Unfortunately, most of the mainstream news on the Great Resignation has focused on the upside. The reports tell of waves of workers bumped out of their normal workday routines by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiencing the joy of remote work and increased family involvement, waking up to realize that there is more to life. As a result, they’re refusing to go back to the office, choosing instead to leave their jobs in droves to seek employment that provides a healthier work-life balance.
It’s true that for some, the Great Resignation has been a long-overdue liberation from overcommitment. However, there’s another side to the story. It involves Black and brown professionals for whom the new normal brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic meant an overwhelming increase in stress. For them, the Great Resignation is a journey toward respite and recovery.
A surge in workplace stress
While many of the shifts we are seeing in employment trends brought on by the pandemic result from shifts in workers’ priorities, recent reports have also shown there are other reasons for the Great Resignation. Among them is the mismanagement of employees that occurred during the pandemic.
For many workers, the pandemic brought an elevated workload that led to high-stress levels. Essential employees, many of whom already face high-stress work environments, had to deal with repeated changes in processes and procedures, often accompanied by the introduction of new technology that needed to be mastered.
While those factors are more than enough to take stress levels over the top, Black and brown professionals faced even more. Workplace discrimination exhibited through microaggressions and other incidents only grew more prevalent in the stressful environment of the pandemic. As a result, Black and brown professionals are taking short-term disability leave for mental health conditions like never before. Their Great Resignation is more like a Great Recovery.
A path to recovery
As a business consultant and psychotherapist, I regularly hear about the unique stresses that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face in the workplace. In addition to well-known abuses such as discrimination and bullying, more subtle examples such as microaggressions are beginning to be recognized and reported with more regularity.
The increase in stress for all workers brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the workplace reflects the experiences Black professionals are often confronted with, which is the feeling of dismissal and the minimizing of Black fatigue and mental exhaustion from working in spaces where they’re often overworked, undervalued, and under-supported by the same resources as their white male colleagues. As a result, insurance companies, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists have had to explore new ways of working together to help BIPOC stay employed while managing stress in a healthy way.
BIPOC must be given the time and space to rest and detach from workplace demands to recover from the surge in stress. True recovery involves the resetting and restoring of physical and emotional energy levels that have been depleted by a long season of consistent stress. For most Black and brown professionals, the workplace is not a place that is conducive to recovery.
A new season of workplace health
The movement back to the office has been especially stressful for BIPOC, for who working remotely meant an escape from surroundings that often felt debilitating. While remote work meant a host of new responsibilities for BIPOC, including the need to incorporate older siblings, aunts, and grandparents as alternative providers for children, it also meant freedom from an emotionally taxing environment.
Many of the Black and brown professionals with whom I’ve worked during this season have never before taken a leave of absence from their jobs. However, the unprecedented demands brought on by COVID-19 combined with the elevated social unrest experienced during the same season have prompted them to reconsider what it means to practice self-care and rest. Until more workplaces commit to creating an environment that is safe and healthy for all employees, BIPOC are left with the challenging task of re-evaluating their careers, recovering from stress, and securing a space in which they can contribute and thrive.
— Asha Tarry is a trauma-informed corporate consultant, life coach, and psychotherapist. She is also the Principal and CEO of Behavioral Health Consulting Services, a coaching, consulting, and counseling company that provides comprehensive wellness and personal development to corporations, employee resource groups, and management teams.
Ms. Tarry’s approach to talent retention and job satisfaction aims to reduce absenteeism, burnout, and fiscal costs, particularly among Black and Latinx employees. Asha’s more than two decades of experience in mental health care has garnered her partnerships with multi-million-dollar corporations, nonprofits, schools, and the media worldwide. To work with Asha, visit www.LifeCoachAsha.com.