My initial intention for this blog post was to reflect on the significance of both Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Mental Health Month converging last month. As the rate of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans continues to rise in the U.S., it’s taking a very real and tangible toll on the mental health of Asian Americans. And in the tech industry, where Asian Americans make up a sizable portion of the workforce (Asians make up 57% of Silicon Valley's tech workforce), these are relevant and timely topics.
But then Buffalo happened.
Then Orange County happened.
And then Uvalde happened.
Three heartbreaking, tragic, and stunning events all within the span of 10 days—each event an emotional, spiritual, and mental trauma. So how are we as humans to absorb that much tragedy and chaos back-to-back-to-back, then at 8 a.m. each morning, flip the switch to work mode? The meme of the dog sipping coffee thinking “everything is fine” while the room is consumed with fire comes to mind.
I was not very productive these past two weeks, and I would imagine I probably wasn’t the only one. When it came time to focus, that cynical voice would creep in —”there’s a lot more important things going on in the world right now.” So it was a relief when our senior leadership team sent out a note last week telling us “it's okay if you're finding business as usual difficult.” If we needed time and space to process, we were told to take it.
Although we now work in a mostly remote world and set our own schedules, it makes a difference to hear those words from our leaders, because let’s admit it— with remote work there is an unspoken pressure to be available and productive at all times. The power of leading by example still resonates deeply even though we’re all physically apart.
At the beginning of May, our CEO Godard Abel announced our “Take an Hour a Day in May” campaign. The intention is to encourage everyone at G2 to take time, each day, for a mental health break. The hope is that by the end of the month, it will become a healthy habit and part of everyone’s regular routine. He shared that he blocks out time on his calendar and encouraged us to do the same. G2ers shared their plans ranging from exercising, spending more time with their families to simply reading a book.
But when Buffalo, Orange County, and Uvalde happened, that hour became essential. I used that time to check in on my teammates, have non-work related chats with work friends, and connect with our Employee Resource Groups (namely our Parents & Allies ERG). Being allowed the space and time to connect with your colleagues about non-work, real world things—at least to me—is an essential part of a positive work experience.
Last week, our Ebony & Allies ERG hosted “Mental Health in the Black Community'' with special guest psychotherapist Courtney Wagner who shared a very powerful statement about mental health in the workplace. Courtney shared two important points: 1) Black, Indigenous, and People of Color deserve therapy, help, and support and 2) that authenticity has to be earned by the employer, meaning employees can’t be authentic if they don’t feel safe enough to do so. Of course, this type of culture work takes months, probably years, and I’m by no means an expert to provide advice on this topic—Adam Grant I am not.
But what I can say is this: For the past two weeks, when the world seemed to be crashing down around us and questions about everyday safety began to consume me, we were given the space and time to not be in business-as-usual mode, not be as productive, and connect with my teammates who were feeling the same way. I can be authentically not okay at work, and in this very unpredictable state of the world, that’s invaluable.