With thanks to all who participated in my latest Weekend Poll, we are certainly living in interesting times. Last week, I asked readers questions associated with the impacts of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, on your workplaces and on your own travel plans.
A shifting landscape
Before highlighting the results of this poll, it’s important to note that the sands continue to shift. If you responded to this poll late last week and then considered the same questions today, your answers might differ. For that reason, I will publish an almost-identical poll next week, so that we can benchmark and compare results over time.
March 11th: WHO declares a pandemic – a controllable pandemic
Just yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic. We were advised that over 90% of all cases were in only four countries, and that there are significantly declining epidemics in two of those countries, China and Korea.
The WHO Director-General expressed deep concern over “… both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction”. Today, the World Health Organization stressed, “This is a controllable pandemic. Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control.”
In its March 12th briefing, WHO urged countries to adopt a four-pronged approach: (1) prepare and be ready, (2) detect, prevent and treat, (3) reduce and suppress, and (4) innovate and improve.
Canada’s PM now self-isolating
In Canada, our Prime Minister announced on March 12th that he and his wife were self-isolating. We’re told that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau experienced mild symptoms of the COVID-19 virus after her return from a speaking engagement in the UK and that, while her symptoms have resided even as she awaits test results, she and PM Justin Trudeau are self-isolating.
Social distancing: events cancelled, pro sports seasons suspended, schools closed
We may not have used the term “social distancing” until now, but expect to hear more of it. Schools and universities are being closed in the Czech Republic, France, Ireland and Italy. In Canada, the Province of Ontario is closing all publicly funded schools from March 14th to April 5th, extending the traditional Spring Break.
Scotland is banning large gatherings. In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations have been cancelled as a result of the virus. New York City is postponing, for the first time ever, its Saint Patrick’s Day parade. Elsewhere there are additional calls to limit large public gatherings and non-essential events. We’ve already seen some professional football (that’s soccer to many readers) teams playing to empty stadiums.
On March 11th, the NBA announced that, until further notice, it was suspending its season following that day’s games. On March 12th, the National Hockey League (NHL) announced that it, too, was putting a pause on play, with plans to “resume play as soon as it is appropriate”. The same day, Major League Baseball (MLB) cancelled the rest of its 2020 spring training, and announced the postponement of the start to its season.
What about travel? On March 11th, the US announced a 30-day suspension of flights from mainland Europe to the US. Finland’s national airline has cancelled flights to the US until mid-April.
“Pandemics crash global stock markets”
That’s just one of today’s (March 12, 2020) headlines, courtesy of the BBC. When I published this poll a week ago yesterday, stock markets had begun to rally from significant dives, which were triggered by concerns over supply chain issues and consumer behaviour.
On March 12th, trading on North American markets was temporarily halted before resuming. UK shares have suffered their “worst day since 1987“. In Canada, the TSE is experiencing what is expected to be its worst ever trading day – or, depending on the source, since the 1940s. Our markets have yet to close. While I’ve been writing this, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced steps to tackle COVID-19’s economic impact .
Norman Levine, managing director at Portfolio Management Corporation, was a voice of calm this morning. “Panic is the worst thing you can do. Looking long term and just staying calm is the best thing to do here. Panicking isn’t going to help you or anybody else. In the long run, stocks go up. In the short run, they can be very volatile.” Levine’s comments were intended for investors, but they also apply in general terms.
Assistants’ observations: you’re informed
A full 100% of respondents were aware of the coronavirus before reading my article, and 90% of your employers/workplaces have issued communications related to coronavirus. An unsurprising 79% of you have already been referring to health authorities, accredited bodies or government and international authorities to seek insight on travel and other practices in light of the virus.
Readers identified a number of the sources to which you turn, and you’ll find them at the base of this article. Your three most-identified sources are the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US.
Impacts on travel plans – business and leisure
Sixty-five percent of respondents said your employers have issued revised travel guidelines in light of coronavirus. For 28% of you, that means you and your colleagues will not be travelling to impacted regions. Another 24% of respondents said there have been no changes, while the same percentage cited a ban on international travel. For 23% of respondents, business travel is being assessed on a case-by-case basis.
What about your personal travel? I asked if word of the coronavirus has impacted your own travel plans for 2020. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said the virus won’t impact your travel plans, while 16% said yes. More than a third, 37% of respondents, said you’re still planning to travel but will wait to finalise plans. Another 18% said there’ll be no impact, since you don’t travel much anyway.
Only 1% of respondents reported personally knowing an individual who has been diagnosed as having coronavirus. Almost 70% of respondents reported that your employers have business continuity plans (BCPs) in place, and 14% of respondents said that their organisations had experienced supply chain issues as a result of coronavirus.
If there’s any silver lining in this, we’ve been reminded of the need for good hygiene. Twenty-seven percent of respondents reported that you’re washing your hands more frequently. Almost as many, 23%, said that you’re making an effort to not touch your face if you’ve not just washed your hands.
Meeting and event practices are being adjusted, as you’ll see below, and I’ve heard much more on this front – both directly, through responses to my social media posts, and anecdotally.
You’ll find all the data below, with a reminder that things are shifting so significantly that even yesterday’s practices are subject to change. Just this morning, I received an email from my accountant’s firm. Citing guidelines and information provided by WHO and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), management is encouraging clients to submit tax return information through their portal rather than walking in with documents.
Watch for my next Weekend Poll, and we’ll see how things progress.
1. Were you aware of the coronavirus (COVID-19) before reading this article?
- Yes: 100% of respondents
- No: 0% of respondents
2. Has your workplace/employer issued any communications related to coronavirus?
- Yes: 90% of respondents
- No: 10% of respondents
3. In the course of your work, are you referring to health authorities/accredited bodies or government/international authorities to seek insights/recommendations on travel and other practices as a result of coronavirus?
- Yes: 79% of respondents
- No: 16% of respondents
- I haven’t yet, but that’s a good idea: 5% of respondents
4. If you have been referring to health authorities/accredited bodies, national or international authorities for information associated with coronavirus, please list such bodies below.
Note: The World Health Organization (WHO), the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US are, respectively, the three organisations most frequently cited.
Given the number of organisations you identified, I’ve provided the full list at the base of this post.
5. Has your employer issued revised travel guidelines in light of coronavirus?
- Yes: 65% of respondents
- No: 35% of respondents
6. Please identify changes, if any have arisen in light of coronavirus, in travel practices at your place of employment.
- no travel to impacted regions: 28% of respondents
- no changes: 24% of respondents
- no international travel: 24% of respondents
- assessed on case-by-case basis: 23% of respondents
- domestic travel only: 1% of respondents
7. Please ID any changes to meeting practices you’ve experienced in light of coronavirus. Note: You’ll see below, in descending order of frequency, the responses people chose.
- More meetings are being conducted by conference call
- More meetings are being conducted by web conference
- The majority of meetings are being conducted by conference call
- The majority of meetings are being conducted by web conference
- No offsite meetings
8. Does your workplace/employer have a business continuity plan (BCP)?
- Yes: 68% of respondents
- I don’t know: 25% of respondents
- No: 7% of respondents
9. Has the coronavirus driven any increase in the number of employees in your organisation working remotely, or the rate at which colleagues work remotely?
- Not that I’m aware of: 35% of respondents
- Yes: 28% of respondents
- Not at this point; it’s under discussion: 24% of respondents
- No: 13% of respondents
10. Has the coronavirus prompted you or your employer reviewed internal contact lists to ensure access to current info?
- My employer already does this on a routine basis: 45% of respondents
- Yes: 19% of respondents
- Not at this point; it’s under discussion: 18% of respondents
- No: 18% of respondents
11. Has your place of employment experienced any supply chain challenges as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
- Not that I’m aware of: 41% of respondents
- Not to this point; that may change, depending on how long it takes to contain the virus: 26% of respondents
- No: 19% of respondents
- Yes: 14% of respondents
12. Do you personally know anyone who has been diagnosed as having coronavirus?
- No: 99% of respondents
- Yes: 1% of respondents
13. Has knowledge of the coronavirus prompted you to change any hygiene practices?
- No; I routinely wash my hands and cough/sneeze into tissue or my upper sleeve: 49% of respondents
- Yes; I’m washing my hands more frequently: 27% of respondents
- Yes; I’m making an effort to not touch my face if I haven’t just washed my hands: 23% of respondents
- No: 1% of respondents
14. Has word of the coronavirus impacted your travel plans for 2020?
- To some degree; I’m still planning to travel, but will wait to finalise plans: 37% of respondents
- No: 29% of respondents
- No; I don’t travel much anyway: 18% of respondents
- Yes: 16% of respondents
4. (full list of responses to this question) If you have been referring to health authorities/accredited bodies, national or international authorities for information associated with coronavirus, please list such bodies below.
Note: The World Health Organization (WHO), the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US are, respectively, the three organisations most frequently cited. At the base of this post, I’ve you’ll find a list of all authorities/bodies you cited.
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- National Health Service (NHS)
- Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- Airlines for America
- BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)
- Department for Education
- gov.uk’s Foreign Travel Advice
- Health Canada
- Health Science Center in Fort Worth
- Illinois Department of Public Health
- local authorities/local government offices
- local Bar Association
- local Department of Health
- NHS Choices
- NHS Scotland
- National Employment Law Institute
- Public Health England (PHE)
- Robert-Koch-Institute (Germany)
- Scottish Government
- SOS Travel
- Swedish Health
- Travel Health Pro website
- UK Government – Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- Universities Scotland