We present another collection of issues arising from the pandemic worthy of your consideration, and the attention of brands in North America and beyond: 

THIS WEEK’S EMERGING ISSUES

A more permanent outlook on working from home 

  • As many offices in North America hover around the two-month mark of working from home, they are facing realities of how permanent that situation may be. Last week Jack Dorsey told Twitter employees they can work from home “forever” if they want. 
  • Work provides a sense of identity for many, as well as a connection to a larger community. We continue to see the impacts from a transition that seems to be increasingly permanent as the separation between work and domestic responsibilities dissolves further for many
  • “Work connects us to the rhythm of the world. It gives us a temporal sense of life,” said David Blustein, professor of psychology at Boston College and author of The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty: The Eroding Work Experience in America.  Disrupted workers may have trouble organizing their time or even creating expectations for the day. “It can almost feel surreal to them,” he said.  
  • It’s not just emotional or psychological either as reports of back and neck pain from temporary setups mount. Many of us are suffering as weeks spent hunched over a computer on the bed or sofa have led to backaches, neck pain and headaches.   

What resources are you offering your employees to help them combat the psychological, emotional and physical challenges of working from home?  

What tools or resources can you offer to help employees find the structure, routine and sense of identity and accomplishment they’ve lost in the transition to working from home?  

Combating the ‘tsunami’ of hate COVID-19 has created  

What role can you play in helping combat the rising tide of hate and discrimination that has emerged in the wake of the pandemic?

Are you checking in regularly with diverse employees to ensure they feel safe and respected at work and by customers?

Rolling reopenings are testing our resolve to do the right thing  

  • We’re seeing more discussion around strict stay-at-home protocols being unsustainable and playing a role in irresponsible decision-making, especially as governments begin to announce reopening plans. 
  • According to reports, a more nuanced set of recommendations may get more traction. Abstinence-only messaging can inadvertently stigmatize anything less than 100 percent risk reduction. North Americans have seen this unfold in real time over the past two months as pandemic shaming has become a national pastime.  
  • Reports over the past few weeks of cities, including Toronto, New York City and Seattle, closing streets to create more space for pedestrians to walk or jog while respecting social distancing is one of the ways we’re seeing possibilities for a nuanced approach to social distancing measures, while still satisfying people’s need to live their lives and right to do so freely.

What role can you play in providing creative alternatives for people to safely do the things they love and crave as they leave their homes? 

Showing pride without Pride

  • LGBTQ+ North Americans are more likely to become unemployed as a result of the coronavirus epidemic than their non-LGBTQ counterparts. 
  • As Pride season approaches and parades and weeks of programming have long since been cancelled, LGBTQ+ organizations that typically benefit from Pride month corporate sponsorships are finding ways to pivot the festivities.  
  • Smaller LGBTQ+ groups often depend on fundraising from Pride-related events help keep them running and supporting their communities year-round. Not only do they lack the same visibility as previous years, they’re now competing with a “sea of online need” this year due to COVID-19. Fundraising for local organizations that rely on this time of year to keep themselves going remains one of the top concerns.  

How can you show your support for the LGBTQ+ community and charities this Pride season without a parade and large events?  

Without a visible show of support like Pride, what can you do to show your LGBTQ+ employees that they are supported at work? 

ONGOING ISSUES

Previously reported issues that continue to demand attention and resources include: 

  • Road trips predicted to make a comeback as summer approaches and Canadians are looking for social distance-friendly ways to take vacations.
  • The ongoing conversation around working from home and the mixed reception among North Americans of its potential permanence.
  • The politics around mandating the wearing of masks–viewed by some as a fashion accessory and other as an infringement on personal freedoms–and being prepared to face tensions around it.
  • How supply chains across North America have been profoundly affected showing us how fragile they really are, bringing forward increasing reports of food insecurity.
  • COVID-19 as a cause of halting scientific, social and environmental progress as major projects are put on hold or cancelled and plastic becomes the defining image of this pandemic.
  • Charting a course for the safe return to work of employees, and the reality that, today, all brands are healthcare brands and must remain focused on ensuring the health and safety of employees, customers and other stakeholders.  
  • Ensuring the health and safety of frontline and essential workers by providing access to still-scarce personal protective equipment (PPE).   
  • Toll of isolation on mental health, particularly among vulnerable populations such as seniors, as experts warn of the mental health crisis quietly sweeping the continent alongside COVID-19.    
  • Inequalities in COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among specific populations, and the underlying social and health issues that have contributed to the disproportionate impact.    
  • Economic impact on small businesses, particularly those unable to secure stimulus support through government programs, many of whom now face going out of business.   
  • Challenges of e-learning and threat of academic regression for children, and the calls for “appropriate technologies” based on resource scarcity in certain communities (text vs. video, for example).   
  • And it’s not just kids. Adults working remotely with unreliable broadband connections face a threat to their productivity and employment.  
  • The broader economic fallout of COVID-19 is a story set to get even bigger as time passes and more data is released on job losses and other economic measures.   
  • The dangers of misinformation regarding the virus, typified by conspiracy videos such as The Plandemic, and the importance of ensuring accurate information on public safety.
  • The negative impact that the pandemic has had on local news as sources of local advertising disappear.  
  • As COVID-19 swamps healthcare, ER doctors have noticed a drop in admissions for common ailments such as heart attacks and strokes, leading to worries of a new wave of patients coming their way.  
  • Pandemic positives, including reduced pollution and emissions, essential workers getting the attention they deserve, prompt the question: how to maintain the good momentum? 

Stepping Up

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