After three meetings, members note that their group is receptive, thoughtful and empathetic as they get acquainted with one another.
“Because these conversations are often personal, we’ve gotten to know each other in new and different ways,” says Weisberg. “The connection to other staff and faculty, that they would not have connected with otherwise, has provided an appreciation for each other, their roles and, ultimately, each other’s humanity. Empathy, compassion, support and appreciation are qualities of community building and have definitely been experienced in these groups.”