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How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

I am always giving my clients tips on how to work online. Here are the key complaints I hear from clients and friends:

  • It’s hard to connect with people
  • It’s hard to keep productive
  • It’s lonely, and
  • There’s a tendency to work too much

 I feel this happens for several reasons:

  • We’re just not that used to it – yet
  • We are trying to work using old routines and models that are better suited for face to face
  • We still have a few issues feeling comfortable in front of a camera, or with technology in general, and
  • For those working from home, this means working from what is/was our personal space. Considering how much of our personal space we want to share on-screen is still something many are struggling with.

But, working online is now the main aspect of white-collar working life. Many office workers who, pre-pandemic, had to commute to work now can work remotely. Even if they go back to the office, you may find it empty, and most of the work you do is still in front of the computer anyway. So for transitional office-based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself, or job hunting, I hope you will find these tips helpful.

I work from home all day, every day. Here are my top tips:

1. Be ruthless with emails

I check them every day, early in the morning and last thing at night. I don’t advise everyone to do this; quite the contrary. I do it because it suits my line of work. It works for me because I have clients globally. I just invite you to consider the following: what email management routine will help you cope with your work? Then apply it daily, and stick to it.

Another email rule is that I don’t answer emails after hours or on the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working, this is the time they have to work on their career plans and job search. But I need my break; otherwise, I will burn out. I will still read the emails every morning, even on weekends, because I need to keep an eye on emergencies. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait.

2. GIFs and Emojis are fine

We need to find ways to show emotions when working online. I’ve learned to love to by observing how the millennials and Gen Z use them. I used to think they were childish. But now, I hardly see anyone face to face, and if an emoji will translate my facial expression or emotion and make people smile, then I am a fan. It’s important to be playful and have some fun during work. But keep in mind that you need to know when and who to send them to. Of course, GIFs and emojis are not for every communication. In my case, if you get an emoji from me, it’s because we’re already pals.

3. Videos and voice messages are your friend

I am addicted to Loom, a video messaging platform that has replaced at least half of my written emails. Here is an example: in this video, I am teaching how to disable the “People also viewed” box on LinkedIn. I always recommend that all my clients do this when they’re looking for work.

I copy-paste the link to the Loom video into an email, send it to a client, and this is how I coach between sessions. I also communicate with my family in Australia and overseas with voice messages on WhatsApp. This way, it’s more personal, and I don’t have to look at the screen and type all day. I can record when I’m walking. It’s much more fun for me to receive a voice message from a friend on the other side of the world than read her text.

4. Look good on video

  • Show up on camera as much as possible. There’s nothing worse for a meeting organizer or event speaker when everyone’s camera is off. I also believe it’s better for your career
  • Invest in a camera with clear image and audio. I will link here the camera I use. It sits either on my monitor or on a tripod
  • Have it at your eye-level
  • Ensure you have a background that denotes professionalism
  • Avoid fake and blurry backgrounds: they are suitable for emergencies, for example, if you’re traveling. Another exception is for corporate branding only, such as when you’re holding a public event or conference.

5. Create fun traditions and opportunities working online

I am a fan of a Zoom open-door policy. It’s like the old-fashion open door, but on Zoom, Google meet, or wherever you hold your online video meetings. I also know that some workplaces are trying new traditions such as trivia nights and drinks. And finally, make the most out of your online work environment by posting, sharing ideas, and contributing to others who take the lead and share. Please, everyone, try to give these a go.

6. Have at least two monitors

Having at least two monitors is an essential aspect of working online. It helps with so many different tasks. Drag and drop, presentation view, and working while checking the Slack activity. It ’s the best investment you will ever make.

7. Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting. 

I know that for some people, the comfort of working from home is hard to give up. But it’s really important to maintain connections with colleagues and your professional network. In a few days, I will have a walking meeting with someone I have not seen for over two years. I am happy she reached out and glad that the pandemic has made it ok for us to have a professional conversation while walking on the beach, wearing leggings.

New times, new traditions!

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The Job Hunting Podcast
138. How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

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This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

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Posted in Job Hunting Made Simple, The world @work

The Dream vs Reality

My lived experience of part-time work, parenting, and working from home

Three years ago I was looking to return to the workforce after having children. I really wanted to cut out the dreaded commute time to the office, as well as those rushed pickups from school and childcare. Who wants that stress in their lives every day? I thought about how wonderful it would be if I were able to work part-time, and from home, without all the logistical pressures… Surely I wasn’t the only one who dreamed about this?

Well, dreams do come true, but not quite in the way we might have expected!

I secured my ideal three-days-per-week job, with the option to work from home, just as the pandemic was starting to hit here in Victoria. I set up my perfect working space by the window. The garden became my daily view. This was going to be bliss.

However, within weeks I would realise this was not going to be quite so blissful after all. With lockdowns in place, both schools and childcare centres were closed and things changed dramatically. The children would now be home for the foreseeable future. Not only was I a recruiter, I had the added roles of teacher, carer and boredom reliever/entertainer whilst fulfilling my day job. Family life once again became a juggling act, trying to fit in work calls around setting up my young son – who was only new to the education system, with his daily tasks – trying to stop the other child from having too much screen time versus drawing on every surface of the house. It was a nightmare.

While my WFH dream had faded, the world @work carried on. Not exactly normal or new normal, just in a slightly different way. Catching up for coffee with a client or candidate was shelved for meeting on Teams or Zoom, and our recruitment process adapted to interviewing and onboarding candidates online, not knowing when they would meet their employers in person. Even my husband started a new role during Covid – it took him nine months to finally meet his colleagues in person.

Like so many people here in Australia with family and friends abroad, I am heading overseas in a couple of months to see my own family after a long absence. It has been tough for everybody, especially missing out on the special times together. As for me, this time I have decided it’s not going to be a working holiday and I am grateful that Slade Group supports that.

It’s been great to see flexibility occurring more broadly in the market. Progressive companies are supporting their employees by considering extended leave, career breaks, boomerang hires and other forms of engagement – all of which I have benefited from over the years, which enables them to retain the talent they have invested in. These are also the companies attracting that coveted top talent, not only here in Australia, but globally. I am not just talking about the hybrid model or simply working from home. Think about employees working across different times zones. I think we have proven that all of these can be done, and be done successfully.

As some of the old normal starts to return, my dream is growing bright again. I get to keep on doing what I wanted to do, which is return to work (minus the deputy teacher and childcare jobs on the side), in a role I love, connected and productive, at my home office with my desk next to the window overlooking the garden. I truly feel like one of the lucky ones. To all those parents that are looking to return to the workforce – finally we have far more options and flexibility than we ever did before, and I would not want it any other way.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

The U30s are different.

Covid delayed a lot of Under 30s’ plans for the exhilarating two year stint living and working abroad, but with borders re-open, they’re busting out in big numbers again.

Before moving to London this month from Melbourne, 27 year old Kirsty had two very attractive offers from two UK consulting firms. Both sizeable, reputable organisations, the choice for Kirsty in assessing their job offers wasn’t so much about the role or the salary. For Kirsty it came down to their respective answer to one question: “What are your WFH/WFO arrangements?”

One said, “We’re super flexible, we all work when and where we want, at home or in the office.” The other said, “We offer some flexibility, but most of us are in the office most days.” Kirsty jumped at the opportunity to work in an office where she’d get to work with and know her colleagues In Real Life. Who would have seen that wheel turning? Not me! As Kirsty said, “Why would I want to live in some dodgy affordable share house and work from my bedroom all day? I want to get out and meet people, and at work is the obvious place where that happens.”

Those at mid and later stage careers can likely look back on their first decade in the workforce as one which was fast, fun and challenging. We didn’t have too many responsibilities outside of work, and family life, if that lay ahead, was still a foreign country. Who didn’t collect a handful of friends they made at work in their 20s? And perhaps you’re one of the two in five people who have had relationships with people they met through work? Pretty hard to have a drink over Zoom on Friday night and kick on.

Leadership is hard, and this is another example of the nuanced decision making that is required in policy planning and employee centred decision making. A 27 year old is very different to a 47 year old, and we can’t assume their workstyle needs are the same!

Good luck managing through another year of challenging decision making.

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Posted in The world @work

A checklist for successful onboarding, road-tested by our new GM

Thinking about how best to make your new team member feel valued from the very beginning takes little time or effort, but the impact can certainly be lasting.

I was lucky enough to take six months off in 2021 (which unfortunately coincided with yet another lockdown in Melbourne) with a view to taking part in some of the Ironman 70.3 triathlon races around Australia. Border closures soon put an end to that plan, but I got pretty fit in the process and loved being able to support my kids as they went through a couple more terms of virtual school. My wife continued to work full-time on her retail business through this time, so being able to keep things under control on the home front was a real bonus.

By September, I was starting to think about a new role, when the opportunity to join Slade Group appeared on my horizon – an exciting opportunity to work with a great team in a business with over 50 years of successful history. Having talked to clients and candidates for two years about how to prepare to onboard or be onboarded from home, I was now about to experience it for myself… I was feeling that nervous excitement, like kid about to start a new school!

First impressions with your new employer count a lot. Receiving all my paperwork and company information promptly was a good start, followed up by a friendly call to check I had received it all ok. I liked that.

The week before my start date, my technology arrived, complete with all my login details. It seems like fair expectation that this would happen. Yet, I have heard so many tales over the last 20 years from candidates who have turned up on day one to find the IT set-up had not been done, or worse still, some who had to clean their new desk! Not the best way to make someone feel welcome.

On my first day, I received a jam-packed onboarding plan covering the first few weeks. Zoom meetings had been prepopulated in my diary, and almost every minute of every day had been accounted for. I immediately felt comfortable that there was a good structure in place to introduce me to every part of the organisation and my team.

I received phone calls from others in the team (including my new boss) welcoming me on board and reassuring me that we would all get to meet in person soon. I felt included straight away; I didn’t feel like I was isolated WFH in my home office. I was given thorough training on our systems, reviewed key client information and was immediately able to put a plan together to meet (again virtually) many of our key customers. On the Thursday of week one I was able to enjoy a virtual wine tasting event with the team, led by one of the Yarra Valley’s leading winemakers. The fact that three bottles of their produce were delivered to my door in advance of the event (on my first day) was a nice touch.

My first impressions of Slade Group were good. I knew I had made the right decision to join the business.

Many organisations have given extra thought over the last few years on how to best onboard new employees given the unusual circumstances. There is no doubt that complacency has existed across parts of corporate Australia before demand for talent outstripped supply and job hunters were catapulted into the driving seat. My hope is that the greater level of care and attention we are now seeing when welcoming new starters lasts – particularly as offices reopen and start to fill up again.

Here is a minimum checklist for your own onboarding plan:

  1. Start date – Make sure you know the actual start date of your new team member and put a reminder in your diary
  2. Equipment – Ensure they have all the equipment they will need to do their job, not just a computer, and arrange delivery ahead of their start date if they will be working remotely
  3. Support – Liaise with colleagues in support roles to provide essential services well in advance
  4. Welcome pack – A welcome gift or care pack that will be appreciated
  5. Stakeholders – Engage the key stakeholders who will be working with your new team member and include them in the onboarding plan
  6. Onboarding plan – Develop a written plan covering all aspects of training, knowledge sharing and introductions that can be shared with the new employee
  7. Contact – Call or send your new employee a message before they start to let them know you’re looking forward to seeing them, even if it’s on Zoom
  8. Check-in – Regular check-ins during the first few weeks go a long way (put a note in the diary)

It is very reassuring for a new employee (at any level) to know that their first week or two have been carefully thought out. Considering there may not be any water cooler chats for a little while, it’s important to ask new starters for continual feedback. Any opportunities for improvement should always be welcomed for the next hire. And if you have done all of the above well, it shouldn’t be replacing the person you have just onboarded!

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

Are your employees safe Working from Home?

Whilst it is generally accepted that many businesses made a rapid almost overnight transition to work from home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, eight months on, are your employees safe?

With many employees moving to work from home arrangements initially working from makeshift work areas such as kitchen benches, couches and even lap tables in bed, what are you doing to ensure your employees have moved to more ergonomically suitable work specific areas to reduce their risk of injury or illness?

Flexible arrangements forced by the pandemic are becoming the new ‘normal’ for many workplaces with the realisation that technology, video conferencing and reduced travel time can result in a more productive and less expensive workplace however, these costs will increase greatly if employees are working from home without a suitable set up.

The Work Health and Safety obligations on an employer require that they provide a workplace that is free of risk to their employees so far as is reasonably practicable. As the home office is simply an extension to the workplace, an employer is obligated to ensure that the employee has a suitable work area, as they would be obligated to do so in the office location.

Musculoskeletal injuries caused by poor ergonomic work areas is an obvious risk when considering what injuries may occur in work from home settings. Other injuries and illnesses may include; social isolation from not working in a workplace with their colleagues; fatigue and burnout from not having a work area that they can walk away from forcing that work life balance; and stress caused by job uncertainty.

It is recommended that workplaces begin to return to a new COVID norm, that a reassessment of the flexible work arrangements be undertaken to include the actual workspace setups employees have and how they have coped working in that environment. 

Now is also the time to ensure you have well documented policies, procedures and employment documents which are imperative for clarity of expectations for employees who work remotely due to their lack of face to face contact.

To greater assist your employees with work from home and to minimise their risk you should:-

  • Update all work from home documentation including policies, procedures and checklists to ensure they are fit for purpose.
  • Clarify when a work from home employee is ‘at work’ and when it is their personal time.  Consideration could be given to even shutting off access for employees to systems indicating that they have finished for the day.
  • Talk to your employees regarding safety whilst working at home. Ensure they are aware that their obligation to keep themselves safe and to report any injury, incident or near miss continues to exist as the home is their extended workplace.
  • Investigate any incidents, injuries promptly to understand if they are a work related injury and to assist the employee to reduce or eliminate any future risk.

This article was originally published by HR Advice Online. For more information about our partnership, click here.

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Posted in The world @work

COVID-19 continues to change how we work. Could it be for the better?

Living in Australia and having experienced the Stage 4 lockdowns in Victoria, it is apparent that this pandemic has changed how we work. The question now is, could it be for the better?

Last month our team joined the SEEK Insight & Innovation 2020 digital event, a seminar which was informative and well executed.

Some of the ideas presented really stem from taking the time to be considerate of the massive upheaval experienced by many people across the world, and I am pleased to say Slade Group has been carrying them through: increasing employee engagement; adapting to new ways of working, primarily working from home (especially for those who are in roles that are not usually accustomed to working from home); investing in new technology; innovating our service delivery and diversifying our service offering.   

While at this stage ‘Covid Normal’ is still being defined, according to the statistics presented by SEEK, a massive 41% of people are rethinking their careers. The cycle of travelling to work, working long hours, travelling home, rushing the family meal, ferrying children to sports and other extra curricular activities, spending the whole weekend doing the same things… and then starting it all over again – isn’t appealing anymore.

Covid has given us the capacity to explore what we may be able to achieve without the usual routine we have just accepted as ‘life’, which statistics are saying isn’t desirable anymore.

It used to be cool to be ‘super busy’ because you were ‘successful’ and didn’t have time for anyone or anything. With the benefit of lockdown hindsight, we can recognise a few home truths: You may not be suited to the role you are doing, or you may have had too many roles (paid or unpaid) with too much on your plate. Were you making excuses not to catch up with someone you would really have liked to spend time with or to take time out for yourself?

With just over one month left in 2020, what are the insights for next year? I think most would agree taking care of our health is much higher on the agenda. Working from home in some capacity is here to stay. If your current role doesn’t provide the flexibility to reset the balance or you’ve had a break from the workforce and are looking to get your career back on track, what would be challenging and stimulating?

My team at Slade Group are assisting our client organisations to develop the culture and strategies that will allow them to be successful in a post Covid world @work. At the same time, we are helping candidates to reinvent themselves and find their perfect role, not simply because it’s our job, or to do our part to reduce the unemployment rate (since the pandemic, the highest in over 20 years) and rebuild the economy. We are looking forward to a new normal where personal life and business life happily coexist, so you may need to find another reason to not catch up with that person you have been putting off. 😊

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Daily performance reviews and clearing the clutter: 15 tips for those working from home

Having left a secure executive position with IBM for the insecurity of starting my own business, I sometimes struggled in a home office before expanding into ‘real’ commercial office space to accommodate staff.

Now, like many others, I find myself back working from home, so here are some tips, gleaned over many years, to those experiencing this for the first time; thankfully with benefits of technology that weren’t available 25 years ago.  

Discipline

Self-discipline is vital, especially when you’re accountable to no one but yourself and your clients, or less accountable to a remote boss.

Ironically, you go into your own business for the flexibility of working independently, but without the healthy discipline to show up and put the time in, you won’t last long.

Time is your main finite currency and can’t be wasted on TV, social media or endlessly tidying cupboards. 

Routine

Flexibility is indeed a bonus of working from home, but for maximum productivity, you need some routine in place — not the one imposed by others, but the self-imposed schedule that you stick to most workdays.

It may not be 9-5, but set that alarm for a regular start. 

For example, my day starts at 7am with a hot lemon drink and listening to the news as I skim emails from overseas that arrive overnight. Urgent ones are answered and the rest prioritised, before putting on laundry, and going for swim, followed by quick, healthy breakfast. ‘Real’ work may not start until 10am when I sit down at PC to fully focus. 

Boundaries

Tell friends and family you’re there for them in an emergency, but that you need to limit social chit chat to certain times of the day, before or after your working hours (whatever they may be).

When I started working from home, I had to remind friends that I was self-employed-not unemployed! And even if you are unemployed, it may be part of your daily ‘job’ to actively seek a job.

Devote the discipline, focus and time to do so. Endless hours on the phone complaining about things won’t help.

Focus and prioritise

If you need to concentrate on a big project, put your phone on silent in another room with a recorded message of when you’ll return calls. Obviously that won’t work for all occupations, but most of us don’t really need to be in response mode 24/7. 

Visible goals, purpose and outcomes

To avoid being easily distracted, have your important goals, outcomes and purpose clearly visible.

These will serve as a constant reminder that all tasks should contribute to those ends, and that it’s not necessary to reply to every email or read every article that comes across your virtual desk.

Daily to-do list

As well as the big picture plan, have a daily to-do list. Commit a certain number of hours per day to your key big goal and other tasks that require completion. Maybe three key things that must be done that day and five more you’d like to do.

Rather than chance it to memory, you’ll not only achieve more but have a sense of satisfaction as you tick things off.

Outsource

As much as possible, focus on your big goals and outsource more mundane tasks, those you don’t like doing or ones that others can do better than you. Think cleaning, database, bookkeeper accountant, IT specialist, virtual PA, et cetera.

Play to your strengths and get help with your weaknesses.

Batch tedious tasks and calls

For greater productivity, ask yourself: ‘What will be my best use of time today? Tomorrow? This week? This month?’

For example, I have a ‘finance Friday’ to handle all things financial, rather than deal with bills and invoices as they arrive.  

Deadlines

At business school, I vividly remember reading The Peter Principle, in which, among other things, author Laurence Peters postulates that most tasks expand to fill the available time. 

Nothing happens without a deadline; or very little does. As a writer and professional speaker, nothing focuses my mind and my work activity more sharply than a deadline from a publisher or approaching conference, when the luxury of creative thinking vanishes to give way to completion.

So, it’s necessary to set self-imposed deadlines for important tasks.

And by the way, there is never enough time for entrepreneurial thinking people to do all the things they’d like to do. 

Clear the clutter

It’s an old habit from my IBM career, because the company insisted on a clean desk policy before employees left the office. It’s served me well even when I’m the only person who might ever see that messy desk.

Messy desk equals messy mind, so my home workspace is clear at the end of each day (whenever the end of that day may be) with my to-do list ready for the next day to start afresh with a clean slate.  

Maintain high standards

Don’t let standards slip. OK, so there were times the laptop balanced on knees while I sat in my Qantas pyjamas. But avoid this. It’s easy to slip into the groove of hanging around the house like a total slob.

I know one person who walks around the block and back into his home office at 8.30am every morning, and another who still dons lipstick while home alone, even if they have no zoom calls that day. Do whatever works to help you work in this new environment. 

Personally, I’m looking for time delay lock on the fridge, but the best I can do is to physically shut the door to the home office and set a timer that I won’t even think of leaving the chair even a second before. Yes, more discipline.  

Practice a healthy lifestyle

People often ask me how I find time to exercise. It has always been an essential activity for me. It is not a waste of time and an integral part of my daily routine regardless of what work pressures may loom.

We can’t take care of our clients or family if we don’t take care of ourselves!

This may sound somewhat obsessive, but I actually have it at the top of my daily to-do list, and the mere fact of checking it off gives me a strange sense of achieving at least one of my goals for the day. 

I also have ‘stretch’ on my daily list as a reminder to occasionally give those shoulders and neck a break. 

Performance review

At the end of each day, have a 60-second review as you brush your teeth and honestly assess those last 24 hours.

We’re all prone to beat ourselves up for what we haven’t achieved because of some frustration (often a result of technology and/or bureaucracy glitches beyond our control).

Take the time to reflect, and possibly journal, all the things you have achieved and everything that you’re grateful for, even if it hasn’t been a perfect day.

Time out

While a focus on discipline is essential, sometimes we do indeed need to be a little gentler with ourselves.   

When enough is enough?

Admittedly, that’s a lesson I’m still working on, but most self-employed people and self-starters always have a steady stream of new ideas, which means their to-do list is never completely done.

So do take some time to smell the roses or appreciate that view.

Rewards

Apart from the obvious financial rewards of working productively from home, set your own rewards when you reach certain goals. It may be an annual dream vacation (when travel resumes), a monthly manicure (when that resumes), a weekly TV binge or a daily treat.

This article was originally published on SmartCompany. Reproduced with permission from the author.

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Posted in The world @work

Peering into the Murky Crystal Ball – Part 3

In the final part of this special three-part series, Part 3 – The Imponderables, Executive Coach and freelance blogger for The Slade Report, David Simpson, offers some observations on the factors at play in determining the new normal. Catch up or recap here on Part 1 – The Inevitables and Part 2 – The Inconclusives.

The Imponderables

  1. Civic Unity or Selfish Disunity

Since the 50s we have seen a radical shift in attitudes about community. The reasons are many: changes in the nuclear family, urbanisation, greater media transparency, higher levels of education, multiculturalism and globalisation. “Shared values” have fragmented and once trusted institutions – government, the law, medicine, banking and church – have all come under fire. The meaning of good citizenship has changed. With the work day expanding and dual income families becoming the norm, time available for community involvement has evaporated. An obvious example is the membership decline of service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions.

It could be argued that human behaviour has been modified by technology (attention span, inward focus, susceptibility to web influence). It is hard to say if less human person to person contact leads to less empathy, but the time spent with individual handheld screens has certainly promulgated a first person/me first mentality.

One would hope that the COVID-19 crisis reminds us that we are all in this “humanity thing” together. It should have a bearing on how we manage the challenges of unemployment and what is deemed fair as the digital divide widens the gap between the haves and the have nots. The answer lies somewhere between full blown Socialism and Social Darwinism. Hopefully, enlightenment prevails over self-interest.

In the short term, I believe that we need to re-emphasise the subject of civics in our education system to teach what citizenship involves and why it is important.

  1. Environmental Action or On-going Inertia

The vast majority of the world’s inhabitants support more initiative on climate change. Whether most fully appreciate the cost or the effort required of real action is another matter. Powerful interests such as oil, auto and fast consumables wield significant influence in resistance. Putin’s oligarchs, the Saudi Royal Family and the likes of the Koch brothers are not going down without a fight. However, the collective action that has been required to get a significant percent of the global population to self-isolate for self-preservation may spur on a surge of activism in the sustainability movement.

Interestingly, the pandemic’s impact of virtualisation with downward pressure on petroleum use and overall consumption could be an unexpected first step in lowering of the global carbon footprint.

  1. Decline of America/Ascendancy of China

Trump has certainly done a good job burning off the goodwill the US has built up with its allies since 1945. America’s moral authority as crusader for democracy and guardian of the free world has been eroded in three and a half short years with poor statesmanship and bullying America First protectionism. It is hard to believe that the damage is irreparable if there is a return to more sane foreign policy and respected leadership. On the other hand, an extended Trump presidency could lead to a permanent loss of credibility as well as worldwide instability.

Despite being initially cast as the COVID-19 pariah, China is filling the foreign aid void left by America and is providing economic and technical assistance to the third world. Hey, they are even donating medical essentials to the US! Even if major trading partners push to repatriate some production, China will remain the global manufacturing and export powerhouse. If stoking of domestic consumption starts in earnest, it is only a matter of time before their GNP rivals the US. At the same time, the Chinese continue to build up military capability to offset the US as the international police force.

US sponsored democratic capitalism has always espoused the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats. It would be naïve to think that the People’s Republic has quite the same “win-win” attitude. China has shown they will follow their own path that is decidedly Chinese in its focus. If you dislike American hegemony, you will like the Chinese version even less.

  1. Globality or Nationalism

Have we reached the peak of globalisation or just a momentary pause? Given that we will undoubtedly be working through a recession at best, recovery not expansion will be the priority. The problems of supply chain and vulnerability to offshoring will stall any further plans to outsource overseas and the call to bring back jobs to address unemployment will be strong. The larger questions about consumerism – “Is it sustainable?” and “Can there be prosperity without growth?” – are likely to get more attention than they might have otherwise.

On the political side of globalism, does the lack of a coordinated approach to tackling the pandemic signal the need for greater cross border collaboration? Alternatively, do countries now conclude that they have no choice but to shut their borders and tend to their own backyard?

I hope it is a combination of both. Building redundancy into a worldwide health response capability must surely happen. The WHO or some repurposed alternative will have to be funded and provided the requisite authority to mitigate a disaster re-occurrence. It will require worldwide agreement (or at least consensus with the UN Security Council) to achieve it. Having something vitally serious to talk about in terms of collaboration is a real opportunity.

On the national level, I hope that this will finally get us discussing more seriously how oppositional politics have gone too far. Representing one’s supporters is a commitment, but not the exclusive one. In the most basic terms, elected officials are responsible to all citizens, not just the ones who voted for them. Building back the muscle memory of bipartisan cooperation
– at least in areas of general public interest (disaster relief, infrastructure)
– can only translate to better preparedness when crisis hits again. Here’s to the positive side of nationalism: We stand as nation together, but also as a willing member of the world family when necessary.

The fact that WFH has given me occasion to reflect on these matters encourages me to believe that better minds than mine are also thinking them through. It is said that you should never waste a good crisis.

 
I certainly hope that is true.

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Posted in The world @work