Welcome to the second edition of Haymarket Media’s Coronavirus Briefing. If we’ve learned anything since the outbreak of coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, it’s that facts matter and now, more than ever, people are looking for sources of information they can be sure they can trust. But who, exactly, is that? The answer may surprise you. Also in this edition: WFH challenges and delights, and how the coronavirus just might break the internet. Today’s version is 1,048 words and will take you four minutes to read.
Workers are looking to their employers for information
People all over the world are searching for reliable information on the coronavirus, and most of them expect their employers to be a go-to source, according to an Edelman Trust Barometer survey published last week and reported in PRWeek.
- A survey of 10,000 people in ten industrialized countries found that 70% are searching the internet daily for information, and that almost three-quarters of them are wary of fake news and wrong information.
- And while some two-thirds of respondents say the MSM is their primary source of trusted information — good news for those of us in the media biz—they’re also turning to their employers and their internal communications teams for information.
- In fact, people put more faith in information coming from their workplaces than they do in info from websites maintained by government agencies, healthcare companies, traditional media or social media. (But that hasn’t stopped social media use from soaring, writes Oliver McAteer in Campaign US.)
- Most respondents said their employers were better prepared for COVID-19 than their governments — though not in Canada and Germany — and were the entities best-prepared to deal with the pandemic, besides local health authorities.
Employers have a terrific opportunity to strengthen their relationships with employees by communicating with them in an honest, meaningful and proactive way. "[This] speaks to not only how people rely on employers for good information but also that they don’t expect employers to lie to them," said David Bersoff, SVP and head of global thought leadership research at Edelman.
Can company culture survive WFH?
It can, if leaders are rigorously positive in communications with staff, writes Chris Dyer in Management Today (subscription). As outlined above, staffers are depending on their companies’ leaders to provide accurate information. That can take the form of standard emails, of course, but Dyer has some specific advice about how bosses can keep culture alive and thriving while dealing with our new working realities.
- Long-distance collaboration depends on two things: transparency and effective listening. Face it: You’re going to be on a lot of conference calls, which anyone who has listened to a coworkers’ kids screaming in the background or been overwhelmed by static feedback from Zoom newbies knows can be a nightmare.
- But they don’t have to be. Writing about his experience with a WFH situation forced on him by the 2008 financial crisis, Dyer says "Without face-to-face discussion, we needed to boost our listening skills, particularly when teleconferencing. This meant no multitasking and repeating back a speaker’s words or asking for clarification to make sure everyone was understood."
- While not multitasking while on a conference call may seem impossible, more important, writes Dyer, is to know when to keep your mouth shut: "Be patient and methodical in choosing to remain silent and take notes or reply only when a response [is] warranted. No one wants to waste time speaking and not being heard. Thoughtful and respectful listening is a hallmark of great company culture."
- Other ways to keep culture alive: Virtual engagements via social media, like this one being organized by MM&M, which encourages people to share their workday break strategies now that they can’t meet at the real watercooler. Spoiler Alert: You may end up rowing.
With conference and video calls becoming the new norm, leaders must learn how to teach co-workers the most effective ways of communicating when companies go virtual. Remember: They’re watching you, and depending on you.
Good communication can help workers feel more connected and less stressed
It's important for us all to be paying attention to mental health: our own, our family's and our coworkers. The grand WFH and social distancing experiment now underway — essential, further atomizing an already atomized society by closing all public gathering spots like bars, gyms and theaters — could lead to an increased sense of isolation and stress.
Benjamin Winters, writing in Medical Bag, says that experts are increasingly concerned about the effects the virus is having on older patients and frontline healthcare workers. But the concerns can just as easily be shifted to anyone being affected by the outbreak. In other words: all of us.
- The stress caused by the conditions surrounding the pandemic can lead to problems with sleep, which causes several knock-on problems.
- Rest and time alone were found to help people deal with the stress. Time alone may be at a premium for those of us sheltering in place with whole families.
- On the other hand, further isolation can increase feelings of depression, especially in older patients, who are at increased risk of contracting the virus and of more severe reactions to the virus.
As hard as it might be now that we’re staying away from each other to stop the spread of the virus, we need to look after each other so we all stay healthy, body and mind. So check in with people who you think may be at risk, and those you know are alone.
And finally, a bit of optimism: Writing in McKnight’s Long Term Care News, editorial director John O’Connor, who’s been covering LTC for 30 years, reminds a jittery readership that this isn’t the new normal: It’s “a blip.”
- "To be clear, we need to give the coronavirus outbreak all the attention, respect and common sense it deserves. But here’s the thing: As bad as this is—and it’s plenty bad—it will not last forever. Sooner or later, we will find a way to treat the coronavirus—or at least get it under control."
- "Why do I believe that? Because that is what we have always done."
Trust a guy named O’Connor to be optimistic on St. Patrick’s Day. Stay well and remember to wash your hands. And as they quite aptly say in Ireland, Slainte. (To your health.)