The spread of COVID-19 (commonly called coronavirus) has created a humanitarian crisis across the globe. While this is first and foremost a medical emergency and a human tragedy for those directly affected, employees of global enterprises increasingly find that valued colleagues and friends have been impacted in an increasing number of countries. Multinational employees in places like China, South Korea, or even Singapore note that their daily lives have been dramatically altered, and the virus has now spread to a growing number of sites in the Middle East, Europe, North America, and South America as well. Many workers remain at home, factory floors are deserted, and schools are closed.
The social isolation of those under mandatory or voluntary quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak is conducive to tedium and depression in the absence of familiar forms of daily interaction with others. Job-related anxieties are common, with employees worrying about missed goals, project delays, and perhaps their own job security if the crisis is prolonged.
How can those who are in locations still relatively untouched by this crisis respond in a way that is both helpful and supportive?
From Isolation to Inclusion: What You Can Do
There are a number of steps that ordinary company employees can take to support valued colleagues who are experiencing the isolating effects of voluntary or enforced quarantine measures. Although the natural human response is to distance ourselves from the source of infection, physical isolation doesn’t need to prevent virtual outreach, and small acts can have a large impact.
Here are practical steps that employees with affected colleagues can take:
Inclusion on a global scale requires more than awareness of personal biases or dealing with local issues and concerns. At times it also requires us to look beyond our immediate surroundings and to offer understanding, friendship, and practical support to colleagues who are far away along with those who are nearby.
The instinctive human response in a time of medical quarantines is to close all borders and reinforce separation; however, this is a critical time to build bridges as well.
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Dr. Gundling has worked with numerous Fortune 500 firms and is a sought-after keynote speaker and executive coach. He has lived in Asia and Europe, including six years in Japan. Dr. Gundling holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from Stanford University; he also serves as a Lecturer in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of six books, the latest titled, Inclusive Leadership: From Awareness to Action.