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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 011
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now. 

In today’s newsletter…
  1. Judging each other even more than before from Ilana Bondell
  2. Beyond the immediate risks of burnout from Joey Camire
  3. Yet another risk of engaging online from Kennedy Whittington-Cooper
And this time, our illustrations from Nora Mestrich.
From the Field

01 / Judgy Wudgy Was…Us All? 

From Ilana Bondell
As the pandemic continues to spread at a rate far outpacing governmental policy or planning, we are becoming acutely aware of the ongoing, shared individual burden to manage the risk of this thing. As a result, we are forced to constantly judge the safety of situations and each other – creating an environment of risk-shaming.
Why It Matters
From schools to restaurant re-openings, gauging the risk of increasingly murky situations is tense, and difficult. Everywhere from workplaces to sorority houses, we’re hurling COVID judgment at each other as a means of coping, to feel more in control and morally superior during an anxious, ambiguous time. But, while it’s crucial to remain vigilant, ultimately “scolding and shaming are toxic to public health.” - epidemiologist, Julia Marcus.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Check your sideline judgments in favor of top-down policies your team can align on to collectively navigate risk.
  • In the absence of clear societal norms, each day brings an exhausting series of individual judgments we must execute to attempt a responsible lifestyle during a pandemic (IRL shop or delivery? Picnic or Zoom? Family visits or isolation?). Don’t make work another context where teammates have to fumble their way through risk, breeding peer-judgment in the process. Create clear policies and protocols for work expectations and office visits. Consider partnering with an expert
  • Also, as Julia Marcus notes, remember that it is the American Way to judge anything relating to “pleasure” as frivolous and reckless. (See: intense beach-shaming, when in reality, outdoor beach hangs are fairly low risk compared to other social activities. Indoor risk is thought to be 20x that of outdoors.) To stay sane during a long-term pandemic, we must prioritize pleasure and happiness in SOME way(s), so it’s an interesting and important charge for organizations to think about innovative ways to meet these needs safely, rather than leaving people to their own devices.

02 / Burn in, Burnout  

From Joey Camire
A report called Emotional Resilience In Leadership Report 2020, based on qualitative research with global leaders, deeply explores the risks of burnout in positions of leadership. We’re at the point in the financial and health crisis where some things, even if temporarily, have stabilized some. Companies have faltered and either died, compensated, or pivoted. However, a risk that is easy to overlook is the “emotional debt” taken on by leaders to navigate the crisis so far, which, if unaddressed, may have a lingering impact that creates a wave of burnout.
Why It Matters
Burnout is a major risk to businesses, with considerable anecdotal evidence from leaders of startups and SMBs discussing reductions in revenue, talent attrition, and the opportunity cost of missing new opportunities. Not to mention the second order impact it can have on families and communities. Businesses that fail to address the quiet cost of burnout in leaders, particularly with the accumulation of “emotional debt” piled on by the current crises, are taking on considerable institutional risk.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Provide (more) mental health resources to leaders and teams now.
While burnout can be deemed generationally “soft,” continued research shows that burnout’s impact to business is real and transcends generational boundaries. Policies on a team or company level can vary greatly, but doing nothing in our current, collective emotional state will likely risk long-term impact on your business. Consider a few policy ideas:
  • Provide team training on “emotional debt maintenance exercises,” which can be as simple as training on breathing or conflict management.
  • Provide a bank of mental health days, and set clear permissions to use them as needed.
  • Consider emotional coaches or psychologists for leadership teams, provided you have the resources, in the ways sports teams employ psychologists. 
If your goal is extended peak performance, invest in the resources required to attenuate the impact of continued stress. Your business, your leaders, their families and communities will all thank you for it.

03 / Anti-Social Social-Media  

From Kennedy Whittington-Cooper
Whether you post a picture with a group of 5+ friends or add a recent travel montage to your IG story, COVID-19 has assigned new meaning to our collective perception, and sense of risk, of self-disclosure. Before, we may not have had to think twice about the perceived health implications of our social media posts. However, the pandemic may have changed the risks associated with what kinds of information we share—and how we share it—on social media, says this Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Initiative research. Namely, the risk of public shaming, amplified by the socially transformative impact of the pandemic, has changed how we interface with the internet.
Why It Matters
With the increased pressure and policing of each other's behavior based on the public health responsibility we all have to one another, the internet has become a less intimate (and perhaps more cynical) place than anyone may have thought possible. “Socially distanced,” we’re relying heavily on the internet for social support and community, but if we can’t be open and disclose aspects of ourselves, it won’t serve us that way. Acting only as a public health message board—named “outside in” posts for public good in the study—engagement and perceptions of social platforms are likely to decline. What’s worse, our relationships may suffer as well.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Reassess the risks of what you post by hyper contextualizing your content.
  • Situational Script: Add a mini explanatory blurb describing the situational context of your post (e.g. “We went to the beach and wore masks the entire day except to take this pic!” 
  • #TBT: include the accurate date and time of a throwback post if it reflects a pre-pandemic reality 
  • Close Friends Only: “narrowcast” your feed to share specific content with specific people—folks you trust. 
  • Just ask!: Confronting your risk-taking friends on social media during the COVID pandemic can be touchy, but it never hurts to personally reach out one-on-one and ask. It is less intrusive than publicly calling someone out and may provide an explanation that debunks your perceived beliefs of their content. 

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