An Every Day Earth Day Perspective

 
By Patty Starr, President & CEO, Health Action Council

Perhaps overlooked as we begin bringing our employees back to the workplace, we observed the 50th anniversary of Earth Day a couple of weeks back.

Since April 22, 1970, Earth Day has brought attention to environmental problems facing the world in a powerful and inspirational way. In fact, the very first Earth Day led directly to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an entity established to protect human health and the environment. Specifically working to ensure that Americans have clean air, land, and water, the agency is the original steward of the American environment. 
 
For the first time in those 50 years, the celebration of Earth Day took place indoors.

Needless to say, like so many of us facing stay-at-home and stay-in-place orders, the organizers were forced to scramble to move their 50th-anniversary celebrations online.

Despite this, people still celebrated. Though marches, demonstrations, and other events were canceled, coordinated activities quickly moved online and many people found ways to commemorate the occasion within the confines of their quarantine group. Much like our Zoom meetings and daily check-ins, this was the closest supporters could facsimile physical presence with one another and retain a sense of community.
 
Perhaps one of the reasons organizers and participants shifted swiftly and assuredly into a virtual environment is because proponents of Earth Day do not view it as a once-a-year occasion.

On the contrary, there are millions around the globe who believe every day is Earth Day and have worked environmentally conscious activities into their daily routine. Be it volunteering at a community garden, dedicating a day each week to walking or riding a bike instead of driving, or even something as simple as shopping at a farmer’s market instead of a big box grocer, there are several ways people have learned to better connect with the environment. Earth Day supporters not only know this already, but they are also living it.
 
Through this connection, people are taking steps to not only improve environmental health but improve their physical and mental health, as well. For many, environmental and personal health are one and the same. For employers, this presents an opportunity, especially in this transitional COVID-19 environment. With sports, restaurants, and live events having been taken away, more folks are walking, running, riding bikes, and spending time outdoors. Hopefully, they too are becoming more aware of the connection between the environment and their own health.
 
Either way, we can help keep this momentum going by supporting these activities moving forward. As such, now may be the perfect time to reassess and repurpose health and wellbeing-related resources, policies, and procedures you already have in place. This will be important moving forward as the very definition of improved health and wellbeing may have changed. Now is our chance to capture that change, get behind it, and support it moving forward. 
 
Acknowledgment and support of such a shift is one way we can get our employees excited to return to the workspace. Instilling confidence in our employees is another.

For example, there is tremendous confidence among Earth Day proponents that next April, on the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, that traditional celebrations will resume. When the COVID-19 distancing restrictions are relaxed, supporters and activists know exactly where they will be on the next Earth Day. Be it a march in Washington DC, a clean-up effort on a public beach, or a week-long festival and learning event at a park system, people know where they will be. And even now, they are planning for it and getting excited about it.
 
That level of confidence and excitement is what we need to be striving to instill within our employees. Although we’re all working to make sure that we as leaders are ready to get back to business, we need to make sure that our employees are looking forward to it, as well. For some folks, returning to work will most certainly be a celebration. For a few, it may be a challenge. We will need to adapt and be ready for both of these responses. Our best bet to make this transition smooth and effective for everyone is to provide clear direction and a path for employees and to start getting excited about it now. 

Now is our chance to reinvigorate our workforce, to make certain that whether in-person or from afar, our employees retain and embrace a sense of community and are excited to be a part of our team.

Get more insights and actions you can take in the ebook, "Reboarding: Learning from the Past to Prepare for the Future." 
Posted: 5/12/2020 6:03:48 PM
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