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SFU business professor David Hannah on avoiding COVID-19 misinformation, workplace compassion

March 23, 2020
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With so much news and online conversation about COVID-19 it is easy to become overwhelmed. Simon Fraser University Beedie School of Business professor David Hannah, who studies coping effectively with challenges and dilemmas at work, says it’s important to think critically and be wary of sources that may deliberately misinform to meet their agenda.

“We need to be listening to what our experts are telling us,” says Hannah. These experts include public health officials, government, the World Health Organization and others who offer insight from their expertise.

“At this point, what the experts are saying is physical distancing is the most important thing you can do and we need to all focus on that, rather than all the other noise that is going on out there,” says Hannah.

That noise includes recent fake posts about dolphins in Venice canals and a local yoga studio’s false claim that hot yoga kills coronavirus; so-called feel-good messages.

“We shouldn’t be seeking out sources that necessarily make us feel good,” he says. “We should be seeking out the people who are close to the evidence and who’s only agenda is to keep us healthy and safe.”

Hannah says it’s natural to feel concerned about ourselves and the well-being of our loved ones but we can’t let fear cloud our decision-making. Everyone’s daily routines have been disrupted and it’s not easy to adjust.

“Be kind to yourselves,” he says. “It’s okay to think, ‘oh I wish I could go to yoga, wouldn’t that be great’ but then come back to what the experts are saying and follow their advice.”

Once the danger from COVID-19 passes, he sees a silver lining in how this experience could change how we work.

“Maybe businesses will be less cautious about letting their employees work from home and see it as a positive change,” says Hannah. “Their employees will work effectively, they’ll be happier, we’ll have less traffic on the roads and less pollution.”

In the interim, he says organizations that accommodate their workers during this difficult time will benefit from the gratitude and loyalty their employees are more likely to show over the long-term.

From health experts to political and business leaders, he emphasizes the need for compassionate and clear communication.

“It’s important at this time to be honest and show that you care and not just communicate in a robotic or regulatory way about rules and procedures,” Hannah says. “People want to know that they are cared for, that their employers do feel for their employees and want to take care of them through these difficult times.”