So, we are looking forward to coming out of our third lockdown, but how has our business evolved over the last year? Reflecting on how we have learned to work in different ways, using new technology and revisiting the flexibility of how we work – what does this mean going forward? What changes will we keep, abandon, or modify to help us to grow again?
For some businesses, I feel some of the many concerns at the beginning of the first lockdown were how will I maintain productivity? How can I maintain engagement with my team and customers?
With the advent of using platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts to name but a few, we started to see what functionality we needed and how we could make the best of the situation. I feel the well-being of our employees was a little further down the agenda initially, as potentially worry and fear crept in as to how can we protect our business, and thus protect the jobs for everyone.
As we learned how to utilise the available technology, and how to offer our products and/or services online, our attention turned to how are we all feeling and how can we create a healthy and safe environment for our teams’ mental wellbeing? Out of this pandemic I feel that a key skill was regenerated – creative problem solving. People were looking for ways to keep working, keep their businesses going as well as how to support and integrate their employees into new ways of working.
With the removal of the work commute, some people found this transition very challenging and worked longer hours, feeling the need to “prove” that they were being productive. Hopefully, this subsided which enabled people to start to improve their work/life balance, to enjoy spending time with their family or just having space to relax and breathe, maybe learn a new skill or hobby.
Current question is, what happens after lockdown? Will everyone go back into the workplace? Will we still maintain some remote working? How will I lead my team if it is a mix of onsite and remote working? How will my team feel about coming back into the workplace?
Agile working has become a new term meaning to bring together people, processes, technology, time and location to agree an appropriate and productive way of working to achieve a particular task. The focus is on delivering the outcome, in a way that suits the individual’s situation. Flexible working focused more on the individual and what their needs may be such as start and finish times, hours of work. We have delivered Agile Working workshops (remotely) with some really positive feedback around getting leaders to really consider what is required, and what to plan for, going forward for both the business needs and the individuals.
There will be a mix of emotions that people may be experiencing, from excitement and enthusiasm to being physically back in the workplace, seeing colleagues, having coffee and lunch together, and maybe after work catch-ups. Others may be experiencing significant anxiety, fear and worry around how safe is the workplace, what happens when furlough ends, is my role safe from redundancy? What Covid protocols are being implemented? Will there still be flexibility around my working hours?
As a leader, these, and many other questions, need to be considered and addressed to be able to support your team and to review what has been successful over the last 12 months and how can these be reinvented for the workplace and / or maintained for the remote employees. Perhaps a key question may be for some businesses is do we need business premises, or can we just rent a space when we need it? If we need to maintain a physical workspace, how many roles need to be onsite, and how often?
To maintain the engagement of our teams, we need to engage with them about the future. What are their thoughts? How would they prefer to work? A happy workforce generally offers a productive workforce. Perhaps some key questions to reflect on and discuss with your team maybe;
- How should we be working – remote, onsite or a mix of both?
- If onsite, how should the workplace look regarding space, what facilities are required to be able to interact with colleagues who are working remotely?
- How can I support my team members effectively when some may be in the workplace physically, and some working remotely?
- How am I going to manage their ongoing development? What staff development has been achieved during the last 12-18 months? Was I more focused on survival, than developing my team?
- Location of business premises – do you need to be in the city centre going forward? By working in lower, and potentially smaller premises, costs can be reduced significantly.
There are many more questions to be asked, and resolved, but this is the start of thinking in a new way (again!), for the ‘new normal’ way of working. Let us really look at what we have learned over the last twelve months and rethink what our future looks like, rather than just dropping back to what we had before the pandemic. Sometimes we need to look at the difficulties we have experienced and learn from them to make our futures better. I have added the points below as some thoughts for you to perhaps reflect upon as we move forwards towards Steps 3 and 4 of the Covid Road Map.
- We understand and support what the business is trying to achieve.
- We agree clear objectives and expectations.
- We have access to the resources and training that we need to do a good job.
- We ensure that everyone’s role plays to their strengths.
- There is recognition and praise for a job well done.
- We support and respect each other, even when times are tough.
- There are opportunities to develop and develop knowledge and skills.
- We discuss concerns openly, and listen with empathy, and without judgement.
- We strive to deliver great quality work.