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The Way We Work, Bereavement Leave and More Trucking Headaches: EHS Today's Weekly Reads

March 11, 2022
A closer look at some headlines you may have missed.

Saturday night, we turn the clocks ahead, but spring still seems a ways off for many of us. There’s still snow on the ground, but we’re already brimming with anticipation at the first signs of life after another long, difficult COVID-filled winter.

Seeing those first buds and tulips always invoke feelings of new life. We like to revisit goals and take inventory in early spring. This year, we’re already thinking of change—and seeing what we, either personally or as part of a larger team, can do to make our neighborhood, workplace and world better.

Given what’s on the brain, it’s no surprise we were drawn to stories focused on greater problems and how some people are solving them, or at least advocating for change. We hope these stories make you pause, reflect and inspire you the way they have us.

The Way We Work

Emma Goldberg’s latest for The New York Times offers a glimpse into others’ experiences in the workplace. If we had to sum up her piece in two sentences, it’s this: “The office, in other words, was never one size fits all. It was one size fits some, with the expectation that everybody else would squeeze in.”

We talk a lot about diversity, equity and inclusion in the abstract, but it doesn’t always hit home. This article offers examples, in peoples’ own words, about how they had to present at work. Often, that was incongruous with how people actually felt or behaved. They didn’t feel like they could bring their authentic selves to work—and that can take a toll on their well-being.

And while it is minor compared to microagressions, harassment and bullying, just being cold at work is unpleasant. We have bought our own personal space heater, blankets, sweaters and even fingerless gloves, as one of the women interviewed had done. The article explains that women aren’t supposed to feel comfortable in the workplace—at least not entirely—because most building thermostats were developed using a 40-year-old man’s resting metabolic rate.

COVID-19 has upended most ways of life. If we are (actually, finally) approaching an endemic phase in the U.S., we should start thinking about ways we can improve work rather than look at it through the tinted filter of nostalgia—or worse, run as fast as we can back to the way things were. Goldberg’s article is a good reminder that for many, the past isn’t always “the good ol’ days,” and that we have a responsibility to do better in the future, both for ourselves and the next generation.

Read the full article here.

Revising Bereavement Leave

Loss is such an important topic, though many of us don’t share such personal details about us until it’s required or absolutely necessary. Even then, we may minimize the extent of our emotions for fear of what others may think (or say) about us or our performance.

We remember a co-worker making snide remarks about a colleague who was out because her cat was ill. Another co-worker retorted she would do the same if her dog was sick. That silenced the co-worker.

For many of us, our pets are family. When they die, we grieve them just as we would another person— perhaps even more because of the special role they play in our lives. But we may not say anything to our colleagues, further isolating us in our grief.

At many companies, bereavement leave is three to five days off following the death of an immediate family member. Now, after two years full of loss and grief from a global pandemic, some companies are rethinking their policies to recognize different kinds of loss.

For example, earlier this year Goldman Sachs Group Inc. started offering 20 days of paid leave for those who suffer a miscarriage or still birth. “The pandemic highlighted the importance of family,” said Laura Young, who oversees benefits for the bank, to The Wall Street Journal.

More companies—sometimes spurred by employee demands—are also revisiting the definition of immediate family. For many, the nuclear family (mother, father, siblings, grandparent) might not be who we are closest to or represent the people who we grew up with. There are chosen families, family figures, other arrangements and other close familial bonds, ones that are common in other cultures and countries but not as prevalent in the U.S.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be more empathic toward one another and ourselves. We’re glad to see grief being more accepted in the workplace and policies that give people more time to grieve and focus on their mental health, as death can often trigger episodes of depression, insomnia, anxiety and a host of other concerns.

Read the full article here.  

Another Roadblock for Truck Drivers

Empty store shelves and online shopping have become a way of life for many Americans these past two years. Trucks make all that possible, but it’s also the source of more headaches—for everyone.

This piece from David Harrison at The Wall Street Journal takes a nuanced look at some of the issues that have besieged the trucking industry: supply chain disruptions, workforce shortage, vaccine mandate objections and public opinions.

The last one may be the most difficult for the industry as a whole and the individual drivers to contend with, because it presents a fundamental challenge: "Folks don't like them in their neighborhoods," said Seth Millican, a transportation expert at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to the WSJ. "But they want the package they order from Amazon, and they want it in two days."

To be certain, 18-wheelers and delivery trucks weigh on and wear down roads, can cause damage to property and pose safety risks to other people. These problems aren’t expected to go away anytime soon, as the supply chain remains in flux and demand for goods remains strong.

Finding solutions will take time, though we’re not sure about the long-term consequences of building more roads and increased transit fees; those have a way of being passed down to the people through taxes and higher prices. As one official said, goal may instead be a better way for trucks and people to coexist.

Read the full article here.

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