What Covid-19 means for Filtered

By Marc Zao-Sanders

4 minute read

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about the biggest change to daily life that most people alive today have ever experienced. As many people have now said, it's up to all of us to respond in a way which minimises the spread of the virus, supports the health and wellbeing of others and keeps our organisations and the economy afloat.

Here's what it means for Filtered.

Our operations

We’re fortunate in that it’s relatively straightforward for us, as a tech company, to maintain business as usual.

Customers will experience no disruption to normal service. We already run digitally and all of us had been working from home 1-2 days a week even before the outbreak. In fact, in terms of our documented corporate architecture, we've been running as a virtual team for 18 months.

For us, the internal challenges we face are not logistical, but physiological and psychological. Some of us will no doubt get the virus. Most of us will struggle with being away from the office all the time. Seven of us have kids to care for. Many others have other new responsibilities, for older family members, neighbours, or the wider community. 

So, like many companies, we’re considering the reams of advice from experts out there and thinking as critically and compassionately as we can, but ultimately making it up as we go along. The general principles of productive collaboration apply now more than ever: kindness, authenticity, clarity, informality, organisation. For us, that manifests in various ways from coffee mornings to sharing pictures of home-/worklife, to people checking in with each other 1-1 more often and for less explicit reasons than usual, to discussion about the challenges and opportunities in this new world.

Early action we’ve taken

Over the past couple of weeks we have:

  • introduced Covid-19 response playlists into many instances of magpie. We haven’t created any new content for this: we’ve simply curated some of the best materials written and recorded on items like working from home, resilience, mental health, mindfulness, tough decision making. If you’d like to add this into your instance, just let us know. You can see it here on our free instance for L&D and HR.
  • updated our Office 365 course to focus on getting the best out of, amongst other things, Microsoft Teams.
  • created a free magpie for Digital Working offering for the hordes of employees around the world grounded by the virus. This is available right now to try and we will be making further announcements next week. 

Our focus

But as a business, our most natural and effective contribution to this crisis is to keep the wheels moving. Much of the suffering caused by this virus will be from the downstream economic impact: loss of jobs, reduced living standards and, in some cases, extreme poverty. So we feel responsible for our own survival and indeed growth for the knock-on effects those have. As much as we can, we’re taking a business-as-usual approach. But we will shift our focus in two respects.

First, we’ll line magpie up against the more urgent, pressing challenges our clients now face. Every single executive in the world is suddenly confronted with a new and different set of business problems. So the Business Change that that magpie needs to support will be much more focussed on immediate needs and less about broader, longer-term skills development projects.

What does that mean more tangibly? Many things, like: 

  • supporting psychological welfare through some of the best thinking on resilience, adaptability, crisis management, mindfulness & awareness, and complex problem solving; 
  • supporting leaders who need to bring authenticity and truth in a time of uncertainty and downturn - how do you meaningfully talk to staff about their job security through this?; 
  • how to reskill a hundred thousand deactivated aviation engineers so that the world continues to benefit from their extensive technical expertise?; 
  • utilising magpie for the millions of would-be delegates of now-cancelled events around the globe; 
  • finding where the shortage of digital skills is really going to hurt your organisation in 2020 – which skills and for which populations? The range is vast - from setting up basic home IT though to large-scale digitally-oriented strategic opportunities; boosting creative thinking and innovation throughout the workforce in a time of great need to do lots with different resources.

Secondly, we will deliver magpie even more substantially through Microsoft Teams.  For some time, we’ve thought that Teams will be the principal mechanism for learning in the flow of work, owing to Microsoft’s extensive, familiar functionality and unrivalled installed base. Covid-19 means that for the first half of this year at least, the vast majority of people that can, will work from home and for many – especially those in large corporates, that means using MS Teams. Indeed, work from home guidelines and directives have led to an unprecedented surge in Teams usage. More significantly, after the pandemic subsides, these new habits will stay with many companies and many workers. We are sure that much of this 6-month spike in Teams usage will become embedded in normal work activity. We hear and understand that many L&D practitioners are considering how they can best attach their work to this now-bustling communications software. magpie happens to be a good way of doing this.

Product-wise, for well over a year, we have been integrating magpie’s learning recommendations into Teams. We will now fast-track the release of a free instance of magpie into the Microsoft Teams Appstore. And we will build on further releases of the deep Teams integration we launched in February.

Helping L&D teams, specifically

We also think we might be particularly well-placed to help people working in L&D and feeling acutely under pressure right now. L&D leads are generally tightly resourced, and more than ever need to make limited resources for curation, content development, programme development, promotion etc go further. Our client services activities of:

  • skills framework development;
  • content library tagging;
  • promotional campaign design, development and management; and
  • learning analytics and advice to optimise impact of resources align with these needs. 

In general, we take a highly consultative approach to what we do. That’s probably even more important at this time.

Every individual and every organisation is of course experiencing their own version of this crisis. There are some exceptional, brave people on the actual frontline to keep people safe and to fight the virus. There are some organisations – like 3M and Novartis and Microsoft – whose expertise can be leveraged to help in specific, second-order ways. Filtered – and many other companies – can help by addressing some of the issues that come further downstream. So we will assist people learn the skills and adopt the working practices that have suddenly become so much more important for so many people.

Finally, it’s part of all our roles in these remote times to make ourselves more accessible. If you’d like to be in touch with me personally about any of this, please send me a message.

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