Women at Work: When an intensely personal phone call reaches you at work

September 23, 2018

Multitasking in the workplace is considered a form of art. For some, multitasking is difficult as it means quickly switching from one task to another. For others, multitasking keeps them from the mundaneness of working on only one project before starting another.

Recently, a study shows that women have a more natural ability to multitask. The study consisted of 120 men and 120 women. One experiment consisted of a computer-based task-switching paradigm while the other measured the effectiveness of multitasking on paper. The results were published in the BMC Psychology Journal and showed that men had the most difficulty performing these tasks while women, specifically women under 60, had little to no interference in performing the acts.

While multitasking at work isn’t always ideal, there are some days where it cannot be avoided. Two Saturdays ago, I realized I could multitask in ways that most cannot even imagine. It was about two o’clock in the afternoon when I received a phone call from someone very close to me; she was distraught and wracked with suicidal ideas.

I could tell from her tone, her emotions and her words that it was a serious phone call and my gut told me not to tell her I would “call her back.” However, I was working at The Granary, and Saturdays are not dull. For 45 minutes I paced, I scooped ice cream, I slung beer and I made coffees — all with my right hand. Never did I lose a beat nor share a smile. For 45 minutes my left hand held a phone up to my ear and I quietly kept this young woman on the phone while getting her to understand that life is so worth living and to not give up.

After approximately 45 minutes of my talking, she decided to seek help. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, put both hands on the counter and slumped forward for just a second in hopes to relax just a bit. Shortly after my display of relief, a woman who I had noticed watching me throughout the ordeal came to the counter and asked if I was OK. In brief I shared what had just happened, and she softly said, “I know how you feel, I’ve been in your shoes.” And then she held my hand, and with my permission, said a prayer for not only me but also the young woman I had been on the phone with.

Six days after this serious lesson in multitasking occurred, I was thankful to be picking this young woman up from the hospital. Her outlook on life had changed just enough to know what she needed to do to work toward health, and the tools she was given were invaluable. Will she use them? I certainly hope she will.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and it is important that this month be used to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. This month is used to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideations to treatment services. In addition, it is equally as important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources needed. Did you know that 41,000 people die by suicide every year leaving their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss?

I see social media posts about people always having their doors open, kitchen tables available and coffee on for those who need to talk. If you ever get that call or knock on the door, open your eyes, your heart and your head and jump right in. That person came to you for a reason.

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