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Coronavirus: Canceling Events, Work From Home Are Not Signs of COVID-19 Fear

The headlines continue: From A to Z, technology companies are canceling conferences and telling employees to work from home amid novel coronavirus “concerns” and COVID-19 “fears.”

It’s time for all of us to change our collective language (ChannelE2E included). Canceling an event, closing schools, and working from home have nothing to do with fear. Instead, those moves have everything to do with social responsibility. Now, more than ever: My health depends on your health. And your health depends on your neighbor’s health. And your neighbor’s health depends on the community’s health.

The more we distance ourselves for each other, the better we will navigate the coronavirus pandemic. Our collective goal is to flatten the wave of infections (pictured below), which will help to ensure the U.S. healthcare system remains responsive to those in need:

Source: The Economist, NY Times

See You In June (Maybe Sooner. Maybe Later)

That’s why I’ve been off the road all of March. And yes, I skipped RSA Conference in late February when I heard about the Mobile World Congress 2020 cancelation amid coronavirus “concerns” (<– there’s that word again).

I’m fortunate. I’m a small-business co-owner who isn’t at the mercy of an employer who insists that I travel. I’m not at the mercy of employers who delay conference cancelation decisions until the 11th hour — sometimes leaving their rank-and-file employees to apologize for c-suite decisions that should have come sooner.

Generally speaking, I plan to remain off the road until at least June 1 — or when the data tells me it’s safe for me to travel again. Perhaps sooner. Maybe later.

What data do I trust?

I’m not all that worried about my health. But I do worry about how my behavior and health impacts my parents’ health. I worry how my behavior and health impacts my relatives and friends who have underlying health issues. And I worry about rank-and-file workers who must remain on the road to earn their paychecks and pay their mortgages. Memo to all employers: Bring those folks home.

Pandemic Precautions

These are challenging times. But let’s stop with the word “fear” each time we hear about a conference cancelation, an event that gets delayed, or a business that tells employees to work from home. Instead, the far wiser word is “responsibility.”

Ben Gower, CEO of Perspicuity, and UK president for the TrustX community

At this time, more than any other, we are responsible for each other’s health and well-being. Let’s take care of each other — from a distance.

How should you proceed? As I’ve pointed out before, a refreshing answer comes from Perspicuity, an Ingram Micro TrustX Alliance member in the United Kingdom. (Perspicuity CEO Ben Gower is UK president for the TrustX community.)

In a communication to customers, Perspicuity wrote (and ChannelE2E has emphasized in bold):

“It’s business unusual, let’s do it…

We love meeting you, and we still will, but for now we are going to work with you to deliver our services remotely: we think it’s the responsible thing to do, so video and Teams chat it is for now. Maybe it’s overkill, but the reality is we can do this. We’re changing the way we work to be a responsible world citizen whilst keeping the wheels of business turning, there is no excuse to stop, it’s a temporary measure and we’re up for the challenge. We look forward to continuing our work with you, we look forward to what we’re going to learn on the journey, and we wish you all good health, good luck and good business.

From all of us at Perspicuity”

See you June 1. Hopefully sooner. Perhaps later. Blogging from home in the meantime.

Yours Truly,

-jp

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4 Comments

Comments

    Dave Sobel:

    Joe,

    I’m in total agreement with you, and said similar comments on my show yesterday. I’m also shifting the language of this, and view this as not only responsible but the opportunity for both leadership and community.

    In some presentations I’ve given recently, I’ve cited data from studies of Amish startups. These businesses have a 95% success rate after five years, and one of the three major components of those success is the investment in community that these businesses take, even at the sacrifice of short term profits.

    This is one of those moments, a time to lead or a time to hide and deny. Leadership happens at all levels, and it’s both our individual and collective responsibilities to do right by our communities and our neighbors. Canceling isn’t fearful, it’s compassionate and responsible.

    Dave Sobel
    Host, The Business of Tech Podcast

    Joe Panettieri:

    Hey Dave: Thanks for weighing in, and congrats on the fast-growing podcast.

    Also, a side-note to readers: In many ways, I realize it’s easy for me to write a blog like the one above. I don’t have to travel, and I don’t have any financial exposure to face to face event cancelations.

    For those who do run/own face-to-face events, I understand there are near-term financial considerations — some of which could destroy your business. There are also brand and social considerations. But ultimately, this is a national health crisis.

    If left unchecked, face to face events — and the resulting social coronavirus spread — could contribute to overwhelming our healthcare systems — similar to Italy where doctors are deciding who gets ventilators and who doesn’t.

    I hope you’re able to work your business math in a way that helps to flatten the wave above — rather than heighten it.

    Best wishes,
    -jp

    Grant Hoover:

    Joe and Dave,

    I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you have written these words. I agree that responsibility and compassion outweigh fear every time. They are the best reasons to take these intelligent measures. I also agree that it’s important to acknowledge that many people find themselves in employment situations over which they have little control, and those in positions of leadership in those organizations have a responsibility to direct those team members away from unnecessary risk.

    Along the same lines of thinking, those of us who lead enterprises of any size, those with tens of thousands of employees and those with none, work with current and prospective vendors and partner organizations on a regular basis. Some of those vendors and partners will have taken Joe’s and Dave’s advice and made the responsible choice to reduce the risk to their employees, possibly at a potential expense to their business. Those vendors and partners might be at a disadvantage against their competitors in the way they serve us, and in the case of a prospective vendor we’re considering working with, at the expense of the effectiveness of their sales efforts.

    Those of us who lead organizations have an opportunity to accommodate those current and prospective vendors and their responsible choices. If you’re accustomed to being served by a vendor in a particular way, and that arrangement has been affected by the vendor’s responsible decisions, work with them in an understanding way. If you’re considering filling a gap in your vendors or partners, and some of the organizations hoping you’ll choose them have changed how they communicate with you, don’t punish them for their leadership’s conscientious decisions about exposing their employees to risk, and don’t punish your own business by overlooking the right vendor for you. Those choices reflect the ethical values of that organization, which should matter to you as you make your selection, but even if they didn’t, they shouldn’t be a reason to diminish the grade you give that prospective vendor in your search.

    Make the right, responsible choices for your own team, and extend that consideration to your vendors and prospective vendors as well.

    Grant Hoover
    Senior Consultant
    Symphony Systems, Inc.

    Joe Panettieri:

    Grant: Thanks for your readership and detailed note. I think over the next few weeks, we will truly see the difference between the term “partner” and “vendor.” To your point, let’s all double our efforts to work like partners — now and for the long haul.
    -jp

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