Supporting our ‘second family’

By Carla Mueller, Group Manager, Global Safety and Environmental, Product Supply

The following message was adapted from a November 2021 Clorox global safety bulletin.

I have been reminiscing recently of holidays past in the office — swapping stories of our crazy, over-the-top decorating contests; past celebrations; and that pesky rubber chicken that always finds its way back into the office gift exchange each year. I miss it. I miss my work family. It’s more than just an office to me; it’s a second family.

I still get energized each day as I walk the office area to say good morning to some I haven’t seen in almost two years. It was a special treat when a co-worker brought in homemade cookies to share with the group. Does this sound corny? Not to me. We are there to listen and support each other not just at work but through each other’s trials and tribulations outside of work. Accidentally back into your garage door? Bummed about that big loss to Alabama last weekend? Want to share pictures from when you dropped your daughter off at college last weekend? Let’s talk about it.

I know all of the new employees who joined the company in the past two years haven’t had a chance to experience this family. Sometimes we need a subtle reminder — or, in the case of the following story, a not-so subtle reminder — that we are all more than co-workers, especially when the pandemic keeps us apart.

A co-worker shared with me his recent struggles with medical issues. About three months ago, he started to have terrible cramps in his abdomen and thought he would just power through it. He is new to the area and didn’t really have anyone he felt he could lean on so he just took a couple days off, assuming the cramps would subside. Instead, they intensified.

Past holiday celebrations reinforced the family atmosphere in our Kennesaw, Georgia, office.

He decided he needed medical care but did not have anyone to call to take him. So he drove himself to urgent care, which promptly sent him to a hospital for surgery. His appendix had burst, and the situation had turned quite serious. After a few days in the hospital recovering, he was released to his own care. He missed months of work recovering, mostly alone, from what could have been a fatal injury.

I was almost in tears listening to his story. No one should have to go through something like this on their own, let alone one of my co-workers. I immediately gave him my phone number and told him I would be that person he could call if he ever needed support. And it wouldn’t be just me — that were many more people at Clorox who would stand up and be that person for him because we are more than co-workers; we are family.

As we get closer to two years of battling this pandemic and many people are feeling isolated, this message is even more critical. So I shared the same message with all my co-workers: Put my number in your phone, and I’ll be your “phone a friend.” I also told them others are around that feel the same way. I just want them to reach out. We’ll be by their side.

It’s important for all of us to take the time, especially during the holiday season, to reach out to those co-workers, friends or family we haven’t spoken to in a while. I guarantee it will lift your spirit and re-energize you as we begin 2022.