The COVID-19 pandemic is a "defining leadership moment", according to one new report, while a survey of Americans sheds light on the demographics of home-workers. Those reports - and more - make up this week's news roundup.

#1. Job searches spike as COVID-19 pandemic spreads


Searches for jobs that can be done from home and that start immediately have increased by more than 100%, according to the founder of a British job search site. That makes sense because many companies have had to lay-off staff or people have been ordered to stay at home as the COVID-19 pandemic hits our economies. However, many of the jobs that are currently available can’t be done from home. For instance, industries that are currently most in need of workers, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, and companies with a delivery arm are looking for staff to work in stores and warehouses. And so while there are jobs available, many of those are not a direct match for the ones that have been lost or they’re not compatible with the stay-at-home policies.

Photo by Hannes Egler on Unsplash

#2. Business booms for small firms offering key services


It isn’t all bad news from the world of work. Forbes has gathered examples of small businesses that are not just surviving, but thriving during the pandemic. Business is up for fast-food delivery outlets, some of which are branching out by delivering toilet rolls and hand sanitizer to their customers. Things are also going well for city farms and, believe it or not, fortune tellers. Forbes also notes that online grocery delivery firm Albertsons is partnering with hotel chain Hilton to hire many hotel workers who have recently been laid off.

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#3. Leaders must ‘see the pandemic as a defining moment’


A new report from the World Economic Forum, Stakeholder Capitalism in a Time of Crisis, offers some advice for organisations on how to balance short-term pressures created by the pandemic with medium to long-term needs. Among the suggestions are to see the crisis as a defining leadership moment for your company, to adopt an agile and continuous learning mindset and to understand the perspectives of, and engage with, all stakeholders. The report also says businesses should focus on the intersection of employee and company wellbeing and ensure that decision-making takes account of medium-term needs and longer-term objectives.

Impressions from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 20 January. Copyright by World Economic Forum/Faruk Pinjo

#4. Companies turn to automation to cope with demand


As mentioned above, many companies are still hiring and some are struggling to find enough workers to cope with increased demand. For example, many airlines have been overwhelmed with calls from passengers. Companies are turning to automation to fill the gaps. “Amazon has seen a huge swell in sales inquiries for a cloud-based call center service, Connect, which uses the artificial intelligence technology behind the company’s Alexa digital assistant to automate tasks typically handled by humans,” writes The Information. Meanwhile, similar changes are being observed in the mining sector. It’s likely that the pandemic is accelerating a shift to automation that might otherwise have taken years.

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

#5. Survey sheds light on numbers working from home


Finally, a comprehensive survey of Americans’ reaction to the pandemic has found that 40% of working-age adults have worked from home because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey, carried out by the Pew Research Center, finds that the split is the same for men and women (40%) but varies widely by education level. Among those with a postgraduate qualification, almost three-quarters (73%) are working from home, while that falls to only a fifth (22%) for those with a high school diploma or less. A similar split can be observed by income: 61% of those in upper-income brackets are working from home, while only a quarter (27%) of those in lower-income brackets say the same. The survey emphasizes that the response to COVID-19 cannot be the same for all workers.


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