Blog

Just Below the Surface

By Chris Fournelle | Apr 28, 2020

There is  Before-NAB-Cancelled  and  After-NAB-Cancelled.   

At least, that’s how I look at it. 

Before-NAB-Cancelled, things were largely normal despite COVID-19’s growing spread across the world. Even though I was tracking all the industry cancellations thus far, I still had my Las Vegas dinner reservations and was booking client meetings. Looking forward, I was planning out the next several months of projects and strategizing for IBC. 

After-NAB-Cancelled, everything ground to a halt. It was like falling off a cliff. On Wednesday, March 11, the announcement was made. On Friday the 13th, I was working from home, school was cancelled, we were socially distant, and nothing would ever be the same. Looking past what is happening right now is difficult. Planning for the future is next to impossible. 

Emotionally I’m all over the map. Depending on the news of the day, my home-life, my work-life, I bounce between 

It’s not that bad.

I am very lucky.

It’s not that good.

This can’t get any worse.

This won’t get any better.

And back around again.

These swings are one of the reasons  Signiant and the DPP started its research project  into remote working during the time of Coronavirus. Every day it seemed we felt differently about the situation and our place in it. 

With events and situations continually changing, it has been challenging to understand what it all means. That gave us pause. There is no way to conclude what this all means until it is done. But tracking how the industry feels during this historic time offers some interesting evidence to consider when and if the pandemic subsides. 

On March 26, we began conducting a longer survey every month along with a shorter weekly survey to gauge and track how the media and entertainment industry is dealing with remote working while COVID-19 is all around us. With four survey weeks returned, I’ve been trying to understand what the numbers are telling me, where they are going, and what — if anything — it can tell us about the future.    

After four weeks, a picture is emerging, that like the rest of life, how the industry is feeling changes week to week. On the outside, we appear calm, cool, and collected. But inside, there is volatility, constant emotional swings, and sudden shifts. 

The Surveys 

Approximately 83 companies from around the world have participated in the weekly surveys which ask six questions to gauge the weekly “temperature” of the industry as they work remotely.   

The participants are from one company each. In the monthly survey, there are a series of questions they answer as their company and others as themselves. In the weekly surveys, they answer only for themselves. We are going to concentrate on the weekly surveys here. 

We asked: 

  • Question 1: Are you able to work at home? 
  • Question 2: Are you working at home? 
  • Question 3: Rate your experience of working at home compared to their normal workplace. 
  • Question 4: Rate your productivity working at home compared to their normal workplace. 
  • Question 5: Rate how you are feeling from a work point of view. 
  • Question 5: Rate how you are feeling personally. 

What are we finding? 

Let’s start with the easy ones—these are just yes/no questions. 

  • Are they  ABLE  to work from home? 
  • ARE  they working from home? 

These are extremely high numbers. On average across the first 4 weeks,

  • 97.2% said they were  ABLE  to work from home 
  • 93.45%  ARE  working from home.    

BUT, there is a consistent downtrend in Are Working from Home from Week 1 to Week 4. In Week 1, almost 97% said they were working from home. By Week 4 that went down to 89%.  

Why the downtrend? The data doesn’t tell us as of yet, but based on interviews, there is a certain percentage of the group — IT, Engineering, Operations — who still have to work at their regular site to keep things going from the rest of the group. 

This high number was somewhat initially surprising, however, from the surveys and other interviews, we found that, while companies were not consistently and predominately remote working, the infrastructure was in place to do so with additional configurations and a minimal amount of other equipment. Nearly everyone we talked to was able to continue working within 1-2 weeks after beginning social isolation. 

How are we feeling? 

We asked people, on a scale from 100 to zero, with 100 feeling the best to 0 feeling the worst, to rate how they were feeling about a few situations. 

  • How they were feeling  about working from home 
  • How they were feeling  about work 
  • How they were feeling  about themselves  

The pre-Covid-19 the baseline score was 73.25—most feeling strongly positive. However, through Week 4, the average is 63.5. Just about neutral—definitely feeling worse about the situation but also feeling like it’s not good, nor bad. On the surface, the pandemic is having measurable effects on work and themselves, but it’s just neutral thus far.

Just below the surface, however, there are shifts—sometimes dramatic ones—across weeks, between categories, and within companies.  While the overall averages are not moving greatly, there is a lot of movement in the details. 

30% of people change their answers 10 points or higher positively or negatively every week. 

  • 21% Working from Home Compared to Work 
  • 26% Rating Productivity at Home Compared to Work 
  • 35% Changing how they are feeling about work 
  • 36% Changing how they are feeling personally 

Those shifts are more toward the positive for  Working at Home and Productivity  while they are more negative about their  Feelings about Work and Personally. However, for all those shifts towards the negative, nearly 40% of the respondents are positive and score above 70. 

Other trends 

Not surprisingly, the survey is showing technology, engineering, and IT groups feeling above average as well as c-level and higher up managers. It’s been a busy time for these groups as they transition to remote work and to keep the work continuing as much as possible. Other groups like production and post-production are not feeling as positive. Those that sell and market within the industry also show significantly lower scores. Internal management and financial groups are the most volatile going up and down drastically week to week. 

When averaging all  the answers, engineering departments and director/VP positions stand-out as the only areas with positive growth week to week. But for the others, in any given week, no less than 20 categories go up or down. 

What does this all mean? 

After only four weeks, there is not enough information to make definitive claims, nor is that the intention right now. However, it is fair to believe it shows we are still in the thick of it, things are churning, and personal and work realities change weekly. But it also illustrates, for now, everyone is mostly making things work and carrying on. It’s important to remember this only represents a moment in time during a significant social event. But it’s also essential to capture where we are as an industry and society. Where we go next remains to be seen. 

The DPP, in partnership with Signiant, is conducting a unique piece of longitudinal research that will look at how feelings and behaviors around remote and distributed working develop through the course of the pandemic.  This article is part of this project. 

Read Mark Harrison and the DPP’s take on the surveys in his article,  Lockdown: It’s Emotional.