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The impact of remote work

March 3, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

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Good morning.

The great social experiment that is the COVID lockdown will be studied for decades to come. A huge portion of the workforce shifted abruptly to remote work and stayed there for a year or more. How did it impact their lives, their work, their sense of self? We are only beginning to come to grips with the answer.

There’s some new data out this morning from Dov Seidman of the HOW Institute of Leadership, who surveyed 1000 U.S.-based professionals who moved to remote work during the pandemic. The study focused on their feelings of connection. “Humans are social animals,” Seidman says. “For human organizations to thrive, connections between and among individuals need to be meaningful and rooted in common purpose.” Among his findings:

—Many workers reported their connection to their direct supervisors and to their organizations actually rose during the pandemic, a finding reinforced by studies like the Edelman trust survey which found trust in “my employer” went up. 

—A significant plurality of respondents (44%) felt their connection to coworkers had gone down.

—Feelings of disconnectedness were significantly higher among women and people under the age of 30.

More sharing of personal updates and feelings during check-ins helped strengthen the sense of connection, the study found. Seidman says that sort of personal sharing is part of a tool box of behaviors that he describes as “moral leadership.” Other behaviors in the tool box include cultivating a sensing of hope for the future, working to inspire others, showing patience and flexibility, encouraging teammates to share their concerns and fears, explaining decisions in the context of purpose, and demonstrating a commitment to do the right thing. His research found that employees at organizations whose leaders demonstrated those values were three times more likely to feel “connected” to their manager and their organization.

“Moral leadership is about how leaders touch hearts, not just minds,” Seidman said. “Given our physical distance from one another due to the pandemic, it is even more imperative that moral leaders work harder—and differently—to bridge that physical space to create a sense of connection and community.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


Intel payout

After losing a patent trial, Intel will have to pay $2.18 billion to VLSI Technology and, in turn, NXP Semiconductors, which transferred the patents to VLSI a couple years ago. The patents related to chip-making. Fortune

Starbase, Texas

"Creating the city of Starbase, Texas," tweeted Elon Musk. The SpaceX supremo would like to change the name of Boca Chica, the Gulf Coast community where his company is building its deep-space rocket. Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino: "Sending a tweet doesn't make it so." Fortune

Want a ride?

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who bought the right to become the first tourist aboard SpaceX's Starship, is looking for eight people to join him. The Zozo founder is paying for the whole voyage, which is planned for 2023. He originally wanted artists to fly with him, but now says: "if you see yourself as an artist, then you are an artist." Reuters

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson is stepping down over the destruction last year of two ancient rock shelters in Australia. CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques and two other senior executives have already been defenestrated over the incident, but investors weren't satisfied. Wall Street Journal


Vaccine diplomacy

To counter China's vaccine diplomacy, the U.S. and allies including Japan, India and Australia are reportedly working on the distribution of vaccines to Asian countries that need them. India expert Tanvi Madan, from the Brookings Institution: "If they can show the value to the region, as they did after the tsunami, it is a visible way of conveying that this is not just about the four countries and is a value add for the region." Financial Times

Email, begone

Georgetown University computer science professor Cal Newport has a new book out called A World Without Email, in which he argues for doing away with many of our instant means of communications, or at least greatly limiting their use. Why? To improve productivity. Fortune

Standardized testing

Colleges around the U.S. are allowing prospective students to apply without having undertaken standardized testing, due to the pandemic, and physician Carolyn Barber writes for Fortune that the change could become permanent: "It’s not a new argument, but the age of COVID has forced a real-time reconsideration of the point of the tests at all—and it has forced college admissions officers to adjust on the fly to the fact that they’ll have to evaluate potential incoming classes on a set of criteria that very likely does not include a test score." Fortune


How can Robinhood, Schwab and other online brokers charge zero commissions to retail investors? Thanks to a practice called "payment for order flow" (PFOF) that was pioneered by the illustrious Bernie Madoff. Fortune's Shawn Tully explains: "Instead of getting paid directly by the people buying the shares, the brokers sell their orders en masse to market makers that execute the trades." But "are the online brokers really getting the best possible prices from those market makers?" Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.