If we look back a few months, I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the enormity that the impacts of COVID-19 would have on everyone. It’s certainly one of the most unusual, challenging and at times, frightening experiences of my career.
Personally, I feel very lucky that I work with a fabulous team of people who worked together very early on to plan for what we might need to look at and change as things started to develop. We assessed what additional equipment would be needed, tested the resilience of all aspects of our system for home working, discussed all aspects as a team and communicated our plans to staff regularly to ensure they remained engaged. We managed to move everyone to home working within the space of a few days. All before the lockdown was announced.
I suspect for many it was a bit of a novelty initially. We all shared hints and tips on home working, home schooling our children, maintaining our health and wellbeing and how best to stay in touch with our friends and colleagues. Lots of new information, guidelines and legislation to digest and interpret. We got our heads around ‘Furlough’ and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, we learnt how to use Zoom and Teams, we read the Government updates, used our networks and kept a constant eye on social media for others views, interpretation and approach to all of these additional business considerations.
However, as the impacts started to hit and business levels declined we needed to rethink our approach. We made the difficult decision to furlough some of our staff and ensured we managed this in an empathetic way given the circumstances. For us, our culture, engagement, communication and being mindful of the health and wellbeing of everyone have always been critical factors in our approach to everything. Although this becomes much harder in a dispersed environment, it was still at the heart of how we continued to operate.
In the early stages this involved daily meetings for the leadership team, email updates to everyone from our MD and regular communications on the News feed of our HR system. This moved to team Zoom calls, weekly Zoom updates from the Board with both remote working staff and furloughed staff and check-in calls with staff. We continue to engage to understand how they are coping and also whether we can assist or support them in any way. We continue to post key information as well as maintaining the hints and tips working closely with some of our regular partners to support us in this.
We have been relatively lucky. Our dedicated and loyal staff have continued to work extremely hard throughout this process. Those on Furlough have remained loyal and supported the business with their patience and continued engagement with our updates, playing their part in something that was not their choice.
We are now looking forwards and planning the next stage of our journey, which we hope will be a return to some form of normality, as our business is now building back up again. We have been surveying all our staff to get them involved and listen to their views and concerns to ensure our plans work well for everyone. It will be a complex process with more Government guidance to consider but our focus on our culture, engagement and well-being remains.