4 Inspiring Ways Professional Communities Are Coping With Crisis
People are pivoting, pooling resources, donating time and skills, and looking out for each other.
In this sudden new time of “social distancing," the business world is stumbling through the motions in a daze. The forced closure of restaurants, stores, gyms and schools and cancellation of events has pushed our usual patterns of life off a cliff. Homeschooling. Remote work. Pivots and furloughs as workers are forced home by closings, quarantines or signs of illness, no matter how small. Business models being turned on a dime.
The rapid shifts are bringing out the strongest and best in many. But for some, anxiety about the future (agitated by the media) is bringing out society’s worst. There's fear-mongering, hoarding, hacking and fraud. But among professionals and businesses in my community, I've also seen quite a bit of resilience, resourcefulness and selfless action. Here are four examples.
1. Thoughtful professionals are pivoting and innovating.
If you're anything like me, you receive mountains of email every day from every company you've ever interacted with stating their positions and concern. But what if, instead of raising our hands to be counted as caring, we asked what value each of us can give? How can we be most productive with our time? What is our product or skill we can share with others?
Chip Hopper is a Salt Lake City-based business growth expert and author, and much of his usual work involves large-scale events and face-to-face networking. But Hopper is modifying his own plans toward activities such as finishing books, reading, studying and teaching how to advance partnerships in genuine and non-opportunistic ways in the current season.
Likewise, my friend David Corbin, known for keynote presentations and books such as Illuminate, told me that he's focused on alleviating one of the biggest problems in healthcare — burnout and turnover of the caretakers in our healthcare system — by developing a Rejuvenation Station, a soundproof pod with relaxation videos that helps healthcare staff, particularly in emergency room departments, experience significant stress reduction in as little as five minutes. He is contributing systems to the Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas and is seeking philanthropic donations to help him take the units to facilities throughout the U.S.
Another friend, Eric Mitchell, the cofounder of LifeFlip Media, has long had to take trips to New York for at least a week of every month to book and support TV guests for a spectrum of broadcast programs. He’s been successful in broadcast journalism but told me he's wished he had more time to invest in print and online reporting. In the current crisis, he's looking at what print media needs. They need new kinds of expertise from small businesses, health practitioners, supply chain specialists. So instead of pitching whatever what he had on hand, he's staying attentive and alert to what his media sources need. In the space of 72 hours, he supported reporters at AP, New York Times, Washington Post and multiple others.
2. We are being less wasteful in many ways.
It is valuable to evaluate what has changed for the better in the current period of crisis. Traffic and vehicle pollution has dramatically lessoned. And there are no more endless, useless meetings. Travel for face-to-face meetings is dwindling to seldom or never. These three factors alone have created the time for my own productivity to soar, even in the midst of rising family needs.
Remote workers are measured by their productivity, not for their hours of mandatory appearance on site. Water cooler gossip and the dynamics that fuel bad attitudes in office environments fade away. We must find and develop alternative ways of supporting positive dialogue and culture as well as protecting security and compliance in remote work environments, but all in all, the mobile work phenomenon is benefitting both workers and employers for good.
3. People are coming together for good.
I am impressed by the many people who are taking the opportunity to collaborate for the good of others. Publisher and marketer Yitzi Weiner, of Authority Magazine, put out an invitation for PR professionals to come together on a Zoom call to introduce themselves and combine resources during this challenging time. Several hundred responded. I was moved to near tears by the message of a young man who said his team had five clients but lost three at once when the pandemic began, but was still joining in to share what he could with others.
In this vein, every one of us can lean further in and also together during the crisis. Perhaps we can make two meals and share one with another work-at-home or homeschooling family. Within social distancing requirements, perhaps neighbors could orchestrate a two-home or extended family arrangement to alternate childcare shifts to allow parents to have alternating blocks of time in which they can work or can rest.
Related: 3 Key Steps for Crisis Communication
4. Many of us are acting, not just empathizing.
As we make connections with others, we should listen with empathy and be sure to give them our genuine thanks and support. We can leave an extra tip. Make it a point to support our local businesses. Provide a listening ear, or a gift, or an idea for some additional business.
As our local hotel managed a flood of cancellations, my traveling colleague could see the manager’s stress rise to near tears as she balanced the need to support her customers with the need to represent her company well. My colleague took the chance to purchase a small gift of a candle and chocolates as we went through our day and presented it to the manager upon our return. Her gratitude was immense.
The next day she returned the favor by gifting my colleague with a hazmat suit and mask to wear under her travel clothing for the cross country flight to D.C. she needed to take.
Who has lost their jobs? Do some strategic thinking to provide some suggestions to people so they'll feel less alone. Maybe there are temporary or emergency roles they can fill to gain some income and fill their time until the best new business or role can appear. We can adapt. Mobilize. Smile.
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