We’ve had FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out); we’ve had YOLO (You Only Live Once)… now prepare to meet FOLLO*: Fear Of Leaving Lockdown. (Yes, you heard it here first…)
The UK Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 22nd February – a formal ‘road-map’ to the gradual relaxing of current lockdown restrictions in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19 – comes as a long-awaited relief. Businesses throughout the UK have needed some indication of an end-date to the current ‘pause’ on normal trading. And, whilst for many businesses this latest announcement may sadly have come too late, it is, for many, the confidence boost that they need.
But does this jubilation extend to everyone? What if your team is less-than delighted at the prospect of returning to a centralised place of work? What if, for some, leaving the security of a full year of home-working might prove hard, if not impossible?
Easy On The Out
If you head up a business which, pre-COVID, was largely office-based, you do need to think about your post-lockdown principles. First there are the practical matters: have you adjusted your team’s composition or structure? Should they reasonably be expected to return to their previous desk? Then there are the health & safety issues: distanced seating is probably desirable for a while, at least; as are sanitisation units. What about those colleagues who have health issues, such as asthma, diabetes or emphysema, or who will still be caring for a vulnerable relative? Or those who have just given birth, or who are now expecting? Then there are those who may be suffering from the often-debilitating symptoms of “Long Covid”. Before making any grand announcements, talk to your colleagues and find out what will or will not work – at an individual as well as a team level.
… that is to say, think beyond your immediate employee base. How have your suppliers, clients and customers been impacted? How might they be feeling right now? Businesses reliant upon third-party provision from other sectors would do well to confer: one (wo)man’s exit strategy is unlikely to match another’s.
No-one should be forced (or feel coerced) into working in an environment that is scary, isolating or downright dangerous. How do you know if one of your employees is still in a Bubble with a shielding relative? Please get your Human Resources or Employee Relations team involved, and liaise with your internal communications team to ensure everyone understands the support and resources available to them.
Communications (As Ever) Is Key
Whatever you need to do – whether it’s asking your teams’ opinions, or announcing a change – you must, must communicate. You’ll find Niall Anderson’s brilliantly simple tips on this very useful – even if you’re a seasoned communicator. Never, ever forget the basics – and remember to ask and listen as much as talk.
Embrace The ‘New’
Some of the changes that we had to make in a hurry are now working pretty well – and, in some cases, have turned out for the better. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that a “return to normal” means “going back to the old way of doing things”. Maybe you’ve learned something from your lockdown practices? Examine your productivity, your retention/attrition, your sales and marketing. Look closely at your pipeline now, as opposed to ‘back then’. Look at your employee engagement levels. Maybe they’ve risen? Or maybe they’ve remained steady, but with the added benefit of lower overall running costs? Change doesn’t have to be bad, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a sticking plaster. And just because we’ve all changed in response to something, doesn’t mean we have to change back again. We all have to keep moving forward, after all.
By Helen Greenwood |smart/tasking Client Partner