At the World’s Watercooler: a second wave of Covid-19 results in different content to the first

The virus is back in the headlines – but professionals are focused on finding a way forward

November 27, 2020

At the World’s Watercooler: a second wave of Covid-19 results in different content to the first

In last month’s edition of the Watercooler, we reported on how the Covid-19 pandemic had largely disappeared from the headlines of the most shared posts on LinkedIn. Across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America there was a determination to move the professional conversation forward – and focus on the positives.

With a second wave of the virus taking hold during October, it’s no surprise that this has changed. The pandemic is back in the headlines. However, the content triggered by the resurgence of Covid-19 is very different to that shared during the first wave.

Reactions to the pandemic now have a distinctly regional flavour. In Europe, where the second wave has overwhelmed an apparent return to normality during the summer, the most shared posts involve finding ways for life and work to continue. Latin America shares several of the same posts but balances this with an equal concern for equality of opportunity in the workplace. Covid-related content plays out differently again in The Middle East and Africa, where the hope is that peaks of infection have been passed. Here there’s talk of economic opportunities from the shift to remote working.

The most widely shared story of all comes from the Spanish newspaper El Pais, which created three graphic models illustrating the speed at which Covid-19 spreads and infects in different indoor scenarios. This piece dominated sharing in Europe while also proving highly influential in Latin America. It’s a return to the type of expert, scientific and graphical content that was widely shared in the early months of the pandemic. This time around though, it comes with a more actionable perspective. The Covid Airborne Transmission Estimator used to generate its models was developed at the University of Colorado – and shows how policies of wearing masks and ventilating rooms rapidly cut the risk of Covid-19. This helps to explain its popularity in regions grappling with how to balance safety with keeping businesses open.

The only story to appear in the top ten for every region concerns Microsoft’s new hybrid workplace policy, which applies beyond the pandemic and allows employees to work from home up to half of the time automatically. It signals a shift in attitudes to remote working that resonates worldwide. In every region, it’s joined in the top ten by additional, local posts that argue for a fundamental shift in how we think about the workplace.

The Watercooler for Europe:

1. Un salón, un bar y una clase: así contagia el coronavirus en el aire

From El Pais

2. TousAntiCovid

From Ministère des Solidarités et de la Santé

3. Carlos Tavares: “Le Monde est Fou”

From Hybride à Eau

4. Tutti lo amano, ma nessuno vuole farlo. Il commerciale

From Dalila D’Allocco on Medium

5. Microsoft will allow employees to stay remote permanently

From New York Post

6. Microsoft Will Let Employees Work From Home Permanently

From Forbes

7. Two women jointly win Nobel Prize for chemistry for first time in history

From Sky News

8. Great Barrington Declaration

From Great Barrington Declaration

9. Apprendre à apprendre, un processus émotionnel plutôt qu’intellectuel

From Harvard Business Review France

10. Basta pendolarismo, tornare a lavorare nei borghi porterebbe benessere e produttività

From Il Sole 24 Ore

Lessons from Europe’s Watercooler:

The second wave of the pandemic has pushed Covid-19 back to the top of the professional agenda in Europe. The three most shared posts about the virus show how the response to the pandemic has evolved – but also how difficult it can still be to build consensus around the right way forward.

Besides the El Pais post shedding light on the risks of indoor spaces and how to counter them, professionals in Europe responded to the TousAntiCovid tracing app launched by France’s health ministry. However, another widely shared post took offered a different (and controversial) perspective. In The Great Barrington Declaration, a group of epidemiologists and public health scientists argued that the Covid-19 policies supported by a majority of their peers and the World Health Organisation cause too much damage to economies.

Similarly controversial was the view being put forward by the CEO of the French automotive multinational PSA, Carlos Tavares. He questioned the wisdom of governments enforcing a sudden pivot to electric vehicles when the full environmental implications of the technology are not yet understood.

The rest of Europe’s Top Ten echoed common themes among the most influential content on LinkedIn, though often with a perspective borne of the pandemic. Dalila Dallocco’s post celebrated the enduring value of salespeople and commercial thinking – and argued that organisations need to look beyond sales stereotypes when investing in talent. Harvard Business Review explored the challenges that often get in the way of building learning organisations that are more agile, resilient and able to respond to disruption. Il Sole 24 Ore explored the health and economic benefits of relocating professional life away from Italy’s cities and into its villages.

Sky News shared a story of scientific achievement that’s also a reminder of the need for greater gender equality in the sphere. It celebrated the first occasion that two women have jointly won the Nobel prize for chemistry – but pointed out that the recipients were only the sixth and seventh women ever to win the award. Professors Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were recognised for their work developing theCRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technique known as ‘genetic scissors’. It’s a breakthough that enables the precise editing of DNA sequences.

The Watercooler for Latin America:

1. Senhor Estagiário: Unilever abre vagas para estudantes com mais de 55 anos

From Exame

2. Novos gestores cuidam do bem-estar dos funcionários

From Globo

3. Natura abre mais de 90 vagas de estágio sem restrição de idioma ou idade

From Exame

4. Na Pepsico, funcionários agora definem a hora e o local de trabalho

From Exame

5. La creatividad será la habilidad más buscada en el poscovid

From CincoDías

6. Un salón, un bar y una clase: así contagia el coronavirus en el aire

From El Pais

7. Microsoft les dice a los empleados que pueden trabajar desde casa para siempre

From Entrepreneur.com

8. Microsoft will allow employees to stay remote permanently

From New York Post

9. Em home office até 2021, Itaú abre mais de 2 mil vagas de emprego

From Exame

10. Cofundadora do Nubank diz na TV que é ‘difícil’ contratar líderes negros

From Yahoo! News

Lessons from Latin America’s Watercooler:

Workplace initiatives to broaden talent pools and increase equality of opportunity have become a dominant theme among Latin America’s most shared posts. This discussion has gained fresh impetus from the events of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement. However, the mix of posts in this month’s top ten highlights how far there still is to go.

In the most shared post, Exame celebrates Unilever’s expansion of its senior intern initiative, which is open to people over the age of 55 and is seen as tapping into important pools of talent while breaking down barriers between generations. The same publication also spotlights the internship programme of cosmetic group Natura, which has no age or language restrictions – and a target that 50% of places should be filled by black applicants. However, another post in the top ten testifies to the difficult path ahead for increasing racial equality at all levels of organisations. Yahoo! News reports comments from the co-founder of Nubank, who complained of a lack of suitable black candidates for leadership roles.

With the impact of Covid-19 continuing to be felt widely across the region, posts exploring the different dimensions of the pandemic proved highly influential. The El Pais analysis of indoor transmission made the top ten, along with two features exploring Microsoft’s initiative on remote work, and news of a similar initiative from Pepsico.

The Spanish business newspaper Cinco Dias examined another dimension of professional life post-Covid: the growth in importance of different skills. Creativity tops the list of most sought-after skills in new research from EY and the Future of Work initiative. It’s followed by analytical skills, teamwork and coaching – all testifying to the importance of adaptability and agility for organisations going forward. Specific, technology-related skills like software programming come significantly further down the list.

The Watercooler for the Middle East and North Africa:

1. Single mother struggles to support autistic son after losing job

From The National News UAE

2. A Bad Job With a Good Boss Is Better Than a Good Job With a Bad Boss

From Brigette Hyacinth

3. Microsoft Will Let Employees Work From Home Permanently

From Forbes

4. Dubai moves to attract world’s remote workers with new residency programme

From The National News UAE

5. Deloitte to shut four offices, to transfer all staff to permanent work from home

From MoneyControl

6. Microsoft will allow employees to stay remote permanently

From New York Post

7. Can't remember the name of that song? Now you can hum it to Google

From USA Today

8. A GOOD BOSS is better than a good company!

From Brigette Hyacinth

9. Chances of catching coronavirus on a flight are less than lightning strike, IATA says

From The Independent

10. Ras Al Khaimah becomes first city in the world to offer free COVID-19 tests to international visitors

From Hotelier Middle East

Lessons from The Middle East and North Africa’s Watercooler:

As last month, local interest stories from the United Arab Emirates proved some of the most influential in the region, with the most shared post of all focusing on the human costs of economic disruption caused by the pandemic. However, the main focus of the top ten is on regional initiatives to help economies move on from Covid-19 – and even take advantage of the opportunities that it creates.

The National News UAE reports on Dubai’s moves to position itself as a remote working hub, with new immigration initiatives inviting professionals to live in the emirate while working for companies overseas. An initiative by the emirate of Ras Al Khaima to offer free Covid-19 tests to all international visitors also draws attention as the first programme of its kind worldwide. And in a region with economies closely linked to travel, it’s perhaps no surprise that there’s a positive response to a claim by the International Air Transport Association. The IATA argues that confirmed and possible cases of coronavirus indicate that the chances of catching it on a flight are less than the chances of being struck by lightning.

The Watercooler for Sub-Saharan Africa:

1. The Short Tenure and Abrupt Ouster of Banking's Sole Black CEO

From The New York Times

2. Stripe acquires Nigeria’s Paystack for $200M+ to expand into the African continent

From Tech Crunch

3. A Bad Job With a Good Boss Is Better Than a Good Job With a Bad Boss

From Brigette Hyacinth

4. A GOOD BOSS is better than a good company!

From Brigette Hyacinth

5. Microsoft Will Let Employees Work From Home Permanently

From Forbes

6. Deloitte to shut four offices, to transfer all staff to permanent work from home

From MoneyControl

7. Microsoft will allow employees to stay remote permanently

From New York Post

8. Two women jointly win Nobel Prize for chemistry for first time in history

From Sky News

9. If You Can’t Trust Your Employees to Work Flexibly, Why Hire Them in the First Place?

From Brigette Hyacinth

10. Toxic work cultures make Best People Quit!

From Brigette Hyacinth

Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa’s Watercooler:

The ranking of the ten most shared posts in Sub-Saharan Africa is dominated by the output of one of LinkedIn’s most prominent influencers. Brigette Hyacinth accounts for four of the top ten, with posts following her consistently successful formula of combining quotes from business leaders (such as Alibaba boss Jack Ma), reflections on personal experiences – and themes that resonate with employees. All four posts discuss the importance of leadership and accountability in creating positive workplace cultures. Several gain a greater sense of urgency as a result of the pandemic: addressing the health impacts of toxic work cultures and the importance of trusting talented people to work flexibly.

Brigette Hyacinth isn’t responsible for either of the region’s two most shared posts however. These address themes that feel particularly relevant and timely to Africa in 2020.

The first is an investigation of the role of race and unconscious bias in the removal of Tidjane Thiam, the only black CEO of a major bank and a citizen of the Ivory Coast. Thiam had succeeded in returning Credit Suisse to profitability – but the New York Times story illustrates how he remained an outsider in international banking throughout his tenure.

The second covers the expansion of the Stripe mobile payments service via the acquisition of Nigeria’s similar payments integration start-up Paystack. It’s a story that resonates on several levels: a successful African business and an innovative payments service that could enable wider economic opportunity across the region. These are the types of stories that LinkedIn members in Africa consistently share. They reflect a belief in entrepreneurialism overcoming challenges for society as a whole. And that’s a theme that has endured even in the most difficult months of 2020.

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