This is Part 2 of a 3-part series based on a Zoom interview I did with Rick Vinnay, Executive Director of The Solutions Group, an Internal/External EAP and Wellness Program based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can see Part 2 of the interview at the link below.
While in the last installment we talked about Covid19’s surprising upside: working remotely and telehealth, in this installment we’ll look at it’s not so surprising downside, the isolation this has caused. This sense of isolation has hit one of the employer groups that The Solutions Group supplies EAP services to surprisingly hard: The Legal System including Judges. As the result of Covid19 most court room activities in New Mexico are currently done online.
As Rick points out, Judges are NOT AT ALL accustomed to working from home. They are used to being around people. Lots of them. Defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, stenographers, reporters and other observers in the court room and of course the defendant and in some cases the plaintiff and a 12-person jury. Reading facial expressions is an important part of being in a court room, which isn’t always easy, when you are trying to adjudicate a court case online.
In addition, for some judges, particularly judges working in small communities, the job itself can be quite isolating. “When a judge runs into someone where they delivered a ruling in their court case in the local grocery store, it can be an awkward moment to say the least. Sometimes the need to deliver an unpopular decision may make these judges persona non grata even IN their own communities.”
“Now add in the isolation of working from home and you have a recipe for stress.” Rick explains: “We had to come up with a creative solution to this issue, so we worked together with those affected to see how we could address this problem.”
“This is how Covid19 helped us to think differently. We found a way to actually connect these judges from around the state through virtual support meetings. It’s similar to how twelve step meetings work. When you talk to someone who is experiencing the same thing that you are, there’s a connection there and there’s also a sharing that ‘here’s what I’ve done in that situation.’ And it’s really helpful to get this support from someone who’s doing the same job as you are.”
“You can hear the exact same advice from a counselor and it’s like, ‘well you sit in your ivory tower up there in the clouds with your little screen and you have no clue what I’m going through. So, plugging in these support networks for specific groups, is really, really important.”
“Before Covid we probably wouldn’t have thought outside the box,” Rick explains. “We would have looked at how we could get these folks together in person, and it’s not likely that it would have worked. Now it’s much easier to get people together online and we’re seeing that it’s every bit as effective.”
Just about everyone who is working at home is feeling this sense of isolation, not just judges. As Paul Turney, the Manager of the EAP at Novant Health pointed out in our last EAP Answers interview, marriages, funerals and holiday get-togethers have all been put on hold due to Covid19. People need to know, even as restrictions have been eased in certain states, that isolation will continue to be an issue right up until (and perhaps, well after) a safe vaccine is made available and administered to millions of Americans. EAPs need to be ready to address this issue and come up with creative solutions wherever possible.
In our next segment we’ll talk about how The Solutions Group counsels their clients with specific problems relating to Covid19 and keeping employees safe. And how that approach will ultimately lower their stress.