The challenge today
Many of us were praying for a positive, optimistic start to the New Year, with hopes of some relief and a return to normality. However, with a third national lockdown in the UK just announced and widespread uncertainty about the enduring restrictions, it is clear that even with the promising news of the vaccine, the impacts of Covid-19 are going nowhere fast.
Back in March, many of us viewed the restrictions as a temporary disruption to our daily lives, a worthy sacrifice to prevent the spread of the virus. Now more than 10 months on from the first lockdown, we are faced with questions around how the pandemic could bring about more permanent changes to our working, social and personal lives than we might have first imagined.
Blurred lines between work life and home life, the need for a functional workspace somewhere in our homes, increased isolation, acceptance of virtual communication as primary, these are just some of the things that the pandemic has normalised for us all.
With the amount of change and uncertainty that we have tolerated, it has been a very fearful time. Separation from our support networks has left many of us feeling detached and isolated. The thought that our future will be changed forever can feel quite daunting. But huge shifts like this also bring great hope and opportunity.
A unique moment for change
Everyone we know has been affected by the pandemic and whilst restrictions have physically distanced us, in many respects we have been brought closer together in our outlook and appetite for change, purely due to our shared experience.
Never before have we all been so aligned on our preference of how we want to work. A recent study shows that a mere 12% of workers want to go back to the old way of working (always being in the office) and 72% revealed the desire for a “blended” working experience that provides a better work-life balance.
In recent years, employees have been enthusiastic about the thought of home working, but companies and management have been slow or reluctant to make the leap in giving teams the freedom required to do so. Companies and management alike have now been forced into adjusting to digital ways of working, whether they like it or not, plus have the experience of how it can be realised.
These last 10 months, priorities, workload and responsibilities have been subject to continuous change. Employees have had to prepare themselves to be furloughed at the drop of a hat, or indeed the opposite; being suddenly called back into work and having to quickly re-adjust to the pace. On top of that, outside of work, we have been led from left to right with ever changing information on what we can and cannot do in our personal time.
We are often led to believe that we are all creatures of comfort and our default setting is to be change resistant. But on this occasion, we have seen the opposite. We have all displayed an exceptional ability to be flexible and highly accepting of change.
Maximising the opportunity
It is well documented that successful businesses must be open to change and remain ever flexible. In this New Year, businesses and teams need to recognise the shift that the pandemic has created and ensure that facilitating a more blended work/home life is on their agenda. We now have the very real opportunity to take the best of both worlds (office and home working), whilst having the will of the majority behind us to make real change. Those who view this as a temporary disruption to the normal working schedule will be left behind.
Recognising the exceptional adaptability displayed by your employees and managers is equally important. With the a third national lockdown recently announced in the UK, businesses and families are still having to remain responsive and flexible as we move into 2021. With the right recognition programme in place, you can ensure they get the praise they deserve. It is absolutely the right time to show your employees how grateful you are for their ongoing perseverance during these tough months and their continued dedication and commitment to their roles.
Outstanding employees are the key
Outstanding employees are the key to a successful business and a sure-fire way to keep your customers happy and coming back to do business with you again and again. It may feel like it is an employer’s market out there right now, with an estimated 1.69 million people currently unemployed in the UK. But retaining the all-stars of your team has never been so important. This is not the time to be losing our best and most competent people to the competition out there, just because they didn’t feel appreciated.
Businesses can also demonstrate their gratitude by making a commitment to more flexible policies and processes for the future. Focussing more on approaches that put employee trust and well-being at the centre. Such as output based management that recognises productivity instead of presenteeism, and more encompassing policies around family and childcare etc. Companies that embrace this moment for change will be rewarded with higher performance, job satisfaction and employee loyalty.