Category Archives: Resourcing

EMPA day 1 – an overview

Hi all,

Well it’s been a long and busy day here in Canberra for day one of the Emergency Media and Public Affairs conference for 2011. The day was a more casual approach, a workshop run in the ‘world cafe’ style. For those of you not familiar with world cafe (which was most of us!), the aim is to spilt into tables and have the level of discussion you have have with your friends if you opened that second bottle of wine. Quiet an interesting way of going about it, and one that I think worked very well.

The aim was to have varing degrees of emergency management experience represented on each table, along with a media representitive.

Firstly we were to discuss what common ground emergency media communicators and media staff have in common, then onto issues and differences.

Tables were rotating (not the tables, but the participants!) under the following topics:
Working to deadline
Gathering facts versus the information vaccum
Facts, rumours and misinformation
Emergency warnings versus editorial content
Text, tweet, blog…the citizen journalist
Access to spokespeople

Table leaders, if you will, summarised the discussions at the end of the alloted time, and notes were taken, with the aim of coming up with guidelines and principals that emergency media communicators and media staff can use as a guide for collaboration to build on. Over the course of the conference the principals will be drafted, with the aim of testing them out on Tuesday, the last day of the conference.

A reminder, you can follow the conference on Twitter, @EmergMediaConf, and by using the hashtag #EMPA2011.

-Nathan, @nathanmaddock

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Is your Blackberry on 24/7 and glued to your hip?

This week the Australian School of Business at UNSW released an article entitled The Smart Phone Turn Off: When the Boss’s Call is a Barbeque-stopper. It describes the psychological and business impacts of having smart phones and being ‘always on’ – something everyone in emergency management & media acutely understands.

We all know that phone and email access are vital for every emergency communicator, but is there a smarter way to manage this technology? Is it efficient to always be on call? How does an organisation find a balance between meeting its objectives and supporting its employees?

 According to the article, constant use of a smart phone can interrupt your thinking and  lead to burn-out:

“Hard cognitive work requires a fine focus. Younger workers may have grown up with constant distractions and could be better at handling the interruptions that technology delivers. But Andrew May (who’s written a book on skill-sets required for the digital age) argues ‘if you’re getting distracted every couple of minutes, there is just no way you can reach your potential.’ However, a balance is required because leaders can’t cocoon themselves away all day to focus on high-end tasks either – part of leadership is being available at all times.”

We’ve all seen that the media is generally unforgiving of leaders who are not available 24/7, and we’ve always known those types of roles require significant personal sacrifice. But this research suggests there is also a professional issue to be addressed as well – the effect on our thinking, and consequently, how that impacts upon decision-making and our ability to see the big picture. 

“Without time for recovery, human beings burn out. ‘If we’re always on, we don’t have time to refresh or to recover and that has implications for our capacity to think and act strategically. Our focus is narrowed because we’re no longer looking at a lot of the other elements in our work context and our wider work environment.’ A physiological aspect of working all the time is that it puts the body into a stress response, Judi MacCormick, a researchers at the Australian School of Business points out.”

The article goes on to suggest there should be clear agreement between individuals and organisations as to the expectations for being on-call which carefully acknowledge and respect the work-life balance everyone needs.

I think some of the bigger implications of this idea touch on how decision-making in emergency management is impacted by rostering schedules, and how media teams are created, managed, maintained and supported. Seems to be that it’s pretty important to get your team’s arrangements right, communicate them clearly, and make sure employees retain a measure of control. 

One of many thing to consider between emergencies, as we all review our operations and plan for the future.

-Sandeep
Twitter: @dizzydeep

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