Yes, there are new beginnings on the horizon, not quite what we thought though!
I have been having loads of great conversations with my coaching and business clients and people who are in my network and they have been sharing some really interesting thoughts and views on what needs to be thought about coming out of this strange lockdown situation. There are loads of questions that need answers and we do not have them.
When will we start working again? For those whose businesses have been forced to close, the uncertainty of timescales and what the new working world looks like is huge.
How do I make decisions of who I should take off furlough and when? Not an easy one unless each person has a specific role that differs from others. I even had a client who was put on furlough because her boss thought that it was better to put the woman with the young child on furlough as opposed to the single man (interesting). We need to be super sensitive and sensible with the decisions we make.
How do we set up workplaces to be safe and protect people from the virus? We have loads of guidance on what this could look like, consideration will have to be used for different types of businesses where social distancing is not always possible.
How will people behave towards one and other? For me this is the biggest question, all the others are practical although huge. How people will feel coming back to the workplace is something that we need to do our best, as leaders, to understand and show real compassion and empathy for.
People are coming at this from all different mindsets – some just want to get back to ‘normal’, some are very wary of interacting with others at all, some behave like the socially distancing police ( I can be like that, on more than one occasion, when out for my daily exercise allowance, I have questioned the ‘living in the same house’ status of fellow exercisers. My daughter puts her head in her hands every time I say, ‘do you think they are related?’) We are judging each other’s decisions in a way we never have before.
Speaking to one of my clients the other day she worried that people may ‘have a go’ at each other as it is now more ‘socially acceptable to fart than it is to cough in public’.
People are grieving, although not had the opportunity to be present when their loved ones were laid to rest.
This virus has affected, and for some taken its toll on, the whole world. We have never experienced coming out of something like this before. We are asking people to come back to work when they still haven’t seen their loved ones or have any real knowledge of how their children will be looked after or educated in the future.
The impact on the humans involved in this situation, i.e. everyone, is massive and while it is easy to focus on all the physical and practical things we put in place for returning to work, the psychological considerations are going to be as important, if not more, than the practical health and safety.
So leading a business in this time is not going to be easy and you don’t need me to tell you that, how can leaders show up for their people to engage them in coming back in a way that feels safe and also compassionate to their needs.
Hey, you might be worried about interacting with others too. Has everyone stuck to the guidance – how many families are the interacting with and how close have they been? Questions that you have told me you are asking yourself all the time.
So as a response to the conversations I have been having I have put together some of my thoughts on how we can show up in a compassionate way for our people when they need leadership more than ever.
- Do the right thing for safety – Follow the guidelines, put the posters up and put in place some good social distancing measures. Show your customers how they need to behave on your premises too. Walk round with people when they return – don’t assume they will just know what to do.
- Be more visible than you have ever been before (obviously in a socially distanced way) – if you have people working from home, check in with them at least once a day, check on their wellbeing and make sure they know what is expect of them. There some great guidelines for managing remote workers which will help you to understand what good practice looks like if this is new to you.
If you operate a business where people work in different locations, for example construction, visit the sites as often as is practical to make sure people are safe and feel ok to be there. Never has the art of conversation been more important.
Notice if people look under the weather, we need to encourage people not to feel guilty about taking time off if they feel a bit ill; they have a responsibility to look after themselves and their colleagues. Send people home, discreetly, if you notice they are displaying symptoms (remember the fart and cough scenario from before)
- Show that you too are vulnerable – You do not have all the answers so do not pretend you do. Be honest with people about the way you feel and the vulnerability that everyone is facing.
More than ever this is the time to be human. Understand that people feel very differently about this and we are all in it together. Showing your own vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. Share how you have been felling. Now is not the time to be all things to all men, practicing self-care will make you stronger for the people who need you and owning up to your own vulnerability will encourage others to work with you and support you.
- Give them clear goals to work towards – Some people have not worked for 3 months or more and it will feel like the first day in a new job. By giving them clear guidance on what you need them to do and how that fits into the bigger ‘bounce back’ picture.
It may be you are bringing people back part time part furlough, check that the work you give them fits into the time you want them working and doesn’t overwhelm them and they can complete within this shorter working week.
By providing and documenting this level of clarity everyone knows what is expected and have meaningful conversations about where and when to start increasing or reducing time needed to work.
- My final point is LISTEN. No don’t just listen but listen with real curiosity – what is going on for your people? Ask them the really curious questions
What has been going on for you in the last few weeks during lockdown?
What would make coming back to work easier for you?
What do you need to help you to settle back in?
What commitments do you have at home that need to be considered?
What worries do you have about coming back to work?
Just listen to what they say – don’t try to answer all the questions there and then and don’t judge them on their answers (that bit is really hard), Acknowledge what they say, let them know how you will respond and give their answers the respect and time that they deserve. What seems like nothing to you can be a big thing for others.