Article by Vanessa Barros PhD., Senior Executives' Advisor, Executive Trainer and Senior Researcher on Leadership & Conflict Management across Cultures

In Summary:

The confinement phenomenon that we are going through could become recurrent. How can we go from fear to creativity? 10 questions as thought starters:


1/ How to ensure psychological safety for families and daily routine strategies to adopt to go through confinement?

2/ How to engage in economic solidarity at the individual level?

3/ How to engage in economic solidarity at a larger scale and rethink the economy?

4/ How do we help society members cope with the current trauma?

5/ How do we protect our society from greed and fear?


6/ How to reinvent business models in time of confinement and beyond?

7/ How to reinvent education?

8/ What is our responsibility as researchers and business leaders?

9/ How do we take advantage of this extraordinary crisis to see the obvious?

10/ How do spread the awareness?

THIS CONFINEMENT IS VERY LIKELY THE FIRST OF A SERIES OF CONFINEMENT PERIODS which will take place and could last over a period of a year to three years (depending on how quickly we find a vaccine). This is probably the piece of information in the past few days that changed my way of thinking. This information is consistently shared by medical experts I know, financial experts close to governments I speak to and business leaders.

If we want 60 to 70% of the population to be contaminated and therefore immune (so we can get rid of the virus), it will take several waves of confinement.

The measures of social distancing have been put in place to i) slow down the spread of the epidemic and ensure health systems could cope with an exceptionally high number of intense care needs, ii) protect the vulnerable ones who hopefully would never be contaminated. I recommend the reading of this excellent article from Jean-Luc Ayme (google translate should do the trick for those who can’t read French):

Jean-Luc Ayme posted on LinkedIn
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China is on their 4th confinement in Wuhan and 2nd in Shanghai. Why would it be any different for us?

That information is however not known by the larger population who are patiently waiting for this confinement to stop to get back to their respective lives. This has disastrous consequences on the society morale, ways of coping with the immediate present and ways of coping with the current economic situation. If we think of the current confinement as the first one and not the only one (again this is a very likely scenario), if we think of Corona Virus of one of the possible viruses to come, we will think differently and possibly more pro-actively about our immediate and longer term futures. Bill Gates in 2015, by the way, was describing the current scenario extremely accurately:

Scientists were also describing the dangers of corona virus back in 2007

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus as an Agent of Emerging and Reemerging Infection
Before the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in 2003, only 12 other animal or human coronaviruses were known. The discovery of this virus was soon followed by the discovery of the civet and bat SARS-CoV and the human coronaviruses NL63 and HKU1. Surveillanc…

10 questions come to mind:


1/ How to ensure psychological safety for families and daily routine strategies to adopt to go through confinement? I did a little video about this that you view here:

(download may take a while so maybe start it then read the article and come back...:-))

- Rigorous organization of your time

- Projecting oneself in time with practical and realistic objectives.

- Sustaining relationships

How to help promote such practices?

2/ How to engage in economic solidarity at the individual level?

Depending on their income, families have more or less people counting on them for their own overall revenue:

- Cleaning personnel

- Nannies

- Music teachers

- Local shops

What do we do? Do we let them starve because they can’t work or do we contribute? Our family is discussing at the moment, how to remunerate partially some of our ‘staff’. My teenagers are now doing the cleaning since confinement does not allow visitors. We are setting up a system where they will get a portion of what the cleaner would have gotten (1/3) and the rest goes to the cleaner in solidarity with the expectation that in future she will give us additional help if needed. That way we are also making our children responsible for the economic solidarity. I am coaching my son’s music teacher at the moment to use skype or zoom and we will try a first virtual music class tomorrow. Should that work, he may be able to continue his activity differently in times of confinement. Adrian will continue to learn and our teach will be able to get his income. The teacher only agreed in trying this virtual technology once I discussed the possibility of this confinement not being the only one.

3/ How to engage in economic solidarity at a larger scale and rethink the economy?

Boing and Airbus have stopped production. The cascade effects on suppliers are immediate. Aeronautic companies are starting to look at the entire ecosystem to protect as many as possible. Some industries are booming and others collapsing. Will there be a solidarity between the winners and the losers in this very unfair game?

How should real estate owners manage their tenants (restaurants, shops etc.). Should they split the loss and reduce the rent by half, should they make a loan? How sustainable will these measures be?

How should governments help each other? Is it reasonable to give a 6% interest loan to Italy which the population will have to pay back after what they are going through? Let’s remember that the military in Italy are now moving the dead bodies to different locations waiting for the end of this confinement to allow families later to mourn their departed ones. The talk by Laurent Bibard, professor of Ethics at ESSEC is absolutely brilliant.

4/ How do we help society members cope with the current trauma?

Employers, when the first confinement is over will have to deal with employees who might have lost their parents or friends. They will have to face employees who might have been scared or depressed or ill. Some may have family members who lost their jobs. Some will have family ties seriously affected by the confinement. Domestic violence is not new news but confinement is certainly not helping. A father killed his 6 year old son last week and another killed his wife in front of the children. What can we do for disabled children and their parents? Some are going through hell right now.

What psychological support will be put in place to help people cope? When business resumes it will not be business as usual. How can we prepare for that? I recommend the excellent article from Maurice Thevenet :

Gérer le travail en pleine crise
Maurice Thévenet nous explique comment la crise de coronavirus peut impacter le monde de travail.

5/ How do we protect our society from greed and fear?

Some companies are starting to promote unethically their services to the most vulnerable. A restaurant owner, friend of mine received an email from a company that facilitates selling and purchasing restaurants. How traumatic when you don’t know whether you will survive or not! Fear is starting to affect social behavior. The rushes in supermarkets, notes from neighbors asking the nurses living in the same building to evacuate so not to contaminate others … Fear won’t get us anywhere. We need to think creatively and with solidarity about the situation. We can, for example, lend our empty apartments to medical staff right now so they live closer to their work place. In Paris, the Lodgis rental agency is facilitating this initiative with the French government.

(Source unknown)


6/ How to reinvent business models in time of confinement and beyond?

What if confinement became the norm every 4 to 6 months? How do we reinvent our business models? If I am a restaurant owner, how do I cope with a 2 month closure from time to time? Take away? Catering? As a consultant how to I rethink my revenue stream and shift it towards education or knowledge sharing? As a musical teacher, how do I give classes via virtual means in times of confinement?

7/ How to reinvent education?

Schools had to very quickly adapt to the situation. Leaving our children without education was not negotiable. The means of the schools affect the way they are able to cope. Some had computers for the teachers, some had « trained » staff, some not. Will we shift in future to partial virtual education? I am realizing that on some topics, virtual is almost better. I was offered to replace overnight an International Marketing teacher. The virtual format is brilliant to engage with students and make them understand the reality of an International Marketing manager. Will pupils and students have to go to school all day every day? Will there be new education models?

8/ What is our responsibility as researchers and business leaders?

I reached out to a CEO for whom I have the most profound respect and admiration and asked what the vision was in such times of crisis. His answer was that his priority was to keep his staff and their families safe. Yes, that is indeed what I would expect from such an empathetic individual. Beyond that bare necessity, who will take the time they don’t have to think about fundamentally shifting business and economic models? Aerospace industry, amongst many others, needs to reinvent itself. How can leaders look at their assets and intellectual property and find new usages, new services and new products? It is also time for researchers to explore and test solutions across the board in terms of management practices, safety at work, transition strategies, innovation.

9/ How do we take advantage of this extraordinary crisis to see the obvious?

a)     Health system: many governments have neglected their health systems. We have been hearing complaints from medical staff for years. Seeing helicopters carry bodies of sick people which hospitals won’t be able to save should make us realize that we are not prepared for the diseases that are likely to spread in the coming years. Having nurses literally holding on the miracles to keep the morale like with this 85 year old lady who out of the 60 patients in a regional hospital may survive. They are holding to miracles because they don’t have the means to hold on to science or equipment right now.

b)    Pollution: cities like LA are seeing the sky for the first time in decades, traffic jams in big cities have disappeared. Do we really need to do 2 hours in our cars every morning to reach our office? Can’t we shift working hours for our staff so roads are less congested? Can we accelerate the shift towards electric cars and planes to reduce the ecological impact? Can we realize that consuming less is actually possible and not so problematic?

c)     Personal ties: I have been speaking in this time of crisis with friends, very dear friends whom I had not spoken to in years. Why did I need a corona virus to talk to them? We are surrounded by loving, caring and extraordinarily talented people whom we forget due to our daily race against time.

d)    Sharing our knowledge: we don’t usually share our knowledge and expertise enough. An actor in Portugal is reading Portuguese literature on Facebook live to entertain confined families. Museums are opening their lectures to the public, culture has never been so free in its digital availability. A gallery owner, in France recently wanted to create live education sessions so his knowledge wouldn’t be stolen. That kind of fear is outdated. The best institutions in this world (Harvard, MIT etc.) have long understood that sharing broadly is best. If we have true expertise nobody can take it from us. Fearless sharing is the new way.

e)    Inclusion for Innovation: business leaders are exchanging, opening the floor to ideas across the board and being creative to help. Ideas from all types of people within organizations and across organizations are being taken and quickly implemented to help those in need. Peugeot is now working on breathing masks, Coty are sending what used to be hair spray bottles transformed into disinfectant sprays to Italy, wine producers are giving their alcohol, numerous plants have shifted their production to help the crisis situation.

f)      The need for a third culture: differences are helping us right now. Experts from all sectors are exchanging like never before. Understanding our differences and creating cultural environments that embrace those differences and help all live and work harmoniously together without losing their identities and specificities is our future.

10/ How to spread the awareness?

All of the above questions will find answers if we all become aware immediately of what our future might be. It is not about sending alarming messages. It is about looking at very likely scenarios that our society may be exposed to and taking them as an extraordinary opportunity to think differently for a better world. It is about shifting from fear to creativity.

Article initially published on LinkedIn and reproduced here with the kind permission of the author, Vanessa Barros, as part of's evolving series of articles on life after Covid-19.

Short bio and contact details

Vanessa Barros is a senior executives’personal advisor, senior executive trainer and researcher. She is based in Europe and also collaborates with the Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence at the Nanyang Business School (Nanyang Technological University) in Singapore.

Vanessa holds a Master of Science in Managementfrom ESSEC Business School in France. She completed her PhD in cross cultural management with the Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence at the Nanyang Business School (Nanyang Technological University) under the supervision of Professor Ang Soon.

Her research focuses on the strategies adopted by senior international executives to manage intercultural conflicts effectively. Through conducting more than 200 interviews with top executives ranging from Ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Blue chip company CEOs, to MNC Country General Managers across 66 nationalities and 20+ industries she has developed a new taxonomy of intercultural conflict management moves. Her book “Don’t Mess with my Professionalism!” with Penguin Random House is scheduled to be published in 2020.

Vanessa is French-Portuguese. She has worked on four continents (North America, South America, Europe, Central Asia and currently Asia), speaks 4 languages fluently (English, French, Spanish and Portuguese) and has gained solid experience in international leadership, multi-cultural brand strategy and management, operations and business development.

Prior to joining the Center for Leadership and Cultural Intelligence, Vanessa worked in advertising for over 20 years handling local, regional and global accounts for Saatchi & Saatchi, McCann-Erickson, Havas, BETC and Ogilvy working for prestigious clients including Reckitt Benckiser, Nina Ricci, Procter & Gamble, Lolita Lempicka, Danone, Kraft Foods Peugeot and Unilever.


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