Published: July 27, 2020 By


CESR Workplace during Crisis Panel Graphic

For the past three weeks CESR has been hosting a series of conversations about how the pandemic and the racial justice movement have been shaping workplace procedures and policies. We have explored how employers can support employees’ mental health needs during times of crisis, how the role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments is changing as companies re envision their workplaces in terms of worker safety, and how businesses acknowledgement of diversity in their workforce can lead to greater engagement and help build equity.

We have learned a lot from our expert speakers, and from the thoughtful questions asked by attendees. If you missed the series you can watch each of the panels at the links below: 

Here are a few takeaways from some of the panelists who participated in this series:

Andrea Miller, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Delta Dental of Colorado

The one statement that keeps playing in my mind was a comment Russell Cropanzano made, “Anxiety collapses into depression.” This statement has led me to revisit things like the decline in our intranet engagement, water cooler talks, etc. Is it because people are busy, is it the summer, or are people feeling even more down and stressed out? Probably a combination of all three. I guess my point is to keep reinforcing those resources, dream up some new things and connect with people to see if they are okay. I’ve checked in with lots of team members since hearing that. I think it helps. 

Russell Cropanzano, Chair of the Organizational Leadership and Information Analytics Division / Chair of the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Division: 

  • The pandemic is a unique crisis, as it is unfolding over a number of months. People are afraid of being sick, of course, but there is also secondary damage to well-being – job loss, lack of social contact, loss in earnings, etc. It’s the reverberating effects of the pandemic that worry me the most. This could be with us for many years.
  • We know from research that supportive organizations can benefit people. It’s important to have regular communication and to maintain social networks. We discussed some ways to do that. However, as many Americans receive their health care through their jobs, this won’t reach many people. They are further hampered by the lack of a uniform and consistent national policy.
  • People’s personal situation is important. Those who are older are at greater risk. Those engaged in elder care or who are living in multi-generational households could also experience a great deal of anxiety.
  • Don’t underestimate the social effects. Being home effaces people’s support networks. Of course, if they lose their job, then this is even worse. 

Sabrina Volpone, Assistant Professor, Organizational, Leadership, and Information Analytics PhD Program Director

The topics that we talked about in the panel are universal - BLM, COVID, leading in a pandemic … they are impacting each and every one of us as workers in ways that we have not experienced work and life before. We can have a tendency to think 'this pandemic is impacting the careers of working mothers’ or focusing on one or two groups within the workforce. This is impacting everyone in different ways and it is necessary that organizations revisit their policies and procedures over and over again through multiple lenses to make sure that the experiences of all employees are being considered.

Justine Roberts, Sustainability Community Engagement Coordinator, CESR

I appreciated the discussion in our panel on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion about how employees can rethink the boundaries between their identities in their private lives, and as employees. Working from home means that certain barriers have broken down - we see into each other’s private lives in new ways from a dog barking to a child asking for a snack. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows us to bring more of ourselves to work, allows us to be more authentic, and more empathetic. There is an opportunity here to recognize one another’s humanity and to make corporate decisions that respect and support our needs as people, not just as workers.

There is so much more in these conversations that is relevant and actionable. We hope you find the discussions as interesting as we did.