Omicron Surge Reveals Leaders Unprepared for the Future of Work (Video & Podcast)

10 min read
Omicron Surge Reveals Leaders Unprepared for the Future of Work (Video & Podcast)

The lack of action in advance of the Omicron surge points towards a lack of vision in leadership. Leaders must fight against cognitive biases and adopt best practices to avoid disasters in the future of work. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes how Omicron reveals that leaders are unprepared for the future of work.

Video: “Omicron Arrival Reveals Leaders Unprepared for the Future of Work”

Podcast: “Omicron Arrival Reveals Leaders Unprepared for the Future of Work”

Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. And today will help you make the wisest, most profitable decisions about the future of work in the context of Omicron. This has been a major issue. And I’ve had articles published in Fortune, San Francisco Chronicle, and many other venues about leaders not really being prepared for the future of work, because leaders are denying the implications of the Omicron front, the reality of the implications, what the Omicron fret means for the future, and in the context of the past other variants like alpha, and delta, and so on, and how we want to be thinking about the future. Now, we know that some of the basics is that Omicron is much, much more infectious than delta. And it’s much more able to escape vaccines without a booster, even if someone was boosted. It’s not as good as having the original vaccination. So if someone has a booster, maybe there’s something like 70% resistant to infection, rather than where the original vaccination was, and we’re talking about mRNA vaccination being something like around 90% resistance to infection. So this is a big, big problem, especially in the context of the unfortunately polarized environment in the United States, to a lesser extent, around the world elsewhere, but also elsewhere around the world. But there are many, many Americans who are unwilling to get boosted, of course, even vaccinated, but we’re really talking about getting boosted here, we’re not really going to move the needle much on the people who are allergic, unwilling to get vaccinated. So companies may face a lot of problems, if they don’t take the necessary steps to change not simply for Omicron, and the situation around Armageddon, but for the future. And in the context of what has already happened in the past. Now, the one silver lining is that Omicron does appear to be more mild than delta, maybe it has something like 50% of the death rate than delta, maybe even a little bit less than 50% of the death rates, maybe something like a third to half of the death rate, which is great. But there is a danger around the smell, the smell narrative, the World Health Organization’s were to us about being too oriented to the mild illness of Omicron. to the exclusion of the reality of it’s danger, because many people are still at a pretty severe risk. People who are unvaccinated. Of course, that’s definitely target number one of people who are under severe risk, those who had booster shots are and who have various issues around health of those who are immunocompromised, those have various comorbidities, including just being older. So that is a major issue. And that’s something that you want to be thinking about in terms of the people who are really under severe risk, even though Omicron is still milder than delta. So that they see, CDC already, in early December, talked about, hey, the hospitals may become overwhelmed in many parts of the United States and the right are already seeing in this major wave in January, went early February that hospitals are definitely becoming overwhelmed in any areas of the United States. And unfortunately, with the emergence of Omicron, in late November, when it was pretty clear what was going on over here in South America, the US government, federal government, I mean, didn’t really take meaningful actions. Now it tightened international travel guidelines on those countries where Omicron emerged in the southern part of Africa in early December. But by that time, omicron was already detected in a number of states by mid December, it was already detected in half the states, that was not really meaningful action, not something that really changed the dynamics. It’s exploring the possibility of Omicron specific boosters, there’s been comments by some government officials in favor of them, some against by some vaccine companies in favor and against, but apparently it will take a long time with at least three months needed for development and approval. And that means that the reality is we were thinking the vaccine companies and the government, federal government are saying that, well, if a new variant comes along, we’ll quickly get this with the mRNA vaccine, we’ll quickly get a new vaccine out there, but apparently takes them at least three months if everything goes perfectly to get the vaccine out for a new variant. And as we see with Omicron it spreads around the world in less than a month. And so that’s not really a great story. barigye. So clearly the variant catching up strategy, we need a lot of work to do on the regulation front to make that happen, because that’s right now three months in the best of circumstances, but the variant has spread around the world in a month. So it’s way too late for the Omicron wave. Now, there are some things that it could have really done. And it chose not to, there is a game changing drug called Pax Lovitt, which apparently reduces hospitalization and death by something like 89% and trials. So maybe in the real world, it would be 80%, maybe 70%. But that would be great if it’s there. And already it was stopped in late November. So even before Omicron emerged, because of how effective it was, it was considered unethical to not give it to the control group in the trials. And the FDA, the representatives of the FDA said Yes, stop the trial, because of how effective it is. But the FDA did not speed approval when Omicron emerged at the end of November. So did not speed approval, not focus on speeding it up. Only when Omicron took over the United States in late December, did the FDA finally speed it up and give it approval. So clearly, he could have done that earlier, especially when it was already very clear that Omicron was going to take over. But by the time Dilaudid gave approval, it should have given the approval in the beginning of December, at least by the late December, that was way too late for mass production in order to impact the Omicron wave we’re seeing right now. Now, the failure to make tests, home detection tests easily available when Omicron emerged as a huge other issue. There’s a separate dynamic where the FDA was too strict on home testing requirements, resulting in us not having enough at home tests for a long time. Now, it demands perfection, when in reality, there are so many tests available in countries like Europe, which don’t demand perfection, which just demand to test whether someone is infectious, not whether they have COVID or not. And this is what we really need to test whether someone is infectious and whether they if they’re infectious, they should not be going out of the house, they shouldn’t be going to work, they shouldn’t be going to pick up their kids in school, they shouldn’t be going to the grocery store, that is not what they should be doing. And that would be great. If people were able to know that because the current testing we have PCR takes a couple of days. And that’s really not something that people will be waiting for. So that really prevented the ability of people to not infect others. So those with mild symptoms are like well, do I have a cold? Do I have COVID? I don’t know. And so this, the announcement of the federal government plan to make 500 million tests freely available, was only in January, way after late Omicron. To cover. So this is a problem. This is a huge problem, that the federal government did not do anything meaningful to enable people to have at home tests available, it could have bought these tests 500,000,003 tests already point back when could have done that in September, it could have dealt with it to address the delta wave could have done that on October, it could have done that in November could have done that and late in the end of November when Omicron emerged. But it only announced that in late December, when Omicron took over nine United States. And again, that’s way too late, because you’re going to make them available and widely in late January. And that is not one Omicron wave has already peaked in the United States. It’s more that it is a very bad strategy. And that’s something that the federal government could easily have done much earlier. So this is something for us to really be thinking about. How do we address this issue? from a leadership perspective, that’s political leadership, but also from a business leadership perspective, because companies are really failing to use the opportunity provided by Omicron. And its lessons to reimagine the future of work, they aren’t adapting their work arrangements. Now, I’ve been talking about transitioning to the future of work, which is going to be hybrid and remote, a combination of those for a very, very long time. And companies have some of them, the ones that are my clients, the 17 companies that I help transition to the future of work, including some fortune 500 companies have been listening to that. That’s great. But some many, many top companies have not been listening to this. And they’re not using the lesson of Omicron another lesson as a way of hey, maybe rethinking what we’re doing. Instead they’re simply relying on delays, delays, delays. Me: You might have heard the phrase the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, expecting different results, but they’re doing the same thing and expect to see different results that are relying on delays and thinking that, hey, this will get us out of trouble. Google, Uber and Ford are saying it will delay our return to the office and other companies as well. This is not a smart strategy, those that returned to the office, a number of them are saying, well, we’ll go take people back home, a number of them are saying, well, we’ll just take stricter measures, more masked, social distancing. And this is not good. But again, they’re doing the same thing, and expecting different results. This is the definition of insanity. They are really not thinking about what the future of work should be, despite warnings from me and other risk management and cognitive bias experts. They’re not fundamentally rethinking how they’re adapting to the future by forcing employees to return to the office, despite the fact that many employees are resigning. I mean, there’s a reason this period is called the Great Resignation, where employees are leaving in record numbers, because they do not want to return to the office. This is a major, major reason why employees are leaving. And they are very productive and can do their work full time from home if for very many jobs. And that is something really big we are thinking about. And especially returning back to the office full time is not a very smart idea for people who can do their work from home in this office centric culture. What I strongly advocate for is a hybrid first model, where people come to work one or two days a week, most people and some people who really want to, and are able to do their work fully remotely or stay at home and do their work fully remotely. And so that is a dynamic that will work well for the large majority of companies. But large companies like Google, Uber, Ford, Apple, and Amazon, and so on, are refusing to adapt the strategy, including the team lead component of it, where team leaders make the decisions for their teams, because they know much better what what their teams need than what this than the CEO and the C suite, the C suite do not have nearly as much visibility into what works well for each team. Why is that happening? Why are leaders making these top down decisions? And why are they advocating for this forced Return to Work offer centric culture, when clearly there are many variants coming up and likely will come up? We had Alpha variant come up, we had the Delta variant come up, we had Omicron. What else do you need to learn that the Do Not these are not good ideas to try to return people back to the office and keep sending them home yo yoing. And people are resigning. And more and more people are going to resign because of dangerous judgment errors that leaders make cold cognitive biases, they blind leadership vision to what is actually going on in reality. And they lead to decision making that’s rooted in wishful thinking, rather than the perception of the truth. So that is, what we want to be thinking about is how do we avoid these poor strategic and financial decisions by people in leadership roles? Well, they apply cognitive biases applied to everyone to all of us, but especially important here with the return to the world to the workplace and the future of work. This is leadership decision making. Now one of the huge cognitive biases here is called the ostrich effect. It’s people denying negative reality, you probably heard of the myth of the ostrich burying its head in the sand when it faces danger. This is a myth. But that’s what people keep repeating. And this has been called the ostrich effect. And we know from research that that’s how people respond, they deny negative reality. And this is something that happens because people feel bad about negative reality, the leaders of Google or Uber or Ford, they feel bad about seeing that people are resigning, they feel bad about seeing that their office centric culture that they really want is not going to happen. And so they keep trying to push people to deny reality and go to the office. And reality keeps taking its head out of the sand and saying, here’s another variant, here’s another emergency, here’s another danger, and they have to change their plans. And this is costing them many, many millions of dollars and talent and many, many millions of dollars in, of course, changing plans, building plans, and so on. This is a problem. And we know that leaders already had this lesson: the Delta variant caused them to do the same thing. But they denied the reality of this risk and kept going forward with their office centric return to Office plans. Despite the fact that a hybrid first model with a team led approach would have solved their problems because the teams, the leaders could have been making decisions for their teams about what’s actually going on and the team leaders when there’s more spread of COVID in their areas. What I’ve just said, you know, let’s everyone work from home for now, and we’ll decide what happens later. So this is a much, much better approach. Another problem here is called the normalcy bias. People perceive the future to be normal, and to be normal in the way that we think, hey, the future, we’ll go back to the past, we’ll go back to January 2020, everything will be normal. And that’s a denial of reality, people’s values, habits, norms have changed. And that is not something that people will just shift back to January 2020, magically snapping their fingers. That’s not what’s going to happen. And so leaders are prone to looking for reality. And therefore under estimating the probability and the impact of major disruptors, like the delta wave, like though Omicron wave and whatever future variants, and future disasters happen in the foreseeable future. So that is a big problem. Another problem is called functional fixedness, functional fixedness. You might have heard of the hammer nail syndrome, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, when we have a correct way to function, such as hammer nails, then we reject new practices, even when they’re necessary. We treat everything the same way. We think okay, here are the right quote unquote, work arrangements. And we’re used to working in the office and we impose hybrid work on remote work, which is why many companies didn’t do so well during the pandemic, and they want to get back to an office centric culture. And they didn’t figure out strategically how to adapt to the rib hybrid and remote modality associated with the pandemic. So that is a big, big problem that they did not strategically adapt to the future of work in the context of the pandemic. Now, another issue is undercounting the future. Leaders are really focused on the short term. And this is a big problem to be excessively focused on the short term. We tend to prioritize the short term, the present, and not the long term future. And we think, well, it’s going to be a hassle, it’s going to be difficult, challenging to relearn the ways we work, so we’re not going to do it. So we downplay the long term consequences of this present orientation. So we don’t think about whether it’s okay, we really need to orient toward the future of work rather than what’s the present of work. And so by focusing on these short term gains from the swift return to the office, just returning thought of as let’s get back to what we know. And of course, there will be some gains in terms of comfort in terms of people being able to talk to each other, but you will lose a lot of talent. And over time, you will not be gaining talent who wants to have more flexibility. So you’ll have a much more limited pool of talent. And companies like Google, Uber and Ford, which rely on talent, are not going to win out in the future of work. So that long term competitive advantage for the future of work relies very heavily on making sure that you are in that hybrid and remote modality. Alright, everyone. So that is how Omicron is an impact and reveals the fact that many leaders are unprepared for the future of work, whether it’s political leaders, or business leaders, as we’re thinking about Google, Uber, Ford, Apple, Amazon, many, many other companies that are making the Wall Street banks, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and so on, that where the workers can work full time remotely, realistically speaking. And I don’t advocate a hybrid first model with team leads making the decision based on the local circumstances of what works well for their team. And sometimes if there’s obviously a spread of COVID in the area or another emergency, everyone can easily go back to working from home without company policy, changing and shifting, costing the company many, many millions of dollars. That is something that you want to be thinking about and adapting to the future of work to how you work effectively in hybrid and remote teams. And that, of course, is described in a number of other episodes of the wise decision makers show. How do you collaborate effectively in hybrid settings and remote settings? I hope you’ve valued and benefited from this episode of the wise decision maker show. And I hope you leave a review on whatever, then you check that out, whether it’s iTunes, whether it’s Amazon podcasts, whether you’ve checked out the video form of it on YouTube, so please leave a review please make sure to subscribe and share it with your friends. I’d love to hear from you. My name is Gleb Tsipursky and my email is Gleb GL AB at disaster avoidance So Gleb at disaster avoidance Share your thoughts you like it, you don’t like it. Give me your feedback so we can improve on this. I hope again to see you on the next episode of the wise decision maker show My friends in the meantime the wisest the most profitable decisions to you 

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: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is a world-renowned thought leader in future-proofing, decision making, and cognitive bias risk management in the future of work. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-proofing consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, which specializes in helping forward-looking leaders avoid dangerous threats and missed opportunities. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019), The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020), and Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, French, and other languages. He was featured in over 550 articles and 450 interviews in prominent venues. These include Fortune, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, CBS News, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Time, Fast Company, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for mid-size and large organizations ranging from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, including 7 as a professor at Ohio State University. You can contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, LinkedIn, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, and gain free access to his “Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace” and his “Wise Decision Maker Course” with 8 video-based modules at