A major bank here in New York City recently announced that vaccinated employees are permitted to return to the office. They also expect everyone to be back in September. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just announced that employers can require in-person employees to be vaccinated.
I walked into one of my favorite New York City watering holes last week to see a sign on the door: “Everyone working here has been vaccinated.” Customers still wore masks walking in and out, but no one else did. It almost looked normal.
Weeks earlier my wife had walked into a farm market in Pennsylvania. There was a sign that said, “No masks please, the plants clean the air.” She kept hers on.
As we move towards reopening, we face new questions. Should we mask or not mask? Should we vax or not vax (as of this writing 40% of US adults have not gotten a vaccine)? And when (if ever) is it appropriate to talk about it?
These questions create background noise for us at work.
Background noise: emotionally loaded dilemmas that consume energy and thought space, robbing one of focus and momentum.
Background noise means higher stress levels at work. More noise, more stress. Here’s why:
Background noise means lower efficiency. Many are working more hours but producing less.
Background noise means lower energy. When we experience task fulfillment and the compliments that come from a job well done, we get an endorphin bump in our brains. But when we are distracted by background noise, we can get sucked into a doom loop where work is a net drain.
Background noise sucks us into the anxiety dead-end that Jesus warned against: Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Jesus’ answer: seek the kingdom first and let your heavenly father worry about the rest.
Perhaps this idea is strangely liberating. Instead of getting into the polarized debates about freedom and health, policy and procedure, we can find ways to be gracious, poised lovers of our neighbors at work, even in the turmoil of our times.