Sustainability Scoop — March 2020

Grappling With a Global Pandemic: Resilience in Action

Architect working from homeThere is no denying we are in unprecedented and unpredictable times. All of us in the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories community (I2SL) are feeling the impacts of a global crisis, including the all-encompassing stress that comes with it. What is the antidote to stress? According to organizational psychologist Richard Citrin, resiliency is the antidote to stress. Resilience is defined as our ability to plan for, navigate, and bounce forward from a challenging situation.

What does it mean to be resilient in practice? How can you and your organization remain resilient in the face of challenging circumstances like the coronavirus pandemic? Based on a recent tip from the National Capital Chapter, I2SL recently listened to a free webinar sponsored by AE Works and Citrin on the important of resiliency in unpredictable and rapidly changing circumstances. The webinar, Safety and Resilience in the Workplace, described how to develop and implement a thorough organizational plan. The webinar included tips and resources on how to build and maintain resiliency within your organization:

  • Communicate more frequently and help your staff develop a new routine. If your organization has recently shifted operations to remote work, or even if you are staying open but taking extra precautions, develop new workplace etiquette to maintain a sense of control. Creating this sense of control is critical in reassuring staff that we are all in this together and will work through it together.
  • Keep your organization’s internal support as close to normal as possible. Understanding the ins and outs of IT infrastructure capacity, security, and limitations allows you to handle rapid changes. It is also crucial to develop a plan in place for operational staff to handle IT issues and other offices’ needs that may arise in a crisis.
  • Ask employees what they need to work effectively in their new day-to-day setting. Set daily or weekly check-ins to create structure. If work is moving remote, your organization may also consider creating guidelines for virtual operations. Read more about setting telework priorities from the Society for Human Resource Management.
  • Understand the difference between a maker and a manager to maintain productivity. Employees have many different work styles and personalities. Makers need large blocks of time to do their work undisturbed, while managers bounce between planning and problem solving. Managers can set dedicated times to check in that tasks on are track, which provides makers with enough time to work without distraction.
  • Encourage physically and mentally healthy practices. Now is a good time to remind your organization about available assistance programs. Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s resources on Managing Anxiety and Stress.
  • Bounce forward. Instead of talking about the worst-case scenario, discuss the best-case scenario for your organization. Staff respond positively to proactive leadership and planning, as it shows that their safety is important and prioritized during a crisis.

Remember, we are all hard wired for resilience. As an organization, I2SL is not just concerned about environmental responsibility. The coronavirus has highlighted the importance of social sustainability—taking care of people for the long term. Let us know if you have any ideas for enhancing social sustainability in labs!

Have any other news, ideas, or resources for us to share? We are constantly updating I2SL’s online resources and we want to hear from you. Submit an article to be included in our E-Library by emailing us at info@i2sl.org, or let us know if you would like to be a guest blogger for the Sustainability Scoop.