Opinions expressed by businessman the collaborators are theirs.
Life is constantly changing. As people, we crave stability and certainty, and carefully construct road maps for the future, but the universe has a way of throwing curveballs and throwing our plans aside. For most of us, this uncertainty can be a major cause of stress and burnout and can negatively affect our mental health. Never has this been experienced more widely than in the past two and a half years, as the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the world and led to worldwide lockdowns, economic recession, family separation and tragic loss of lives for many.
In Canada and the United States, approximately 1 in 5 people will personally experience a mental health problem, and by age 40, nearly 50% of Americans will have experienced a mental illness. Environmental factors such as meaningful employment, leisure activities, access to nature and community support play an important role in our mental health, and many of these factors were left out during the pandemic.
Related: The Talent Gap: Challenges Immigrants Face in the Tech Labor Market
The impact of the pandemic on employment and mental health
While the Covid-19 pandemic affected us all, recent statistics have shown that the ramifications of the pandemic have been felt most strongly by underrepresented groups such as immigrants, indigenous peoples and impoverished socio-economic groups. The pandemic disproportionately affected these minority groups, as evidenced through mental health and employment opportunities.
Take immigrants, for example. When looking for work, many of them struggle with interviews, as they often lack knowledge of the local language or culture. The pandemic introduced new variables to this process, including online interviews, a lack of in-person connection, lost networking opportunities, and reduced face-to-face interactions. A change in the basic rules of human interaction eliminated the few constants that many job seekers had in the past. Each of these obstacles adds to your lived experience and could lead to mental health issues.
The pandemic also disproportionately affected marginalized groups living at or below the poverty line. Many members of these groups have manual jobs, many of which were cut during the pandemic. And for those who switched to remote work, some lacked access to the technology needed to continue working effectively.
As the founder of ComIT, a non-profit charity that provides free technology training to underrepresented minorities, I’ve spoken for years about the importance of giving marginalized groups a first chance to start or restart their careers. I have witnessed their challenges and experienced some of them firsthand when I immigrated to Canada from Argentina in 2015. I have been passionate about educating underrepresented groups and connecting them with organizations where they can grow and thrive.
Even before the pandemic, it was shown that systemic inequalities such as racism, poverty, discrimination and colonial violence can worsen mental health and symptoms of mental illness, especially if mental health support it is difficult to access. Throughout the pandemic, these impacts have been felt more strongly.
Related: What Empathetic Hiring Looks Like in a Post-Covid World
What can we do to help?
I personally think that one way to fight the uncertainty of the world is to make everything a little lighter. When we interview or meet with potential hires, it helps to remind us to be mindful and respectful of interviewees. Understanding that the applicant is going through a stressful situation while looking for a job in addition to their daily struggle can help us connect more with the person, which will also allow us to understand if they will be a good fit for our team.
Always remember that if an applicant has the technical skills you need and the ability and desire to learn more, they may be good people to have on your team. Therefore, it is up to us to exercise our empathy and awareness to find the true gems that lie behind the problems that many of us face. Sometimes we have to lend a hand.
Taking this stance can mean pausing in our busy day to remember that everyone is trying to do their best and bringing empathy to every interaction. If we’re looking for employees who will be part of our team for the long term, emphasizing friendliness is a first step in creating that reality. If we think of those around us as part of a community and emphasize kindness, we can help build a better post-pandemic world.