In Brief: Socially Distant Work; New Responsibilities for Communicators

May 2020
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Avoid Misunderstandings During Socially Distant Work

As the COVID-19 crisis has prompted work-from-home directives this spring, physical distancing has made it more difficult to read social cues among co-workers. 

According to Fast Company, our colleagues have been reduced to images on computer screens and names in email messages, and we might fill in the gaps with our own fears and assumptions. If someone doesn’t respond to an email or text, for example, then we might assume that we have somehow offended them. 

The publication points out that other people are also stressed during this unprecedented time — at home with kids, possibly caring for loved ones who are ill — and doing the best they can.

Giving others the benefit of the doubt helps prevent tensions from escalating. In our social isolation, we don’t know what other people are thinking and feeling. When in doubt, we should ask them. Otherwise, even well-intentioned comments might be misunderstood, Fast Company says. Trying to better understand our colleagues during the coronavirus shutdown will also improve future interactions back in the office.

Will Coronavirus Make Telecommuting the New Normal?

Working from home during the coronavirus shutdown could provide a glimpse of things to come. 

As ZDNet reports, 74 percent of chief financial officers surveyed by research firm Gartner said that they expect to move employees who had worked on-site before the pandemic to remote posts after the COVID-19 crisis has subsided. And almost a quarter of the 317 survey respondents said they will permanently reposition at least 20 percent of their on-site employees to remote work positions.

This shift could become more of a norm as companies look to reduce their commercial real estate costs. The percentage of telecommuters might swell further if businesses conclude employees can work as efficiently from home as in company offices. 

According to Gartner’s research, 81 percent of CFOs plan to exceed their contractual obligations to remote hourly workers. Ninety percent said their accounting operations will can run effectively off-site. 

Music Fans Turn to Quarantine Concerts

With the COVID-19 outbreak putting the upcoming concert season in peril, many artists have been live-streaming performances from their homes on Instagram and YouTube. 

In mid-March, Grammy winner John Legend spent an hour playing song requests from fans on Instagram alongside his wife Chrissy Teigen. Elton John hosted a benefit concert on March 30, in which he and other artists such as Billie Eilish and Dave Grohl performed from their homes. 

Though not the same as seeing musicians in person, these performances are helping keep the arts alive while people stay home during the shutdown. Spontaneous and unfiltered, the shows reveal a side of artists that fans wouldn’t otherwise see, and provide an uplifting experience and sense of connection for fans and performers. 

For artists, a possible downside of these live-streaming shows is that fans might be unwilling “to pay to watch artists perform online anywhere near the level that they do for actual live shows,” Seth Hubbard of Polyvinyl Records told Vox. “My hope is that fans find value in it and are willing to pay for the experience.” 

COVID-19 Crisis Presents New Responsibilities for Communicators

Lack of trust in government and media has caused many people to ignore crucial health advice about the novel coronavirus, raising the importance of employer communications, says a special report of the Edelman Trust Barometer. 

Published in early April, the special report found that employees trust their employers far more than governments or news media. It also says that employees consider internal communications as their most credible sources of information about the COVID-19 outbreak. Sixty-two percent of respondents trust their employers to respond to the crisis effectively. 

Even as people find their employers to be more credible, they rely on mainstream news as their primary sources of information about the virus. Young people depend on social media (54 percent) and mainstream media (56 percent) for news, while those ages 55 and up  find mainstream media nearly three times more reliable than social media. 

Richard Edelman, the firm’s CEO, said the crisis gives the corporate sector a considerable new responsibility. He recommends that CCOs initiate regular briefings for employees, provide trustworthy and shareable content about the virus, and ensure that company social media channels spread “knowledge and not panic.”

photo credit: menara grafis
Return to Current Issue Leadership During a Time of Social Distancing | May 2020
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