This last week or so has been especially trying (and troubling) for me. As a resident of the St. Louis area, the Michael Brown shooting has become a constant, not just in my city, but all over the world. With the 24/7 news cycle and the use of social media, Mike Brown and the news surrounding the case has resonated with millions of people. There has been plenty of other breaking news events that have occurred during the last few years—the Sandy Hook school shooting, the Boston Bombing, the AMC movie shooting, the murder of Trayvon Martin, and so many other tragic events that I wish never happened. Many of these stories break during the workday, which can cause a lot of emotions while at the office. It can be hard to process these events while at work.
I am not a psychologist or expert on social issues, but I do have a 10+ year background in Human Resources, and I’ve had to assist employees in dealing with plenty of traumatic and life altering events. As an employee, there are things that you can do to help you deal with breaking news or high impact stories or events while you are on the job. I’ve written a list of 7 things you can do when dealing with breaking news in the office that you can refer to if needed:
Take a Break
When breaking news occurs while you are at work, it can bring on stress and other negative symptoms. Try to take a break, step away from your desk to refocus and regroup. Take a short walk outside around the building, make a personal call to talk to a loved one for support, or just go to your car to calm down and get your bearings if the news is especially troubling or bleak.
Turn it Off
Listening to the news and hearing the same information over and over again can really make you upset. Turn off the radio or internet feeds and try to focus as much as you can on your work and the task at hand. Sometimes stepping away from the constant information coming in can give you some relief, if only for a little while.
Do Not Emote
This is hard, I KNOW. It is only human to be emotional when you hear breaking news that is heartbreaking and especially troubling. But being too emotional while at work can make others uncomfortable, plus it can be unprofessional. If you feel that you are having a hard time keeping your feelings in tact, you probably need to leave for the day if you can, or at the very least (as I mentioned earlier in this post) take a break to compose yourself.
Talk to HR
You can talk to your HR and discuss any issues you may be having in regards to the breaking news as it pertains to your job. There may be resources that they can help you with that may be of service to you. (see Utilize EAPs)
Take a Personal Day
If you have personal or vacation days available to you, take them. If you are working during an especially trying time, you probably aren’t being productive anyway. Use a personal day or two to get away from the office and deal with upsetting news in the comfort of your own home surrounded by those that care. Work is probably the last place you want to be, anyway.
Utilize Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Back in March, I wrote about Employee Assistance Programs (or EAPs). These are benefits your employer may offer to you that offer short term counseling and help for a variety of situations and problems. If your employer has EAPs in place, you can use them at no charge, and they can really help you deal with whatever is going on with you personally. This includes dealing with breaking news that is especially morbid or painful.
Take Action On Your Own Time
We live in a country that allows you to voice your opinion. If there is an especially troubling news story or social issue that you feel the need to take a stand on, then do so. Being active and exercising your rights can give you an outlet to your frustration and allow you to do something within your community. Make sure that these activities are done on your own time and aren’t in any way in conflict with your employment or your job duties.
We are living during some especially troubling, yet changing times. And while I’d like to think we are moving forward positively, there will always be news stories and polarizing topics that can take a toll on all of us. I hope these tips help you cope and deal with them while you are in the workplace.