What Hurricanes, Emergency Rooms and the Red Cross Taught Me About Return-to-Office Strategy

A Category 5 hurricane changed my life.

I wasn’t always a business professional. In graduate school, I studied to be a psychotherapist. In my second year of school, I took a class called Crisis Counseling and, through completion of the course, I became certified in Red Cross mental health disaster relief. My professor had recently returned from New Orleans, where he spent months on the front lines of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. He witnessed the destruction of homes, abandoned grocery stores, massive flooding, and what happens when basic necessities like food, water and shelter are ripped away from individuals — many of whom were already in vulnerable positions.

When talking about his experience, I never forgot what my professor said to the class. “You can’t even begin to support someone through a mental health crisis until their basic needs are met,” he explained. In his work with hurricane victims, he would start every conversation by first offering a warm blanket, a bottle of water, and something to eat. Perched on the edge of my seat during every lecture, the course was profound for me, so much so that my first job after graduate school was as a clinician in an emergency room. Like my professor, I managed mental and physical crises for patients on a daily basis. While I eventually left a career in mental health in pursuit of entrepreneurial endeavors, the lessons I learned have stayed by my side, especially when disaster strikes.

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