Common challenges

Lessons from Past Pandemics, Part 2: Finding Perspective

April 22, 2020

Many employees are suddenly working from home while essential workers continue to go into the workplace, leading to profound disruption of normal routines. Consequently, mental health and wellness are important topics many employers should be thinking about.

Employees working at home are dealing with taking care of children and family members, financial struggles, technical challenges, and may even be starting to feel like the walls are closing in. This not only puts a strain on their ability to do their job, but also adds to mental health illness and decreases mental well-being. Essential and frontline workers are dealing with additional wellness issues that may be beyond our ability to explain. There are no perfect solutions, but as the pandemic continues, could a little perspective help us cope?

“You can learn as much about the history from reading about the present as you can vice versa, that is learning about the present through history, which is what I do for a living.”
—Ken Burns

We’ve heard sayings like this time and again about the importance of learning from history. It’s true, though, that in times of peace and security, we easily forget what it feels like to be in a crisis. This forgetfulness hurts us when crises inevitably arise again: the successes and failures of the past help us make better choices about our uncertain future.

Learning from the past is easier with a guide, so we’ve put together a few video lessons about past global outbreaks and what they teach us for today.

In the second video of our series, we look at one of the world’s largest companies, Alibaba Group, and how its founder Jack Ma found perspective during the SARS epidemic of 2003. We then provide you with a short, simple exercise that you can use to gain perspective during the current pandemic.




The end of this video describes a great technique you can start using in your own life. Share it with your team, too, as one method to help cope with what’s still to come. You can also find a variety of other techniques and guides online, such as the Canadian Mental Health Association‘s helpful guide for improving mental health from their British Columbia division. Everyone is different, so what works for you may not help someone else, but offering your team support begins the conversation.

While it can be harder to spot if you are working from home, you should be prepared to respond if you identify someone is experiencing a mental health incident. Some of the common causes of mental health issues or lowered mental well-being are dealing with workplace stress and managing financial stress, two sources of stress that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened for almost everyone. Make sure you are having both open and constant communication with your team.

Stay tuned and subscribe to our blog for more of these videos and other valuable resources. We’ll keep you informed as updates occur.


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