The Power of Hope

May 7, 2020 Lynne Levy

4-minute read

Dan and Tamara

As part of our Keeping Work Human video series, Workhuman® CHRO Steve Pemberton sat down with Dan Tomasulo, Ph,D., and Tamara Rasberry to discuss mental health in the age of COVID-19. Dan is a faculty member for the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia University, and Tamara is HR manager at National Community Reinvestment Coalition with a passion for removing the stigma of mental illness in the workplace.

There are several key takeaways for HR and people leaders to better cater to employee well-being:

  1. Connection

The pandemic has forced many of us to refocus and prioritize what matters. When we think about what worried us six months ago, chances are, very little of it matters today. We’re also learning to appreciate those around us. Bus drivers, mail carriers, or grocery workers – we are starting to value our collective humanity. "The person coming to pick up my garbage has got a much deeper story than I realize,” said Steve. “I should spend some time less caught up in all the affect and shine of the world. The crucial work he is doing is meaningful and important to society.”

  1. Shared stories

Universality is the concept of individuals being connected through shared experiences. And in a way, COVID-19 has brought us together through our shared sense of stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. Universality enables us to be kinder and focus on others, rather than ourselves. “It’s almost as if whoever runs the universe hit the reset button,” said Dan. We’re checking in more. Instead of a quick “hello,” we are pausing and asking, “How are you really doing? How is the family?”

  1. Reduced stigma around mental illness

One of the positive outcomes of this crisis could be removing the stigma around mental illness. "Many are feeling emotions they are not used to, such as anxiety … People are starting to have a better understanding of what it feels like to be anxious or depressed,” said Tamara.

Dan and Tamara were open and honest about their personal challenges with anxiety and depression. As more people talk about how they’re feeling, the hope is that individuals become more comfortable starting a conversations about mental illness without fear of judgment in the workplace.

  1. Holistic HR

HR teams are now "the people taking care of the people taking care of the people," said Steve. HR is being called to provide robust resources to care for employees on a much more holistic level, including mental, emotional, and physical health. 

Some of the recommended tools to help each of us during these challenging times include:

  • Hope: According to positive psychology, hope is the only positive emotion that requires negativity or uncertainty to be activated. Individuals and communities can embrace tools, such as a daily gratitude practice, to help increase hope during these challenging times. 
  • Micro-goals: Chances are, many of us have lost sight of the goals we set at the beginning of 2020, which can put a damper on motivation. We all need to recalibrate our goals.“Recalibration becomes an important ingredient in helping to get your sea legs with this crisis,” said Dan. Instead of focusing on the long term, let's focus on the present. The best way to do this is to set micro-goals that focus on the here and now. Whether it's writing a blog, making dinner, or getting the laundry folded, create a few micro-goals each day that give you a sense of focus in the moment.
  • Express gratitude: Now is the time to reach out to your mentors, advocates, teachers, and former friends, and let them know you’ve been thinking about them and care about them. Gratitude is “one of those things where if you can get filled up by giving it and they get filled up by receiving it, that's really about as good as it can get,” said Dan. 


We all need to take care of each other during this crisis. We need to appreciate our front-line workers, including those who may have been nameless in the past. We need to care for ourselves, including our own mental health, to come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient.

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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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