As the world starts to open back up, there is a growing buzz in the air. Pubs are open, we can go out for dinner at a restaurant and start going out for day trips again!
Its. Just. Like. Normal.
No matter the veneer you shine gloriously on it, underneath it all is the hard reality that things really aren’t going to be “normal” for some time and businesses have more of a challenge ahead of them.
No more so, than with how we support people, motivate them and engage them.
And here is why…
When we went into lock down, we created this shared identity. We were all in it together. We were told Covid didn’t discriminate. We as individuals found solace in knowing we were not alone. With that, came the understanding that businesses were dealing with unprecedented circumstances, there was an appreciation of the difficulties being faced.
Most of the economy shut down. Many millions weren’t working. Many who did created this incredible unit of keeping the country running. It brought out our desire to help, to support others even with people we didn’t know. All the schools were shut and people were trying to juggle working, home schooling children and whilst we were all going through difficult times, the common theme kept us going – we were all in it together.
But of course, now we know that in some instances that just wasn’t the case. Reports now show how black and minority groups are at greater risk of Covid than any other. Cummingsgate called into question rules for the elite vs everyone else. Care homes were the forgotten frontline. Some children are going back to school, some aren’t. Some schools have refused to open and in September you can look forward to a nice penalty if you don’t send your child to school. If you want to get married there is no food or drink allowed, but if you want to pop down the pub for a pint and a nice curry at your local Indian, it’s no problem.
That sense of “we are all in it together” has long gone. And in its wake, it leaves behind a fragmented society where different groups of people face different restrictions and impacts.
But why does this matter for business leaders and their employees?
When we were all in it together, there was a common sense of understanding, shared beliefs and values. There was this idea of fairness and equality.
Now, we have part furloughed, part not, split workforce in the office, differences with childcare, some having to juggle home learning, others not. Some choosing to keep their children off school. Some people are fearful of coming out and don’t feel safe. Others couldn’t give a damn and that has meant conflict has ensued between the approaches being taken. We even have localised lockdowns!
This disconnected and fragmented approach in coming out of lockdown creates more headaches for business leaders who need their teams to come together – arguably more so now than before.
So, what can businesses do now?
Employees are still going to need you to show them that their health, safety and wellbeing is a priority. Demonstrating what you have done, what you are doing and what will be happening is important. Frequency of communication to provide reassurance is crucial – regardless of what role or circumstance they are in.
It is really easy to think we are out of lock down now so our communication efforts can reduce. Don’t be fooled!
With the continued uncertainty, people need to feel that there is a sense of control and that voice can help to provide reassurance. That, will help you guide people through the upcoming weeks to months and no doubt through more changes to come.
Enable everyone to have their say. We need to hear the stories and the experiences of everyone. We need to understand how they have been and are affected. We can then work with them to identify reasonable adjustments that need to be made to support them.
When we include everyone, it makes people feel valued, appreciated and feel that what they have to say matters. This approach will help to unite your people and bring them together.
Change is inevitably upon us. Businesses will be adapting, changing and flexing to ensure its future success. This means employees need to be able to quickly adapt to change. Change in any situation can create significant challenges, issues and unrest. Smother it with a pandemic and you have a recipe for a disaster.
Invest in helping people to develop their own resiliency in dealing with change. Not only will it significantly make a difference to managing change in the business, it will also provide great support for mental health & wellbeing.
And then what?
Watch out for burnout. Continued strain on us takes it toll. Ensure your leadership team know how to spot the signs of burnout, recognising it in themselves and in others. Supporting those who experience this will be at the heart of getting them through it.
Coming out of lockdown is going to require all the years of training, experience and skills to bring those teams together, to recognise the continued and ongoing conflict, inequality and different stages we are all at.
If you want some support with guiding you through your plan, get in contact with [email protected]