14Jul

A changing landscape

Detach yourself for a moment and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Easter Weekend of 2020 could be considered a pretty perfect one. Glorious sunshine, fun and laughter in the garden with your very nearest and dearest, perhaps even a paddling pool or BBQ to bring that real ‘Summer Vibe’ and not a work thought in sight so to speak.

In previous years I ‘d have probably been the one thinking ‘please can we just have the weekend at home as a family and not have to drive around the country visiting others’.

Back to 2020…what I wouldn’t give to be able to throw my arms around my parents and hug them into next year. How times have changed! But what this really makes me realise is that actually the whole world has completely changed direction and I would say that it has without a doubt changed the way we do business, the way our children behave and the way we all communicate.

Our children will have learnt the art of self-entertainment, not needing full entertainment and days out all the time. As parents we will have learnt more about our own creative side and probably ignited memories of games from our childhood before technology engulfed our lives – we taught our 2 year how to play pooh sticks this week! Or perhaps we have picked up an old hobby again or even started a new one. And think of all the savings you are making, not just financially but environmentally – less coffee purchases equals less coffee cups in land fill!

Business has changed. At Stream in the space of 24 hours we shifted the whole team to working from home, and 4 weeks later, it’s still working surprisingly well. A friend told me that their IT department got 6,000 people working remotely in just a week – I’m not sure many would have comprehended that 6 months ago. Another friend took a 10% salary cut but finishes at lunchtime on Friday. Teams are operating with reduced staff numbers and processes have been streamlined.

Even when the lockdown is lifted, we will see a slow transition to normality and I expect that in the months to come, companies will adapt their working policies. It may be shorter working hours, or more time working remotely – after all with less distractions in the office we are generally seeing more productive hours in a day. Those non-essential processes will remain shelved. Or perhaps there will be more focus on continued learning and development, investing and growing those we’ve got or developing better team building and communication channels. Either way, I am confident that the way we do business will be totally different.

Furloughing staff – it’s an interesting concept and one that can mean something very different for everyone. Regardless of your opinion and circumstances I have one big concern that plays on my mind throughout all of this – a ‘them and us’ mentality, especially in businesses where only a percentage of a team have been furloughed.

Some would see a period of furlough as the best outcome for them and would think they are getting a pretty easy ride of it – stay at home, don’t work and still be paid a large percentage of their salary. If you don’t have other dependants that rely on you, your outgoings have reduced and you’re not in the at risk camp it sounds like a pretty good deal.

For others, furloughing means not being able to cover the bills, struggling emotionally and mentally and feeling disconnected. It could be that one member of the household is self-employed or struggling to make ends meet, already so a furlough salary cut would have a significant impact on the basics in life.

And what about those still working, are they just grateful for the job, is the green-eyed monster lying dormant or just above the surface for them? Those still working are likely to have been asked to pick the essential tasks of those furloughed, so for their standard salary they are likely to be putting in extra for you?

Just as everyone’s lockdown experience is different, people’s furlough experiences will be different. Make sure you are checking in on your teams, a simple ‘how are you doing’, ‘thank you’ or ‘we understand the challenges, you’re doing a great job’ goes a long way.

How do you keep your general team spirit and culture going:

  • How does your business keep the team that are on board and picking up others workload motivated and appreciated?
  • How do you avoid that ‘them and us’ mentality appearing in the team with those furloughed potentially feeling like they are not as important?
  • Do you rotate people through the furlough scheme so that it is fair or should you be governed by workload?
  • When people do come back will have been used to long periods of doing nothing and it could be tough to motivate them again from afar if we are still in a lockdown situation? 

There will be challenges in the road ahead for every business whether it is lack of sales, redundancies, debts, reduced funding – hard conversations will be had around the board table. But I hope that during those hard conversations, the memory of how the team came together and supported each other stands strong. That we remember that everyone is in the same boat and decisions are taken in the context of this pandemic.

I ask one thing of you, on the other side, do make sure you say thank you and praise those working. They are the ones that are keeping your business’ wheels in motion. Doesn’t have to be big but please acknowledge them. And for those furloughed, thank them for their understanding and continued support.

Here’s a thought, in the same way we are, rightly so, thanking all the amazing NHS and key workers every Thursday evening – what could you do to show your appreciation for your team?

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