COVID-19: Understanding the effect of people’s emotions on productivity

Man holding echidna
Dermot O’Gorman
Photo: Matthew Harris

Having already been massively impacted by the Bushfires, WWF-Australia has dealt with and learnt a lot this year.

WWF-Australia's (WWF) Chief Executive Officer, Dermot O’Gorman, says COVID-19 has disrupted the way WWF works and forced them to rethink how they operate. Their 100+ staff from all over Australia are now working from home and adapting to the use of digital tools and platforms such as Zoom, Slack, WhatsApp and Microsoft teams.

“We have also recognised that staff and partners may have other responsibilities such as caring for children or the elderly while juggling their day jobs, and are taking a flexible approach to the workday, which is enabled by the use of these technologies.”  

In addition to the above tools, WWF is implementing a social platform for all staff where everyone can share their thoughts, hobbies, loves and tips. This, Mr O’Gorman says, is a necessary outlet – a space where work is a ‘no-no’ and staff can be at ease and have fun with their colleagues whom they are more accustomed to seeing in person. 

“I have been so pleased to see the genuine care and kindness that I’ve seen in my team under extreme stress. We have been very aware of how people are moving through different mindsets – some disruptive, some productive – at different times. We can aspire to a growth mindset but need to be aware of, and respectful of, the fact that in these uncertain times we are all going through a multitude of ups and downs as we navigate through this current crisis.”

Mr O’Gorman believes COVID-19 will permanently change the way organisations work, groups work, and individuals work: “The digital world of the future has arrived – with mandatory participation.”

The crisis has taught him to innovate for good and manage his mindset.

“You can take an innovative mindset to adapt your business in the face of disruption – to still deliver the charitable mission. My challenge to colleagues is the Ferrari F1 example. Ferrari very quickly turned their factory to producing respirators desperately needed to support the Italian healthcare system, in a time where their primary business stopped.”

“This ability to be agile and move fast on your key skills - even if it’s for the short-term - can see a business or not-for-profit through these tough times,” said Mr O’Gorman.

He also advocates communication: “You can’t over communicate.”

“The need to be in touch with staff, partners and supporters swiftly, clearly and regularly is more important now than ever before. Into that communications blend, add compassion, understanding and reassurance.”  

“Plan for the unexpected, manage your mindset and be kind and look after one another.”

Mr O’Gorman studied an Associated Diploma of Applied Science at Southern Cross University, which was conferred in 1988.