At the World’s Watercooler, talk turns to the future of work

As lockdowns start to ease in some countries, familiar themes and authors are shaping the agenda

July 17, 2020

At the World’s Watercooler, talk turns to the future of work

May was the month when the slow process of easing lockdowns began in many countries – and when governments, commentators and businesses started to plan for how professional life could move forward. Our analysis of content engagement on LinkedIn shows a similar shift in focus at the world’s Watercooler.

In April, our ranking of the ten most shared posts in each of Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa was wholly dominated by COVID-19. Every post in every top ten dealt with the virus and its impact directly. In May, we saw familiar themes around gender diversity, leadership, company culture and the importance of valuing employees reassert themselves among the most shared posts. The way that several authors treat these issues has been shaped by the pandemic – but the issues themselves have lost none of their importance in the minds of professional audiences.

A renewed focus on familiar themes has shifted influence back towards the bloggers, business authors and corporate brands that were often the focus of sharing before the pandemic. This is a noticeable change from the last two months, when traditional media such as broadsheet newspapers, broadcasters and print magazines dominated our top tens.

Noticeable among the Watercooler influencers storming back into our rankings is Brigette Hyacinth, author of the book Leading the Workplace of the Future, whose posts on leadership styles and empowering employees dominated our first Watercooler report back in December 2019. Hyacinth is now a contributor to the blog of Thrive Global, the mental resilience platform launched by Arianna Huffington. This combination of one of LinkedIn’s most influential post authors with the founder of The Huffington Post has created something of a shareable content ‘supergroup’. Thrive Global has built influence and awareness by re-sharing some of Hyacinth’s biggest hits at a time when they feel particularly relevant.

The Hyacinth-Huffington combination generated posts that were shared across multiple regions, as were articles in the Harvard Business Review that dealt with similar themes around valuing and investing in employees. However, the most internationally influential posts of all were those discussing the future of working from home. Google’s plans to allow employees to do so until the end of 2020 received widespread attention. So too did a feature on the Tech Crunch blog that argued that working from home during a pandemic should just be the start. Its authors make the case for a wider ranging remote-working revolution – inviting businesses to reconsider what an office means in the light of the last few months.

The Watercooler for Europe:

1. Work From Home is dead, long live Work From Anywhere

From Tech Crunch

2. Google Will Let Employees Work From Home Until The End Of 2020

From Forbes

3. You Get The Talent That You Pay for!

From Thrive Global

4. Digital Transformation Is About Talent, Not Technology

From Harvard Business Review

5. À Amsterdam, ce restaurant a une idée insolite pour limiter les contacts entre les clients

From Creapills

6. A Message from Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky

From Airbnb

7. Une subvention pour aider les TPE et PME à prévenir le Covid-19 au travail

From ameli.fr

8. Brunello Cucinelli lascia il ruolo di Ceo. Due quarantenni alla guida dell’impresa

From millionaire.it

9. Deux photographes nous montrent pourquoi il faut se méfier des clichés qui tournent pendant le confinement

From Creapills

10. Good Leadership Is About Communicating “Why”

From Harvard Business Review

Lessons from Europe’s Watercooler

The shift to a remote working culture and the need to reassess the value of talent dominate the agenda among Europe’s professionals. The four most shared posts in the region all deal with these global themes – and are all shared with at least three other regions. However, it’s not just broader questions of professional culture that Europeans are interested in. They’re starting to ask questions about what effective leadership looks like during a time of unprecedented disruption.

When Airbnb published a note from CEO Brian Chesky announcing extensive redundancies and restructuring, it quickly became a case study in how to handle such difficult news. Those sharing and commenting on the announcement praised Chesky’s empathy, transparency and compassion.

Many in Europe would argue that Brunello Cucinelli embodies these same qualities -and more. The fashion designer grew up as the son of farmers, transformed a small Italian village into a major player in a global industry, and has spent four decades running the company along principles of ‘humanistic capitalism’ focused on the dignity of all employees. His announcement that he was stepping back from the role of CEO reminded audiences just how valuable such purposeful leadership can be.

Both Chesky and Cucinelli stand out for their ability not just to provide direction – but to communicate effectively why that direction matters. That’s the central theme of a Harvard Business Review feature written by Nancy Duarte, the CEO of presentation design business, Duarte Inc. She argues that too many leaders assume that the ‘Why’ of a particular course of action is obvious – and so fail to communicate it properly. This leads to confusion and undermines behavioural change. At a time when governments and businesses alike must find ways to motivate people to live and work differently, her warning feels particularly timely.

In between these meditations on leadership, Europe’s professionals continue to value innovation – and a determination to look at things differently. This has driven the popularity of two posts from the creativity blog Creapills: one showing how different photography techniques can change perceptions of whether people are obeying social distancing guidelines; another celebrating a restaurant in Amsterdam using greenhouse-like structures to keep diners and waiters at a safe distance from one another. In France, ingenious solutions such as this could benefit from a grant announced by the national health insurance administration to help small businesses keep employees safe from COVID-19.

The Watercooler for Latin America:

1. MIT e Harvard preparam máscara que se acende quando detecta covid-19

From Exame

2. Jon Bon Jovi trabalha em seu restaurante comunitário durante a crise do coronavirus

From Globo.com

3. Google Will Let Employees Work From Home Until The End Of 2020

From Forbes

4. XP anuncia home office até dezembro e estuda trabalho remoto permanente

From InfoMoney

5. Startup cria vaga exclusiva para quem perdeu o emprego devido à pandemia

From Voce s/a

6. Nubank vai manter home office até o final de 2020

From Exame

7. Universitário de 92 anos se adapta à tecnologia para assistir aulas na quarentena: ‘vai passar’

From Estãdao

8. Cabify É A Primeira No Brasil A Disponibilizar Película De Isolamento Entre Motorista E Passageiro E Inicia A Entrega De Equipamentos De Proteção Individual Para Condutores

From Blog do Armindo

9. Carrefour vai capacitar 25 mil profissionais de TI de graça. Inscreva-se

From Voce s/a

10. En transformación digital, México avanzó 3 años en unos meses: Adobe

From Forbes México

Lessons from Latin America’s Watercooler

With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise in countries like Brazil, content sharing in Latin America remains focused on efforts to contain the pandemic as well as its economic consequences.

The most shared post in May looked to technology for solutions with reports of masks that could detect the presence of coronavirus in those wearing them – and so help hospitals to identify which patients are infected. Other widely shared stories focused on initiatives from companies and individuals: news that Cabify was fitting vehicles with protective screens and drivers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or the story of a 92-year-old university student learning how to use the internet so that he could finish a degree remotely. There was inspiration from outside the region in the form of Globo’s story about rock star Jon Bon Jovi working behind the scenes in community kitchens in New Jersey.

As elsewhere, the future of work is a key theme in this region, with three of the ten most shared posts highlighting brands who have declared a long-term commitment to working from home. They include two influential Latin American FinTech brands: Nubank, which has offices in São Paulo, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Berlin, and XP Inc. An article in the Mexico edition of Forbes explored the wider impact of the pandemic on business, in compressing three years’ worth of digital transformation into a single month.

The Watercooler for the Middle East and North Africa:

1. You Get The Talent That You Pay for!

From Thrive Global

2. Google Will Let Employees Work From Home Until The End Of 2020

From Forbes

3. Digital Transformation Is About Talent, Not Technology

From Harvard Business Review

4. Muslim woman becomes one of the first hijab-wearing judges in UK

From Metro

5. The 2020 Oil Crash’s Unlikely Winner: Saudi Arabia

From Foreign Policy

6. Good Leadership Is About Communicating “Why”

From Harvard Business Review

7. Google says it will let workers expense $1,000 worth of office furniture

From New York Post

8. Work From Home is dead, long live Work From Anywhere

From Tech Crunch

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

From Thrive Global

10. 70% of Dubai companies expect to go out of business within six months due to coronavirus pandemic, survey says

From CNBC

Lessons from the Middle East and North Africa’s Watercooler

Finding a way for economies to move forward is the clear focus of content sharing in the Middle East and North Africa. Those paths forward include remote working, investing in and trusting employees – and setting out visions that businesses can believe in. However, it’s clear from our line-up of the most shared posts that they will depend on other factors as well.

CNBC’s report that 70% of Dubai companies feared being forced to close reflects the dependence of many businesses in the emirate on tourism, and the damage that a strict lockdown in April did to their prospects. It helps to explain why Dubai has been quick to relax lockdown measures once cases started to fall.

The collapse of world oil prices resulting from COVID-19 has had significant consequences for Saudi Arabia with announcements of deep cuts in government spending and delays to some aspects of the country’s high-profile economic restructuring plan. There was strong sharing for a post from Foreign Policy magazine that nevertheless found reasons to be positive about Saudi Arabia’s economic prospects – more evidence that professionals in the region are on the look-out for signs of recovery.

The Watercooler for Sub-Saharan Africa:

1. Google Will Let Employees Work From Home Until The End Of 2020

From Forbes

2. You Get The Talent That You Pay for!

From Thrive Global

3. A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected!

From Thrive Global

4. Women Tech Global Conference 2020

From WomenTech Network

5. SPAR in Plettenberg Bay offers shelf space to local businesses who cannot open

From Good Things Guy

6. Digital Transformation Is About Talent, Not Technology

From Harvard Business Review

7. Work From Home is dead, long live Work From Anywhere

From Tech Crunch

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

From Thrive Global

9. A title doesn’t make you a leader. It’s your impact and influence

From Thrive Global

10. Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders

From Thrive Global

Lessons from Sub Saharan Africa’s Watercooler

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the combination of Thrive Global and Brigette Hyacinth has the greatest impact on the top ten most shared posts. The combination accounts for five of these. Previous editions of the Watercooler for this region show that Sub-Saharan Africa has an appetite for positive, human stories and examples of individual initiative. Brigette Hyacinth’s consistent argument that business success ultimately depends on treating people well hits this sweet spot perfectly.

Positive initiatives at a community level also drive the success of the Good Things Guy blog, which is another consistent source of influential posts in this region. Its entry in May’s top ten tells the story of a SPAR supermarket franchise making shelf space available for free to local restaurants that were unable to open profitably in the midst of South Africa’s strict lockdown.

It’s not just written posts that make it into our rankings of the most shared posts in Sub-Saharan Africa. The virtual Women Tech Conference 2020 hosted by the WomenTech network brought together speakers from across the world to promote diversity in tech. Its core message around the need to be human and stand together in times of disruption proved a powerful rallying call.

Topics