10 things Covid-19 has taught the corporate world
06 Jul 2020by Rich Handler
In a July 2020 open letter to clients and colleagues, investment bank Jefferies’ president, Brian Friedman and chief executive officer, Rich Handler, detailed what companies, executives and staff have learnt from the pandemic and how it will change corporate culture
To say the least, the coronavirus pandemic has been an eye-opener. The challenges of living in a pandemic world these past four months are disruptive, sad and at times overwhelming to even the strongest of people. That said, four months is enough time to gain insight and perspective into what positives can develop when the world is given a mandatory timeout or reset:
- If there was ever any confusion about priorities before Covid-19, they should be pretty darn clear today. Family, loved ones, friends and health are all that matter in life. Regardless of what else is happening in the world, if this circle is intact, almost everything else is bearable.
- If you do not have passion for what you do for your career or the people you work with, either fix the situation or move on. Now that we all see how fragile everything truly is, there is no excuse for not believing in what you do, especially since you are devoting such a huge chunk of your life to it. You need to be passionate about your career at a company you believe in and surround yourself with people you respect.
- When you are not caught up in the historically normal non-stop treadmill of daily frenetic action and instead are physically isolated from the rest of the world, this can be the best way to open your eyes fully to absorb what is going on around you in terms of prejudice, inequality and social injustice.
- We now know how much we want, need and rely on direct human contact. A warm handshake from a trusted client; a hug from a friend that you are so happy to see; a high-five from a likeminded stranger at a sporting event; a kiss on the cheek from someone dear. People need these warm connections and there is not one of us who will ever take these opportunities for granted ever again.
- It is now more apparent than ever how many people work so hard every day to make your life more pleasant, manageable, safe and comfortable. These everyday human heroes include delivery people, healthcare providers, waiters, waitresses, busboys, flight attendants, teachers, police and firefighters, check-out people, office cleaners, transportation workers, retail sales people, and the list goes on and on. This reset must result in a kinder and more appreciative attitude to these wonderful people who are truly in the front lines of making the lives of so many others better. Kindness needs to be supplemented with fairness in sharing the wealth.
- It is very easy now for everyone to better see and appreciate the fragility of the many institutions that are so important to our way of life. Universities, philanthropic institutions, and state infrastructure (police, fire, education and hospitals) are all currently operating in the danger zone. Commerce creates wealth, and the tax system and philanthropy help to rightfully redistribute it. We all have our role to play and it should never be more clear that paying (and donating) your fair share is not only a requirement, but also a privilege.
- Working from home can be a tremendous breakthrough that will have positive implications long after the demise of Covid-19. It also can become exhausting, debilitating, lonely and the source of emotional duress. Like everything in life, a proper balance when the world allows will result in greater productivity, increased flexibility that should improve work-life equilibrium, broader choices in home locations, and the ability to have more diversity in the workforce based on the increased ability to be productive without leaving the house.
- It is more clear than ever that working at a company is a very important role in society. It does not matter if it is big or small, or in which industry. When you responsibly contribute to a good company, you are helping all your co-workers that are counting on you to protect their jobs. You are also serving deserving clients and earning returns for the real people who are investors and stakeholders. When you do your fair share of work with pride, especially during a crisis, you are an integral part of keeping the economy going and allowing your co-workers to thrive monetarily and emotionally. It is very easy during good times to lose track of how important this is. When people all around you are losing their jobs, it could not be clearer.
- Even those with the best physical stamina and the strongest mental toughness can become depleted, fragile and a shell of themselves after a prolonged period of stress. It is critical that everyone recognizes and accepts this reality and has the courage, conviction, and self-confidence to speak up when needed and force themselves to detach completely from time to time to refresh. Doing this in times like these are a sign of strength and not weakness. Being aware of others in need of a break and intervening to help can make all the difference in the world.
- In times of stress, true character always shines. That is when it is easy to look around and see the people who are helping to bring along and support those who are having a tougher time and may be truly in emotional, monetary, or physical distress. It does not matter if these are family members, long-time friends, new acquaintances, or outright strangers. The help can be material, or just a subtle act of kindness. The magnitude does not matter, but the intent and result are capable of restoring the belief and appreciation in humanity.